Book Review: Beyond

Spoiler Alert

Anyone who has not read Beyond by Georgia Springate is hereby advised that this post may contain a few unavoidable spoilers.

Beyond by Georgia Springate follows the story of Alex Duncan: a fourteen year old boy who finds himself consumed with anxiety about what happens to us after we die when his sister is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Struggling to cope with the impact of his sister’s prognosis and feeling neglected by his family, Alex turns to the pastoral support teacher, Mrs Moss, who encourages him to research what lies beyond this life while he continues to face the added struggles of every day teenage life: bullies, friends, girls and school.

As always, good characters are what make a good story and Beyond is no exception. Most of the main players are teenagers or young adults and Springate captures the strange dynamics of the teenage social structures as well as the individual goals and motives of each character in a way which feels natural and believable.

The protagonist and POV character, Alex, is by far the best example of what I’m talking about. He is anxious about his sister’s eternal destiny and this motive provides him with a clear goal which he pursues diligently throughout the story; however he is also burdened by the things that all teenagers are concerned with. He learns that the rest of life will not stop for him while he deals with his sister’s prognosis, forcing him to juggle school work, budding romance and the treacherous waters of teenage social structures under inordinate pressure with little support from his parents. Springate has manifested this complex web of life in Alex in a way which is absolutely believable and relatable, creating a character we can really care about.

I can only imagine what a challenge this novel was to write thematically, not just because of the emotive subject matter (though that is also undeniable) but because the protagonist’s goal is so heavily focused on finding out, with reasonable certainty, what happens to us when we die. This inevitably puts the author in the position of having to either come up with a single decisive answer (this would create an instant ‘preachy’ novel which would annoy most readers) or else leave the question unanswered but teach the protagonist something even more valuable in the process. The author has, quite rightly, done the latter and has walked the line between a hard preachy epiphany and meaningless fluffy one as well as could be hoped for.

A story like this one runs the risk of having a meandering pace as the protagonist wanders from one inevitable hospital visit (with more bad news!) to another; one inevitable person with an opinion on death to another; one inevitable encounter with the school bully to another until Jenna inevitably dies and Alex has his inevitable epiphany. Beyond doesn’t feel like that. True, the protagonist does spend a lot of time visiting people with opinions on death and avoiding the school bully, but each scene moves the plot forward, creating a definite sense of anticipation which makes this book unputdownable. No small achievement when a discerning audience should realise from the outset that Jenna is almost certainly going to die and Alex is almost certainly not going to find a decisive answer to his question.

While the main plot is expertly paced and drawn to as satisfying a conclusion as is possible for a story of this type, some of the less central elements of the plot seem to fizzle out a little towards the end, particularly the business with the school bully, Duce. This altogether unpleasant little bully torments most of the other characters throughout the novel, culminating in him leaving a threatening note in Alex’s locker only to suddenly change his ways and become a nicer person in the final chapter. Personally, I think a more decisive resolution to the bullying subplot would have really tightened up the ending.

This isn’t really the kind of book I normally like to read. While I generally reject any advice about avoiding certain subjects while writing a novel, a lot of books of this type are either clumsy and insensitive or else are so overloaded with sentiment that it dilutes the substance of the theme. Not so with Beyond. It is sensitively written, drives the protagonist towards a reasonably satisfying resolution and takes the audience on a coming-of-age odyssey of the full tapestry of teenage life. A strong debut from a promising new author.

My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟


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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

Please be advised that due to a recent surge in interest, I am presently committed to a significant number of reviews/interviews over the next couple of months. If you would like an interview or review, I would still love to hear from you, though it is unlikely that I will be able to begin work immediately.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Author Interview: Georgia Springate

Spoiler Alert

Anyone who has not read Beyond by Georgia Springate is hereby advised that this post may contain a few unavoidable spoilers.

Writer and trainee teacher, Georgia Springate, is the exciting and promising new author behind the touching coming-of-age novel, Beyond.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Georgia about her favourite films, her writing and her debut novel, Beyond, which is available to buy now from Amazon.

Oh! And don’t forget to come back next week to catch my review of Beyond (spoiler: it’s favourable).


How did you get into writing?

I’ve always loved writing and found a passion for prose in school. When I started my Open University degree in English and creative writing, this reestablished my love and it was then I started writing properly.

What’s the best thing about being an author?

The best thing about being a writer is the impact my writing has had on others. Hearing the feedback of how my book has helped readers and inspired new writers has been amazing.

Let’s talk about Beyond (a great book, by the way). What was the initial inspiration behind Beyond?

Aw thank you! A lot of people are surprised when I say I’ve been lucky enough not to have to experience a family member or friend going through a cancer diagnosis. This idea came to me more through my own insecurities and worries about death and what happens after life. Exploring this through writing has really helped me come to terms with the realisation that there is no solid answer and that’s the beauty of it – very much like Alex.

The protagonist in Beyond is obviously very concerned to find out what happens to us after we die. Can I ask if you believe in life after death?

I’d like to think there’s something in some capacity wherein we can be with our loved ones after we die. But what will be will be – we should make the most of the time we do have on this earth every day!

As well as death and afterlife, you also touch upon some other pretty heavy themes in this book such as bullying, terminal illness, abusive relationships. What’s your approach to handling emotive or controversial themes?

If people didn’t write about these issues, awareness and support wouldn’t be half as strong. On the one hand, when writing, I was mindful that themes like that might be triggering or upset certain readers. On the other, I knew that they were integral parts to the story and needed to be explored sufficiently, not only for the narrative, but to show them for what they really are. Someone once called my book ‘trash’ because a character calls another character fat. Unfortunately, kids use these terms and speak this way. The book needed to feel real, whether it was controversial or not.

What’s your writing routine like?

Ooh okay, so when I was writing Beyond I was studying with the Open University full time, working in HR full time and, at certain points, working a part time job too. My life was hectic, no doubt, but I always found time to write. This would often be late evenings, early mornings and weekends. I live at home with four sisters and my parents so we had no room for a desk or study room. I wrote in bed, laptop on my lap, noise cascading in from every other room! In an ideal world I would love to have a little writing room with a desk, a few nice plants, a little radio. But the truth is life is messy, and situations aren’t always how we envision them. If you’re thinking about logistics that are blocking you from writing, just know that you can write anywhere at any time. All you need is an idea and pen and paper! I’m a strong believer that if you believe in yourself and your idea, that’s all the ‘luck’ you need.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon. I’m also a sucker for a full fat Coke.

Plotter or pantser?

Panster. This then comes back to bite me with plot holes later in the day! But I’m just not much of a planner. Hopefully teacher training will help me with that!

Do you have any other passions besides writing?

I’m a huge film buff! Pretty gutted the cinemas are closed now. Looks like I’ll be blitzing through Netflix!

What’s your favourite film?

Can I give you top 3?! Stand By Me, The Breakfast Club, Jojo Rabbit.

What’s next for you? Can we look forward to anymore books in the near future?

I’m currently working on a screenplay (editing for the hundredth time!) so that’s my main focus right now. After that, who knows? With all this extra time at home I think another book will be on the cards!


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and also follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on TwitterPinterest and like Penstricken on Facebook.

Want a blog of your own? Start writing today with WordPress.com!

WordPress.com Jetpack WooCommerce

ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

Please be advised that due to a recent surge in interest, I am presently committed to a significant number of reviews/interviews over the next couple of months. If you would like an interview or review, I would still love to hear from you, though it is unlikely that I will be able to begin work immediately.

You can check out our previous interviews here: