Welcome to my stop for THE IN BETWEEN by Marc Klein and hosted by ROCKSTAR BOOK TOURS!
Marc Klein has written many well-known screenplays including the romantic comedy
classic Serendipity, as well as Mirror, Mirror, a reimagining of the Snow White fairy tale. The In Between is his debut novel and the basis for the upcoming film from Paramount Pictures. Klein resides in Los Angeles.
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Title: The In Between
Author: Marc Klein
Published by Poppy
Published on June 1st
Genre: YA contemporary
A heartbreaking story of love and loss -- perfect for fans of If I Stay and Five Feet Apart. Soon to be a motion picture starring Joey King.
After bouncing around in foster homes for most of her childhood, seventeen-year-old Tessa Jacobs doesn't believe she deserves love -- not from her adoptive parents, and certainly not from anyone at school.
But everything changes when she has a chance encounter at the local movie theater with Skylar, a senior from a neighboring town who's a true romantic. Their budding relationship quickly leads to the kind of passionate love you only see in the movies. And Tessa starts to believe she might be deserving of a happy ending after all.
When tragedy strikes, Tessa wakes up alone in the hospital with no memory of how she got there. And Skylar has passed away. As Tessa begins her relentless search for answers, Skylar's spirit reaches out to her from the other side. Desperate to see him one last time, Tessa must unravel the pieces of their relationship -- and the truth might even lead her into the afterlife itself.
Praise for THE IN BETWEEN:
“An original take on the personal nature of grief and a strong choice where YA romances are
popular.” —School and Library Journal
“A radiant, swoon-worthy ghost story, combined with an empowering story of a young woman
finding her creative voice. I absolutely loved this book.” —Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, author of
Trinkets and screenwriter of 10 Things I Hate About You and Legally Blonde
It had always been Tessa’s favorite color. And not because the influencers spoke about how
black was the default couture color for the rich and famous. And definitely not because the
bubbleheaded fashionistas were continually asking the proverbial question: Is gray the new
black, is white the new black, hell, is magenta the new black?
No, Tessa loved black because it represented absence. The absence of color, the absence of
light, the absence of form. Put simply, black didn’t draw attention to itself. It was invisible. And
that had always been Tessa’s desire in life: to stay invisible. But the black surrounding Tessa
right now wasn’t the invisible kind. It was a black of presence.
Where was she anyway? Last she remembered, she was getting off the city bus. It was raining
outside, and with no umbrella to protect her from the downpour, Tessa was soaked from her
mad dash to Skylar’s house. Turning the corner, she saw his jeep backing out of the driveway, its
red taillights shimmering through a wall of rain. And then…
… in an instant…
Tessa felt a sudden flutter of fear, disoriented by the void that had enveloped her. She was adrift
in space, alone, with no stars to guide her way.
Where could she be? And more important, where was Skylar?
“I’m right here,” Skylar said.
That was strange. Tessa hadn’t spoken, but Skylar answered her anyway. Even stranger: She
couldn’t see Skylar but could sense his presence drifting beside her in this peculiar blackness
with no beginning or end.
Something was weird about all this. Tessa’s best guess was that she was dreaming. It was one
seriously messed-up dream, but like most of them, by the time she was brushing her teeth the
next morning, she’d have forgotten this craziness altogether.
Just then, a pinpoint of white light pierced the blackness. But this was no ordinary light. It was
radiant and purifying, like a thousand suns of compressed love, lulling her forward, beckoning
her to join with it. Tessa had never really been interested in doing drugs, but if this was what it
felt like to be high, she was prepared to reconsider.
“My God, it’s beautiful,” Skylar said. “Let’s get closer.”
That was so Skylar. Always rushing toward the unknown, not away from it. With Skylar around,
Tessa felt like nothing bad could ever happen, because nothing bad ever did. So she willed
herself toward the light alongside him. And that was when she began to see shapes. They were
fuzzy and formless at first. But as she drifted closer, the pinpoint of light grew larger and
brighter, and she saw the translucent outline of her grandma Pat. Only not the way she’d looked
when she was suffering in bed those last days of her life. Backlit like a rock star, Grandma Pat
was now young and vibrant.
