Review: Slide by Jill Hathaway

Title Slide
Author Jill Hathaway
Published March 27th, 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Pages 250 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Paranormal, Mystery, Thriller, Romance
Part of a Series? Yes (Book 1 in the Slide series)
Source & Format Purchased from Chapters, Hardcover
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth – her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting distant lately, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

“I can never get used to the feeling of looking through someone else’s eyes. It’s as if each person sees the world in a slightly different hue. The tricky part is figuring out who the person is. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle – what do I see, hear, smell? Everything is a clue.”

“You can never truly know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” For most, this is little more than an perfunctory platitude, meant to encourage the cultivation of perspective and empathy for one’s fellow man. For Sylvia Bell, however, this is a grim and ever-increasing reality. Following the untimely death of her mother to pancreatic cancer, Sylvia’s bouts of narcolepsy have continued to worsen and have begun to include one very unexpected and unusual side effect: The ability to transplant herself, albeit temporarily, into another person’s mind. Known more simply as ‘sliding’, these events occur when Sylvia touches an item onto which a person has left an ‘emotional imprint’ and have started to transpire with increasing regularity. To Sylvia, being forced to experience the world through another’s eyes is ordinarily little more than an inconvenient annoyance. That is, until one fateful day when she slides into the mind of a stranger and finds herself standing over the body of her sister’s best friend, Sophie, a bloody knife still clutched in the murderer’s hand. Quickly labeled a suicide by the local authorities, Sylvia knows there is more to Sophie’s untimely death than meets the eye, but is unable to confide in anyone for fear of how they might react. But when the body of a second high school student is discovered, Sylvia realizes that her unwanted ‘curse’ could actually hold the key to discovering the identity of the murderer who has plunged her life, and the surrounding town, into chaos.

“…Then I realized everyone was doing bad things. My teacher was sneaking drinks of liquid that made my throat burn. My sister was cheating during a math test. The mailman tucked packages into a special bag to take home. People were doing good things, too – writing thank-you notes, holding doors for old ladies, smiling at each other – but those people weren’t the majority. The fact is that most people keep secrets hidden behind their eyes.”

It’s no secret that for close to a year now I’ve fallen in love with the contemporary genre. And while I’ve been known to read the occassional novel that doesn’t fall into this category, I’ve found myself increasingly reluctant to venture outside of it. That said, I knew I needed to make a change. I wanted to challenge myself to make more of a concerted effort to step outside of my literary comfort zone in 2014 and read books I might not otherwise pick up. So, when I stumbled upon Jill Hathaway’s Slide on sale at Chapters for a mere $3.99, it seemed like fate. The novel sounded fast-paced and exciting, and the premise extremely inventive. Unfortunately, my first foray into a relatively unexplored genre went anything but smoothly. Slide by Jill Hathaway failed to deliver on the promise of a creative, unique premise and did little, if anything, to distinguish itself from its peers. With one-dimensional characters, poor pacing, and a lot of unrealized potential, I fear that Slide is one novel I’ll be lucky to remember in a matter of weeks, let alone months.

“I never knew you were such a fine actress,” Rollins says, snorting.
“Oh, that wasn’t an act. I really am feeling faint,” I say, pretending to swoon. “I’m such a delicate flower.”
“My ass,” Rollins says, nudging me with his elbow. “You’re about as delicate as an AK-47.”

There was little of note or interest about the protagonist, Sylvia ‘Vee’ Bell. The reader is told she has pink hair, which is apparently her sole defining characteristic apart from her supernatural ability, based on the number of times the author makes mention of it. In truth, Sylvia had all the depth and complexity of a cardboard cutout, and I was always very aware that I was reading about a character. Everything about Sylvia, from her choice of hair colour to her taste in music, felt very deliberate and often bordered on contrived. I knew what Hathaway intended to portray (A prickly, rebellious outsider), but was never convinced. Perhaps what disappointed me the most about Sylvia, however, was the absence of any significant action on her part. I wanted to see Sylvia take a more proactive role in the murder investigation, particularly given her relationship to the first victim. Considering the scope of her ability, Sylvia had the potential to contribute to the inquiry in a significant way. Despite this, however, she spends the majority of her time lamenting that her power is a ‘curse’ and avoiding the use of it at all costs. It isn’t until the 70% mark that Sylvia thinks to use her ability in a deliberate, constructive manner. This was an unfortunate case of ‘too little, too late’ that was both frustrating and disappointing and felt like squandered potential on the author’s part. As a result, Sylvia often came across as selfish and self-centered, more concerned with maintaining some semblance of normalcy and how her ability negatively affected her as opposed to how it could be utilized to help others.

