White Space by Ilsa J Bick Review – Confusing, creative realities

February 20, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

White Space by Ilsa J Bick Review – Confusing, creative realitiesWhite Space by Ilsa J. Bick
Published by Egmont USA on February 11, 2014
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Genres: Horror, Young Adult
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In the tradition of Memento and Inception comes a thrilling and scary young adult novel about blurred reality where characters in a story find that a deadly and horrifying world exists in the space between the written lines.

Seventeen-year-old Emma Lindsay has problems: a head full of metal, no parents, a crazy artist for a guardian whom a stroke has turned into a vegetable, and all those times when she blinks away, dropping into other lives so ghostly and surreal it's as if the story of her life bleeds into theirs. But one thing Emma has never doubted is that she's real.

Then she writes "White Space," a story about these kids stranded in a spooky house during a blizzard.

Unfortunately, "White Space" turns out to be a dead ringer for part of an unfinished novel by a long-dead writer. The manuscript, which she's never seen, is a loopy Matrix meets Inkheart story in which characters fall out of different books and jump off the page. Thing is, when Emma blinks, she might be doing the same and, before long, she's dropped into the very story she thought she'd written. Trapped in a weird, snow-choked valley, Emma meets other kids with dark secrets and strange abilities: Eric, Casey, Bode, Rima, and a very special little girl, Lizzie. What they discover is that they--and Emma--may be nothing more than characters written into being from an alternative universe for a very specific purpose.

Now what they must uncover is why they've been brought to this place--a world between the lines where parallel realities are created and destroyed and nightmares are written--before someone pens their end.

All the negative and DNF reviews intrigued me to be honest, and I really wanted to give White Space a good, hot go. Now that I’ve finished the book, I’m not sure whether to be disappointed that I ended up reading it or glad that I read such a unique book. Most of all, I feel confused and frustrated.

White Space is a combination of a psychological thriller, a gory horror, and a physics based mystery about multiverses in storybooks. It’s told through multiple point of views from different characters in a dead writer’s books. Finding out who they are and their place in the story is part of the mystery, making it a disjointed, confusing read. What you’re told is constantly coasting between fact, fiction, or something else entirely. Chapters will end abruptly, continued by the next person’s point of view. I can see how this could have confused, frustrated and annoyed people, but I managed to follow the book until the halfway mark, when it all goes downhill from there.

Filled with physics based explanations, story book realities and discussions of the Dark Passages, Dickson’s Mirror and the Fog, at this point of the book I just wanted some answers. Rarely are we given straight explanations about what is happening, with us having to rely on what we are told is real through the different characters’ experiences, and what we think is real. The book blurb gives more clarity for what is happening than the book itself ever does. I was frustrated at the ending, which seemed to be completely deviant from the bulk of the plot itself and felt like a cop out.

Emma was the book’s shining character, she’s been in and out of psychological wards as she blinks herself into existence. She’s got Alice in Wonderland syndrome, where she perceives different images of herself and finds herself in completely different lives. Her only common denominator is Kramer, who always has a position of authority over her, and Jasper, her father. Emma is a link between the story book characters, and Lizzie, the daughter of the writer and creator of the stories, and the latter of half of the book converges their storylines together.

There were some truly creative ways of describing the gore and horror, which Ilsa J Bick seems to excel at:

Whenever she coughed, he kept expecting bloody hunks of gnawed lung or liver or intestine to come flying out of her mouth. 

When he gave another moist, ripping cough, the spray that spattered the snow reminded him of those red sprinkles they put on cupcakes. 

While certainly a creative direction to take a book, I think we would have benefited from a lot more answers and less vagueness when it came to the explanations. In order to be emotionally invested, we had to get to know the characters and who they truly were, which was a major barrier for my enjoyment here.

White Space wasn’t a bad read by any means, it was just a vague and confusing story that alludes to alternate realities and a blur between fact and fiction. It’s definitely a creative, unique book that reminded me very much of Sucker Punch, except with a lot less action and scantily clad women.