“Uncle Andy!” Skylar screamed.
“No,” Tessa said. “It’s my grandma Pat.”
Somehow, they were seeing different deceased relatives. How was that possible?
“Can you hear them?” Skylar asked.
There was a long pause. And Tessa suddenly sensed something was terribly wrong.
“Tessa, they’re saying… you have to go back.”
“What do you mean, back? Back where?”
There was now painful regret in Skylar’s voice. “They say it has to be this way. That it’s not your
And then something took hold of Tessa. A force. It started pulling her away from Skylar.
“Skylar, wait!” she cried.
“I’m sorry, Tess. I love you.”
Everything began receding in a fast-moving blur. Tessa screamed and willed herself to stay, but
the white light grew smaller and dimmer, like a dying star in a distant galaxy…
TESSA COULD SENSE THE SNOW EVEN BEFORE SHE OPENED HER eyes. It was an intense,
luminous brightness penetrating her eyelids, urging her to consciousness. When she finally
woke, the first thing she saw was light gleaming off her “Wall of Inspiration.” It was a collage of
words and photos on her ceiling that served only one purpose: to make Tessa feel better about
her life. There were quotes (PRESERVE YOUR BUBBLE), mundane reminders (GET OFF THE
INTERNET!), arty black-and-white photos (Robert Frank, Brassaï’s rain-soaked streets of Paris),
and even a few sketches that Tessa had drawn before she discovered her real talent lay in
Most seventeen-year-olds would be rejoicing at the sight of all that fluffy whiteness outside—it
meant school was canceled. But Tessa wasn’t most seventeen-year-olds. For her, school was
the only escape from the strangers she lived with.
Years earlier, one after the other, Tessa’s real parents had disappeared without a trace. What
followed was a revolving door of foster homes. Some were better than others, but most were
terrifying. As for Mel and Vickie, they were the most recent childless couple who’d taken her in.
Now past the one-year mark, they were undoubtedly the best of the bunch. But even though
they’d recently signed her adoption papers, Tessa still couldn’t fully embrace them. That would
require trust, something that didn’t come easily to her.
Tessa slipped some clothes on and grabbed her vintage Minolta camera, the one that was never
more than an arm’s length away from her. She was halfway down the stairs when she smelled a
sweet aroma drifting from the kitchen. That meant Vickie had worked the night shift and was
making herself breakfast. Tessa was determined to pass the kitchen silently so as to not be seen
or heard, but evidently Vickie had bionic ears.
“I made pancakes,” Vickie called out.
Tessa ignored her and kept moving down the hallway. She reached into the foyer closet and
grabbed her puffer jacket. Vickie appeared at the entrance to the kitchen, still dressed in her
casino dealer’s uniform, her shiny maroon vest buttoned snugly around her torso.
“You going somewhere?” she asked.
“Out to shoot some photos,” Tessa said, slipping her arms into the sleeves of her jacket.
“Now? They haven’t even cleared the streets yet.”
Tessa opened the front door. “I don’t want to lose the morning light.”
“When you get back, maybe we should do a little college research?”
“Why? Are you thinking about going back to school?” Tessa said sarcastically.
“Be serious, Tessa. It’s never too early to start applying for scholarships. You have so much
potential—I don’t want to see you throw your future away.”
What was it about Vickie that bugged Tessa so much? Was it the suffocating friendliness? The
embarrassing desperation to form a mother-daughter bond? Maybe it was just something
chemical—like the way dogs sometimes lunged at each other for no discernible reason.
Thankfully, Tessa had discovered that a well-chosen comeback was always the quickest way to
fend off Vickie’s advances.
“Vickie, you’re starting to sound like a refrigerator magnet.”
Vickie sighed and silently retreated back into the kitchen. Tessa felt a glimmer of guilt, but not
nearly enough to apologize.
Outside, the air was crisp and motionless, the sky flooding with pale light. Tessa began to
wander the forsaken streets of Margate, the tiny seaside town where she lived. With Tessa’s
iPhone blasting her favorite indie playlist and her camera in her hands, all that existed was the
rectangular world inside her viewfinder.
