The Fourth Wall review

Every death is different, and so is every mourning. The impact can be as subtle as realising the man you always said hello to at the coffee shop hasn't been there for a while, or as dramatic as the toppling a government.

For Marin, the teenage protagonist of The Fourth Wall, the impact is close and life-changing. Her mother's death has meant new responsibilities, a nearly-catatonic baby brother, and a father exhausted by grief and by trying to hold what's left of his family together.

Marin has one escape: the lucid dreams she experiences every night. Her challenge is to solve the mystery of why the better she handles her grief during waking hours, the more her dreams become nightmares.

This is a novel set in reality with some fantasy elements. The writing style reminded me of Nora Roberts, with strong and specific attention paid to details. The fantasy scenes, while important to the plot, did not consume the story most events happen in the fictional real world. A reader who prefers realistic fiction would enjoy this novel, as the dreams aim to find psychological truth, not an alternative universe.

The only detracting element for me was how some of the procedures at Marin's school were handled. As someone who both lost a parent at thirteen and worked as a high school teacher for six years, I spent some time muttering, "They'd need parent or guardian permission for that" as I read. However, the story elements I had reservations about were resolved quickly and plausibly, and I doubt anyone less familiar with educational bureaucracy would even notice them.

The Fourth Wall is a tale of moving from darkness to light, from the wound of loss to healing and adjustment to the "new normal." Anyone who enjoys YA books centred on character development would do well to give it a read.

About the Author:

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Elizabeth grew up writing short stories and bad poetry before escaping the cold winters of Wyoming and settling in the Sonoran Desert. She lives in Tempe, Arizona with her husband and two children, Abigail  and Gabriel . She still loves to write, but fortunately gave up on poetry. The Fourth Wall is her first novel.

Elizabeth’s creative nonfiction has appeared in Brain, Child, Phoenix New Times, Literary Mama and Babble.com, and is forthcoming in Brevity. Elizabeth is also an award-winning fiction writer; her short stories have been published in The Portland Review, Hospital Drive, SLAB Literary Magazine, and Bartleby Snopes. Links to her work and information on classes/critiques can be found at http://www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com/.