“I want him to say something else, something light and funny to make everything between us better. But he doesn’t say anything, just stands there. I wish I knew how to get back to us again, but something’s broken between us, and no matter how much I want to – I can’t fix it.”

The other characters in this novel are as woefully underdeveloped and one-dimensional as Sylvia herself. Most exist on the periphery of Sylvia’s life, coming to the forefront only when the plot calls for it. Like Sylvia, each are given one or two defining characteristics and left to otherwise stagnate developmentally. Zane is the handsome new student, Amber and Samantha the resident mean girls, Scotch the arrogant and entitled quarterback and Sylvia’s father the absent parent. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve encountered these or similar character archetypes and Hathaway regrettably adds nothing new or innovative to what have now become tired tropes. Even Rollins, who is Sylvia’s supposed best friend, resident punching-bag and arguably the most interesting character in the novel, is given little more than a cursory examination. Known best for his beloved leather jacket and self-made publication, Fear and Loathing in High School, Rollins is the reticent, mysterious ‘bad boy’ with a heart of gold, and one of the few respites in an otherwise discouraging landscape of predictability and ennui. Unfortunately, Rollins did not play a large enough role in order to redeem this novel. When Rollins does make an appearance, what little time he is present is spent being admonished by Sylvia for for being a ‘bad friend’. Boy, does that ever get old quickly! These exchanges were as repetitive as they were irritating and this time could have been much better spent developing his character further. Hathaway continually alludes to a secret regarding Rollins’ home life, but when the truth is finally revealed, the topic is almost immediately dismissed because Rollins is unwilling to discuss it. Much like everything else about this novel, I was left wanting more.

“The night before washes over me, and I’m pulled back into the horror. I can see Sophie’s wide, dead eyes. I remember the way the knife felt in my hand.
Sophie didn’t kill herself.
She was murdered.
And I was there.”

Hathaway’s writing is technically proficient, if a little bland and ordinary. Slide is told from the first-person perspective of Sylvia and is composed almost entirely of short, simplistic sentences. There was rarely, if ever, a time when I felt compelled to linger over a particular passage or felt inspired by Hathaway’s prose. I’ve always responded well to descriptive language and smart dialogue, neither of which I thought were particularly prevelant in this novel. There were a series of other, smaller concerns that detracted from my enjoyment of this novel as well, not the least of which was a troubling lack of realism. I refer not to Sylvia’s abilities despite a complete absence of any sort of explanation as to their origin. Rather, my biggest issue was in regard to Hathaway’s portrayal of the high school experience. The teachers are more often than not unlikeable and corrupt, and their depiction despicable and patently ridiculous. One teacher, Mrs. Winger, is most notable for playing solitaire throughout class and forgoing teaching entirely. Another openly laughs as a student gives a PowerPoint presentation on sexually transmitted diseases and pastes Sylvia’s head onto photo of a dinosaur entitled ‘Herpasaurus Rex’. In what universe would this ever be considered acceptable behaviour that would go unreported and/or unpunished by the faculty?

“…It’s wrong that death is a loss. It’s something you gain. Death is always there, whispering in your ear. In your memories. In everything you think and say and feel and wish. It’s always there.
I know there’s nothing you can say to make death okay. It is what it is.”

Poor pacing and nonsensical or otherwise confusing world-building were also a concern. Despite being a mere 250 pages in length, Slide felt impossibly longer. The story meanders along with little, if any, sense of direction or understanding of how to create narrative tension. While the murders themselves were interesting and posed some interesting questions, what little friction was created was inevitably squandered as the the text returns almost immediately to a tedious recitation of the minutiae of Sylvia’s everyday life. Sylvia expresses a vague interest in discovering the identity of Sophie and Amber’s murderer, but the bulk of the text focuses instead on her burgeoning relationship with the handsome and mysterious new student, Zane Huxley. There was also a great deal of ambiguity and confusion regarding Sylvia’s narcolepsy and related ability. She goes out of her way to avoid sleep whenever possible, going so far as to regularly chew caffeine tablets in order to ensure she never falls asleep. Why? While I understood wanting to do so during the day when she has regular contact with others and therefore is at a greater risk of sliding, I couldn’t understand why it was necessary to remain awake throughout the night as well. Wouldn’t getting a good night’s sleep mean that she would be less likely to ‘slide’ because she would be better rested? Forcing herself to remain awake to the point of utter exhaustion seemed counterproductive.