She snapped dozens of pictures, but found herself particularly fascinated by cars in their
driveways, buried beneath snowdrifts shaped like sand dunes. It was as if Mother Nature were
attempting to erase her enemies from the planet.
She continued walking through the ankle-deep snow, eventually making it to the Douglas
Avenue beach. It was misty here, the sand covered with a pristine carpet of whiteness. Tessa
felt like an astronaut on an alien planet, her every step disturbing the untouched perfection of
the landscape. Everywhere Tessa looked, she saw something else she wanted to photograph.
The foamy, white-capped waves. The weather-beaten pier that jutted out into the ocean. And a
single lifeguard stand, its legs half-sunken in a snowdrift.
Far down the shoreline, Tessa noticed a lone figure materialize from a blanket of fog, like the
ghost of a drowned sailor haunting the beach. All she could make out was a fiery orange
baseball cap that stood out among the plumes of grayness. This was a brave soul who, like her,
saw the deserted beach as an invitation to detach from the world. She took a single photograph
of the orange-capped figure before they were swallowed up by the mist.
For the first time that morning, Tessa felt discomfort. There was a cold wetness on her toes.
She looked down and realized she’d forgotten to put on snow boots. The sudden discovery
made her conscious that her feet were on the fast track to deep freeze. By now, she was a
thirty-minute walk from home. And the streets still weren’t plowed, so calling Mel to come pick
her up was out of the question. Maybe something in town would be open? A coffee shop or
diner. Anyplace to thaw out.
When Tessa made it to Ventnor Avenue, everything appeared lifeless. Block after block, she
searched for a store to rescue her from the cold. Now her feet were going numb—not a good
sign. Her last hope was the town movie theater. She knew that Sherman, the owner, lived in a
room adjoining the projection booth, so there was no need for him to commute. It was a long
shot, but for the survival of her toes, Tessa forged ahead into the cold rush of wind.
Every time Tessa laid eyes on the Little Art Theater, she wondered how it stayed in business. It
only had fifty seats, most of them lumpy with protruding springs and worn-out fabric. And now
that Sherman’s wife had passed away, it was strictly a one-man operation. Sherman ran the
register, sold you soggy popcorn, and, when he felt ready, threw the switch on the old rattling
film projector. Despite these less-than-ideal conditions, Tessa figured Sherman could have
made a decent living for himself if he simply ran the latest indie movies. Instead, he chose
obscure foreign films that featured lots of nudity and old B movies starring actors no one had
ever heard of. One weekend, he screened nothing but famous Hollywood bombs: Howard the
Duck, Battlefield Earth, and John Carter—a triple feature of cinematic awfulness.
As Tessa turned the corner, she was relieved when she saw Sherman sitting in the ticket booth,
counting out the register. Tessa didn’t even bother glancing at the marquee to see what was
playing. She walked to the window and knocked on it. “You open, Sherman?”
Sherman looked up and smiled. He knew Tessa well because she was a frequent customer. “I
am for you,” he said, pressing a button. The machine below him spit out a ticket, which he slid
through the hole at the bottom of the window. Tessa pulled a fistful of crumpled bills from her
pocket and counted them out.
“Sorry,” Tessa said. “I think I’m a little short.”
“It’s no crime. I’m only five foot six.”
Tessa smiled. “I meant short of cash.”
Sherman snatched the ticket back and ripped it in half, then pushed the remaining stub
beneath the box-office window. “Enjoy the show, Tessa.”
The musty theater was comfortably warm and smelled of burned popcorn. Tessa took a seat in
the center aisle and slipped off her coat. Best part of all? She was alone. It was like her own
private screening room.
Just as the lights dimmed, the door at the back of the theater swung open. A triangle of amber
light widened across the floor, swimming up the walls. Tessa saw a person’s shadow float
across the soiled movie screen as they entered. Usually, Tessa’s reaction to company in this
situation would be disappointment. When in doubt, she preferred to be by herself. But
somehow, she sensed that whoever had entered the theater was a friendly presence. The
stranger found their way to a seat two rows behind her and sat down.