I received a review copy from Egmont USA in exchange for an honest review. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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41 responses to “White Space by Ilsa J Bick Review – Confusing, creative realities

  1. This book was definitely super confusing! But I really liked the way Bick tied together the loose ends towards the end. I guess I can see why you might call it a copout though haha. And LOL so true, the blurb is definitely a lot clearer than the majority of the book 😛
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  2. Ohh good comparison to Sucker Punch. I loved that movie (and need to rewatch it). But in that the mystery/confusion of what was going on added to the experience and made it more intriguing. In White Space that did not happen. I think there was too much going on in it, the author was trying to do too much and everything just got tangled in your head as you tried to figure it out.

    I'm conflicted about the book. The start and horror were good, and the ending, while coming out of nowhere, made a lot more sense and was clearer than the rest of the book. Even though I struggled, I am going to check out the sequel in the hope we'll get some more definitive answers that clear everything up.

    It's such a shame that such a unique and creative idea wasn't delivered as well as it could have been.
    Bec @ Ransom Reads recently posted…X Marks the Spot: Books to Rip Out Your SoulMy Profile

    • Yeah, it felt like it a lot especially what was happening to emma. I think it could have done really well too if it was clearer, unfortunately not many of us have the patience to put up with all the vagueness!

  3. Hahaha. I hear that confusion is a big part of the reading experience with this one. Oh wow?! I thought that it gets betetr after the halfway mark. Which is it then? Because people are so polarized when it comes to this book. Nothing makes sense to me anymore, not even the reviews. I'm glad it wasn't a DNF for you though and that you found the writing to be good in addition to Emma. I'm fairly certain though that this book is not for me. Great review, you!
    Siiri recently posted…Review: The Temptation of Lila and Ethan by Jessica SorensenMy Profile

  4. I have a copy of this for review, but I have to say that I haven't found any interest in stating it. I was really curious about it when I got the copy, but now it's like I've been tun off from the book. I haven't even seen any reviews on it. This is my first! I've just read a confusing book that gets just like that once I reached the halfway point. Great review! I'll need to get to this at some point!
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  5. I remember Bick's gory descriptions from her previous books. She does seem to be good at that! Unfortunately, I couldn't get through even the first few pages of this one. The writing style was a little different, and it didn't suit me quite as well this time, plus I found too much of it painfully confusing. I did really like the creativity in the premise though, but it's a shame to hear that we aren't given many straight explanations throughout the book. I'm glad you were able to make it to the end though. 🙂 Lovely review as always!
    Sam @ Realm of Ficti recently posted…Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiMy Profile

  6. Physics based explanations? Umm no. That just puts me off even further. I honestly can't deal with books that are confusing because most of the time, I just feel by attention going elsewhere and it makes me angry and I feel stupid.

    I'm glad that you found redeeming qualities in this, Jeann.

    Lovely review!
    Nick @ Nick's B recently posted…Review : Death Sworn by Leah CypessMy Profile

  7. Ms. Bick tends to write those stories that unsettle me in the best possible way. They confuse me and they twist me around, and yet I find that I love them, more often than not. I definitely think I still want to try this, and I so appreciate your balanced review, Jeann! Lovely thoughts!

  8. I still love the unique promise of this book and I'm intrigued by the whole idea, but I just couldn't get past the confusion. I had no idea what I was reading and everything was so vague.. It didn't work out for me, but I'm happy you finished it after all!
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 235. Anthology Grim.My Profile

  9. Great review, Jeann! I'm still trying to get through the first part of the book, and I'm so confused already! This book is one I can't seem to figure out where it's going! I'm hoping I won't end up DNFing it…
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #30!!My Profile

  10. I'm glad you actually had a more positive reaction to it than others, because it seems like this one is getting less than stellar reviews all around. So at least it wasn't a complete miss for you!

    It sounds intriguing (especially with Emma blinking herself into existence!!!), but also like the kind of book that tries too hard to be vague and mysterious, and so the book suffers for it.
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  11. I didn't know it was horror too! Okay, NOW, I'm tempted. But everyone seems to be DNF'ing it or saying it was okay. So, heh…I guess that's not very much confidence. I guess I have too much to read so I'll probably skip it, but I DO like something a bit awful now and then. 😉 I'm pretty sure I'd get hopelessly confused though.
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  12. Very accurate and honest review. I do want to read this one…though I'll probably end up feeling the same as you…but I'm too intrigued ;). Well, if it ultimately turns out to be a 3-star book for me too, I'll be able to live with that. Now it's the gory bits I'm worried about…are those above the worst ones?
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