I loved Kat Jackson's first book, Begin Again, and I've been not-very-patiently awaiting the release of her second. I was not in any way disappointed! If you're looking for a layered tale of wonderfully flawed people, look no further.
What enchanted me so much about Begin Again, and what runs through Across the Hall is that one of the things that makes humans so interesting is that we are not perfect. Mallory, Caitlin, and her best friend Lina (who I am totally in love with), all have dodgy track records when it comes to the women they have fallen for in the past. Case in point, Caitlin's ex-wife who seemingly manages to insert herself into everything, despite having a minimal 'on-screen' presence. Other brilliantly real and human elements come in the scenes set in school; dickhead jocks wanting to do group work with a girl they know will do 90% of the work, teenage boys thinking everything is phallic and that everything phallic is hilarious, and teachers paying minimal attention in staff meetings! (those last two did make me giggle because they are a large part of my time teaching English to teenagers).
A high school is a brilliant setting for this novel, not just because it flings Mallory and Caitlin together but because schools create their own community and act as a microcosm of society. Jackson highlights how racism, sexism and homophobia are exacerbated by our unequal society, by having Caitlin deal with these within one of her classes. The fact that the class is studying The Crucible, with its themes including power and responsibility, the portrayal of women, judgement, hysteria, guilt etc. (Not to mention the allegory for the Red Peril) is beautifully done. I hate it when books are preachy or polemical but this was pitched perfectly.
I could write pages and pages of nerdy literary criticism on this book but I will attempt to stick to a vaguely traditional review format and say that you should definitely buy and read this book! Mallory and Caitlin are complex characters with great depth, who I alternately wanted to hug and shake. Their stories are carefully crafted, and I am so thrilled to hear that Lina is getting her own book!
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