The opening credits of the movie snapped Tessa back into focus. They were all in French, even
the film’s title, so she had no idea what the movie was called. The first image was stark: a naked
man and woman, furiously making love on a bed. Tessa began to hear a narrator speak over the
images. But oddly, when she glanced to the bottom of the screen for subtitles, there were
In the next scene, the same couple was frolicking on the deck of a cozy beach shack, nuzzling
and kissing each other. But still, no subtitles.
She had to admit—Sherman had finally outdone himself. Not only was he running films that no
one wanted to see; now he was running films that no one could understand!
Tessa called out to the projection booth. “Hey, Sherman! Where are the subtitles?”
At that moment, Tessa heard the stranger behind her get up. She assumed they were going to
exit the theater and complain to Sherman. Instead, the person walked down the aisle and
turned into Tessa’s row.
He looked to be around the same age as her, and there was just enough light in the theater to
make out his shaggy mop of chestnut hair and tall, wiry frame. He took the seat next to hers,
and his smell instantly enveloped her. Woody and sweet, it embodied the perfect combination
of welcoming and elusive.
Despite his benign presence, Tessa couldn’t ignore the fact that this boy was a stranger. Worse
still, she was totally alone with him. That meant no one could help her if he planned on doing
something creepy, like flashing his privates.
You need to get up, Tess. You need to get up right now and walk out. And whatever you do,
don’t look back or else he’ll get the wrong idea.
Tessa’s hands clenched the padded armrests and she leaned forward, ready to bolt. But before
she could stand, the boy spoke.
“It’s called Betty Blue,” he said. “You watch, I’ll translate.”
He had said it kindly, but why did it feel like a command? Tessa watched him turn his head to
the screen. Then, without missing a beat, he began to whisper the dialogue out of the corner of
his mouth, effortlessly translating the film from French to English.
Well, that settled it. If Tessa left now, it would be rude. No, it would be more than rude—it
would be like telling the universe to go to hell. A stranger had generously offered to help her,
and she was just going to blow him off? Granted, she was no expert on psychopaths, but how
many of them smelled so good, you felt the urge to take a bite out of them?
For the first half hour, Tessa couldn’t concentrate on the movie at all. She was too conscious of
the warmth of his breath on her neck and the way he pronounced certain words. She tried to
guess where he was from. Was his accent from New Jersey? New York? Over time, it didn’t
matter anymore, because his voice began to fuse itself to the film. And before long, Tessa found
herself completely immersed in the story that was unfolding before her.
The film was a tale of obsessive love. Betty, a beautiful drifter, seduces Zorg, a hapless
handyman who lives in a worn-out beach shack. As their love deepens, so do Betty’s spells of
self-destructive rage. After discovering she was mistaken about being pregnant, Betty
sadistically gouges out her own eye and winds up in a mental hospital, catatonic. In a final act of
love, Zorg suffocates Betty beneath a pillow, bringing the tale to an appropriately French
Nearly three hours after the film started, the credits began to roll. Tessa looked down and
noticed her fingers clutching her translator’s arm.
“Gah! Sorry!” Tessa said, abruptly releasing her grip. “How long was I doing that?”
“I don’t know,” the boy replied. “I lost feeling about an hour ago.”
She felt hopelessly embarrassed. “How come you didn’t say anything?”
“I don’t know, I just assumed you were soothing me. It’s a very depressing movie.”
“It’s a love story,” Tessa said matter-of-factly.
He frowned. “Not all love stories are depressing.”
“The good ones are.”
Seeing doubt in his expression, Tessa proceeded to prove her point. “Romeo and Juliet, Anna
Karenina, Wuthering Heights, The English Patient. The list goes on and on. It’s always the
ending of a relationship—its demise—that makes a love story memorable.”
“What about Pride and Prejudice? Or Jane Eyre? They have happy endings,” he said.
“Only because those writers chose to end their love stories prematurely, before things turned
“That’s an interesting way of… not admitting you’re wrong.”