“He meets my eyes again, and this time I have to look away. It’s true. I could have called him. But I didn’t. If only I could reach out to him, ask for help, tell him what’s going on with me. Every time I picture it, though, I see my father’s face when I told him about sliding – how panicked he was, how he clearly thought I was crazy.
I can’t go through that again.”

In the end, I expected (and wanted) something more. More character development. More world-building. More attention to detail. Just more. What pains me the most is the loss of what I believe this novel could have been. It’s clear that Hathaway aspired to write more than a simple paranormal novel. From bulimia to marital infidelity, sexual assault to mental illness, Hathaway touches upon a number of serious issues throughout the course of the novel, but does not allot the time and attention necessary to examine these topics with the depth and sensitivity that they deserve. Instead, these are introduced as mere plot devices used to create conflict and summarily dismissed when their services are no longer required. As a result, Hathaway’s commentary on these and other important issues felt superficial and barely scratched the surface of what might otherwise have proven subjects for a thoughtful contemporary. As it stands now, Slide is a novel with a promising amount of potential that goes unfortunately unrealized and is little more than an effort in predictability. With proper execution this concept could have provoked a sense of excitement, mystery, and adventure. Instead, all it inspired in me with was a troubling sense of apathy. Slide is one novel that will not leave a lasting impression.

Overall Rating

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Why not listen to what some other bloggers had to say about it?

● HD @ Reading, Writing, Breathing wrote “Overall, Slide was a major disappointment…Stale, two-dimensional characters in a stagnant, lukewarm plot told in a monotone, opaque voice make for a lacking novel.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Bree @ All The Books I Can Read wrote Slide, for me, was one of those novels that sits firmly in the middle of the spectrum – It was ok. Not fabulous but certainly not bad enough not to finish it.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Kari @ A Good Addiction wrote “With a fantastic motive behind the deaths and a beautifully scripted overall plot and play out, Slide will be a hit with murder mystery buffs.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

5 Responses

  1. Sorry this didn’t deliver for you, especially since you purposely wandered outside your comfort zone. I’ve heard mostly good things about Slide and its on my to read list but your review definitely gave me something to think about it. Maybe I’ll get round to it one day, maybe I won’t.

    P.S. I thought I’d followed you but I haven’t been getting updates. I’ve now fixed this and hopefully I’ll start receiving your posts 🙂
    Rebecca recently posted…Absolutely Anticipating: ’14 Releases I Need In My LifeMy Profile

      1. I definitely seemed to be in the minority on this one! As I began searching for reviews to link to at the end of my own review, I was struck by how many people absolutely loved this novel. I think the concept was extremely unique and could have provided grounds for reflection on the moral implications of such an ability, but I couldn’t help but feel that Hathaway merely scratched the surface and there was a lot of missed opportunities and potential. Please don’t let my review dissuade you from reading it, though! As I mentioned, I’m certainly in the minority and it seemed that most people had far fewer problems with it than I did.

        Also, I’m sorry to hear that the email subscription option doesn’t seem to be working for you! 🙁 I’ll look into that immediately. Thank you for letting me know!
        Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover – Issue Eighteen: Non-Fiction (Part Two)My Profile

  2. I read Slide last year, and although I didn’t hate the novel (I think I gave it around 3/5 stars) it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me either. I know what you mean, though, about reading a book, and seeing how it could be so much more if the author just dove a little bit deeper. I think that is often more disappointing that a really terrible book. But, at least you didn’t spend a whole lot on the book, and it was a quick read.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland StoneMy Profile

    1. As you said, Slide could have been much worse! It didn’t make me angry or upset as other novels have done, but therein lies part of the problem. The novel inspired absolutely no reaction either good or bad and, like you, I fear will leave little, if any, lasting impression. It was simply forgettable and bland. I appreciated that Hathaway attempted to delve more deeply into important subjects like eating disorders and sexual assault, but the limited scope of the novel prevented her from giving them the time and attention they deserved. As it was, they were mere plot devices, which I didn’t appreciate either.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover – Issue Eighteen: Non-Fiction (Part Two)My Profile

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Hi! I’m Jen! I’m a thirty-something introvert who loves nothing more than the cozy comfort of home and snuggling my two rescue cats, Pepper and Pancakes. I also enjoy running, jigsaw puzzles, baking and everything Disney. Few things bring me more joy than helping a reader find the right book for them!