The Tension of Opposites, by debut author Kristina McBride, balances on the razor thin line between numerous opposites: pain and relief; expectation and reality; choice and fate; caution and recklessness; love and hate; and selflessness and selfishness.
Noelle was abducted from her sleepy Midwestern town two years ago. And ever since, her best friend Tessa’ life has been on hold. Guarded, isolated and basically living in suspended animation, now-sophomore Tess won’t allow herself the life that Noelle can’t have. Her only outlet and solace has been her love of photography. When the novel begins, Noelle has escaped her captor and been able to get him arrested. Everyone is overjoyed and can’t wait for Noelle to return. But what they find when she comes home is that everything is different from what they expected.
Tessa is caught between wanting to rehabilitate Elle, as Noelle now calls herself, and the desire to allow herself the high school experience she’s denied herself so far. A cute guy in her photography class, Max, draws Tessa out, coaxing her to realize that she’s been living her life for Elle, and challenging her to live fully for herself. But as Elle spirals down a potentially destructive path, Tessa is unable to keep a safe distance and risks losing herself trying to save her best friend.
In many ways, The Tension of Opposites is a companion to Elizabeth Scott’s 2009 Living Dead Girl. Scott’s novel is gut-wrenching, visceral, and brutal; at the end, the reader doesn’t know if “Alice,” the teenage captive, is truly successful in her desperate attempt to escape her tormentor. McBride’s story fills in around and beyond Scott’s; McBride hints at what happened to Elle during her captivity, but the narrative’s focus is on the lives of those left behind and the difficult reality of life after the abductee returns.
McBride astutely renders the impossible desire of Elle’s family and best friend to pick up where life left off that fateful day; if they’re careful and sorry and tender enough, everything will just be “OK.” What Tess comes to realize and accept, because she is forced to see it both by Elle and by Max, is that this new reality isn’t going to be anything like she imagined.
- Posted by Cori