Jesse Bennett’s life changes dramatically during the summer she’s 13. It’s a difficult age for anyone. But life becomes especially difficult for Jesse when she returns home one day to find neighbors gathered outside her house in the British city of Hull. Her mother has attempted suicide, and after she returns from a stay in a mental institution, the family moves to the nearby seaside town of Midham.
It’s a chance for her mother to start anew in the fresh country air, and Jesse also seizes the chance to recreate herself. She has always been an outcast at school, but in Midham that changes. While waiting for her father outside the town co-op on a rainy day, Jesse meets Amanda, a beautiful, older and clearly popular girl. When Amanda invites Jesse to stand under her umbrella, Jesse is immediately taken with her. She’s even more excited when she meets Tracey, a girl in her own grade, and realizes that the two are sisters, granting Jesse regular access to Amanda.
Another Life Altogether reveals Jesse’s struggle with the challenges of being a teenager: dealing with her parents—particularly dramatic, given her mother’s mental illness; fitting in at school; and coming to terms with her sexuality. And Jesse is often lost to a fantasy world where she and Amanda are romantically involved—a desire she can’t admit, for fear that such a revelation would cost her the social standing she has worked so hard to achieve.
With the release of Another Life Altogether, author Elaine Beale turns from the murder mystery genre of her first effort (1997’s Murder in the Castro, now out of print) to an exploration of psychological development. Though there’s plenty of action in the novel, it is Beale’s examination of Jesse’s relationship with a cast of quirky family members and classmates that propels the worthy story forward.