If you’re one of those annoying people (like me, cough cough) who like to try and get one step ahead of the M-Night-Shyamalan-twisty-turny storytellers of the world, then Andra Brynn’s intriguing Where I End and You Begin is armed and ready to subvert your expectations to the very end. As we begin, Bianca, our narrator in this tale, tells us in no uncertain terms: “So. This is a ghost story.” And Brynn plays with the themes of ghosts, mortality and the liminal state in a clever and absorbing way throughout her story, returning to them over and again with a growing sense of their impact on the wider story.
Where I End and You Begin is full of portent, darkness and mystery, in a manner not often seen in New Adult contemporary romance. Indeed perhaps this is less a ‘romance’ per se, and more an exploration of a character, Bianca, who is caught in a spiral of depression, self-loathing and, resultantly, borderline alcoholism. She is aware of her problems and wants to get her life together, but when a particularly unpleasant experience forces a wake-up call, she develops a hesitant friendship with Daniel, a man who is experiencing his own kind of crisis. He feels compelled to help Bianca, but when his secret is revealed, it provides one of the most unique & genuinely interesting obstacles to a pair being together in an NA romance I’ve come across in a long time. The more philosophical – dare I say it, spiritual – ideas raised in the story I would perhaps even like to have seen taken further.
The story is also ripe with metaphor in the interesting pastime that Bianca’s friends – and eventually she and Daniel – adopt of exploring abandoned, decaying buildings. These structures are empty, yet full of secrets, unstable but with hidden strength. Unpredictable. Some of the sequences of the characters’ explorations of these buildings perhaps at first seem a little directionless or unnecessary, but as the story reaches its conclusion, the fragility of these spaces and their parallels with Bianca’s situation – and with the fragility of life itself – is very cleverly brought forth. Brynn’s literary style of writing is assured and compelling, though it is perhaps something of a risk drawing a character as potentially bleak and dark as Bianca, and having the reader view life through her eyes.
Although Bianca and Daniel’s relationship is one built on intriguing foundations, the focus of the story is not really on the pull between them, or their romantic or sexual relationship, and as such this story may not be one for those seeking an out-and-out, heart-rending romance. But I was particularly intrigued by Bianca’s mention of how we move backwards into the future, only looking into the past, with the unknowable stretching out behind our backs. Perhaps the journey she is on really involves forcing herself to turn around and look into the unknown possibilities in front of her.
For those seeking to have their expectations subverted with an unusual New Adult contemporary romance, this more than fits the bill. Where I End and You Begin will stay with you, making you think about the spaces in which we exist, how we perceive ourselves, and if we can change that. About the temptation of fear, of risk, of faith, and how those ideas play into the notion of love. Well worth your time.
Cringe Factor 1/5
Is it Hot in Here? 2/5
For the Love of Feminism! 3.5/5
Overall Tasty Goodness 4/5