“Oh, come on,” Tessa said. “Just imagine if Leonardo DiCaprio had survived at the end
“Do I have to?”
“Jack Dawson. A jobless, penniless gambler who possessed—at best—marginal artistic talent.”
“I concede his technical skill was amateurish, but he saved Rose’s life!”
“Only after he love-bombed her and stole her away from her fiancé! And poor Rose was so
hypnotized by this f-boy that she actually believed he’d deliver her a life of passion and
adventure. Pleaaasssse. More like abject poverty and dehumanizing infidelity.”
“Titanic Two. If you thought part one was a disaster, wait until you catch the sequel,” he
Tessa broke out laughing, caught off guard by his quick wit.
As the movie’s credits came to an end, the theater’s lights rose up. And that was when the
boy’s piercing green eyes revealed themselves. Tessa had never seen anything like them. They
were eyes that betrayed no hint of insecurity yet still gleamed with excitement for all the
unknowns that lay ahead.
“Well, I hope my translating services were satisfactory?”
“More than satisfactory,” Tessa said. “If I ever become the ambassador to France, you’re my go-
He smiled, then began to slip his arms into his vintage trench. When he rose to his feet, Tessa
did, too. She followed him up the aisle, continuing the conversation.
“So how did you learn to speak French so well?” she asked.
“I didn’t really have a choice,” he said. “My dad’s a professor of linguistics. When I was born, he
started developing a new way to teach foreign languages, and I was his lab rat. By the time I
was twelve, he had me fluent in French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian.”
“You can’t be serious. Do you ever get them mixed up?”
“Only when I dream. My dreams are totally chaotic. Someone will ask me a question in Spanish,
but I’ll answer them in French, and then they’ll respond in Italian. Seriously, I kinda feel bad for
my subconscious. Dreams are hard enough to figure out as it is—imagine if everyone in yours
was speaking a different language.”
By now, they had passed through the lobby and made it outside. Tessa loved emerging from a
movie theater into the bright light of day. It felt like she had spent the past few hours secretly
hiding out from reality. In front of them, Ventnor Avenue had finally awakened. The streets had
been plowed, and cars were delicately navigating the icy pavement.
“That’s some pretty old gear you’ve got there.” The boy was now looking at Tessa’s camera,
which was slung around her shoulder. “You don’t shoot digital?”
Tessa shook her head. “I get a much higher dynamic range on film. Plus, I’m addicted to the
smell of the developing chemicals. The fumes make me delirious.”
“Kind of like what your eyes are doing to me right now.”
Her heart fluttered. Had he just said what she thought he had? The answer came when his face
turned red with embarrassment.
“Crap,” he said. “That came out way cheesy.”
“No,” she insisted but then decided to rib him. “Well, maybe a little bit?”
“I swear, it sounded perfect in my head.”
“In that case, let me imagine that version.…” Tessa shut her eyes, took a few deep breaths for
dramatic effect, then popped them open.
“Still bad?” he asked.
They both laughed. Behind them, Sherman had returned to the ticket booth and was staring at
them. This private little moment was no longer just theirs.
“Well, I should probably, you know—” He raised his thumb and pointed over his shoulder,
indicating it was time to go.
“Yeah. Me too,” Tessa said quickly. She immediately worried her response was too eager, an
obvious attempt to disguise her disappointment.
“Thanks for letting me whisper into your ear for three hours.”
With that, the tall boy with the greenest eyes Tessa had ever seen waved goodbye. She
watched him head down the sidewalk, making tracks in the snow. Each step he took away from
her made something inside Tessa fade a little bit—like a candle’s flame getting dimmer and
dimmer until all that was left was a curly wisp of smoke.
She was surprised to see him poking his head out from behind the corner store at the end of
“My name. It’s Skylar.”
“Maybe I’ll see you here again?”
“Yeah. I mean… I’d like that,” Tessa said.
And then he was gone.
Tessa stood in place for a few moments, attempting to process the rush of emotions she felt.
Euphoria came first, a lightness that traveled through her body and threatened to lift her off