Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can't live in the real world any longer and leaves Lizzie and her family forever. Now, years later, Lizzie is in high school and struggling to understand what happened to her sister. With the help of a school psychologist and Tess's battered journal, Lizzie searches for a way to finally let Tess go.
Without Tess caught my attention when I found it on the back shelf of Kinokuniya PS's YA section. The synopsis is interesting enough, but at that time the lack of a paperback version stopped me from buying it immediately. The glowing reviews made me think twice and finally grabbed the hardcover during my next visit.
I'm a sucker for lovely mellow books. One such example is Lovely, Dark and Deep. This one's mellow enough but I can't get through the head of the character. I personally feel that the story should be longer instead of shorter. I do not get Tess's poems, I do not understand Lizzie and am acutely aware that the reader (as in me) is not constantly present in her journey of getting over the past. This reminds me a lot of 13 Reasons Why, because the character Hannah and Clay are hard to grasp, as are Tess, Lizzie and even Isabella. There's so much distance between the characters and the readers and I find myself not understanding enough of them. Lizzie's ending journey makes me a little surprised because it's so abrupt and there's hardly any development during her sessions with Kaplan, her school therapist. There's too much flashbacks, although necessary, I feel a flashback and a present situation should co-exist in every chapter instead of only inserted here and there.
The insanity of Tess is beautifully blurred - no black and white here, we want to believe she's magic, want to help her understand she's not, all at the same time.
Without Tess is a beautiful book, but could be better if only it can get the readers to emote more because it's heartbreaking and sad. If only. Only the last few pages get me teary eyed, and glad that they finally get to let go.