From the moment I first picked up this amazing tale, the Latin word for threshold, limen, has haunted my mind. Why? Well, first because I’m strange and geeky - but more importantly because this story is filled with that gray area, that in-between. Nothing is what it seems, and everything folds in upon itself, providing parallels and symmetry in unlikely places.
The ambiguity of Feisty Y. Beden’s (May I call you Ms. Beden? Yes? Thank you.)…the ambiguity of Ms. Beden’s story is apparent even in the summary – “ExB, sort of.” Sort of? What the hell does that mean? It was with this question in mind that I began to delve into the dual worlds of Isabella Swan. In the “real” world, she is Bella Swan, graduate of Longfellow University, talented artist who prefers to draw wolves…nearly invisible, completely unsuccessful woman who journeys through life utterly alone, save for her best friend Rosalie and her long-distance relationships with her father Charlie and her old friend Angela. In the dream world, which she abandoned long ago, she is…oh, but I can’t tell you that, now, can I?
The difficulty in writing this recommendation became apparent to me early on in reading the story. In nearly every chapter, I found myself gasping at some new revelation or some action taken by Bella. I rarely become emotional over fanfiction, but something – usually some small line – tugged at me in each chapter, and I cried more than I care to admit. Is it because this story is utterly depressing? Not at all. There are elements of that, yes, but the beauty in the story and the complete originality of the plot propel the narrative far beyond that of most fanfiction. By the time I reached the end of the first chapter, I had gasped and cried and been awed by the beauty of Ms. Beden’s writing. Of course, the problem with writing a recommendation for a story like this is…those gasps and moments of disbelief aren’t possible if someone has already revealed to you what happens.
So I had to ask myself…what could I tell people that would make them want to read this story that has gripped me from the first chapter and refused to let go?
I can tell you that the characters are rich, well-developed, and unique while retaining those core aspects of canon that make them recognizable.
Edward is glimpsed only from afar, and what we see of him is contradictory and tantalizing – he is at once foul-mouthed and brash, but he is also a kind champion for the vulnerable and weak. He is the musician who gives himself completely to his passion, so much so that young Bella longs for him when she sees him playing. He is also the protective big brother who pushes his sister Alice on the swing tirelessly – the only times she ever smiles.
Alice, in turn, is an enigma. She is an elective mute, made so by some horrors in her past, who was adopted by the Cullen family and loved as their own. True to canon, she sees beyond what most people see, and Bella feels a strange kinship toward her. She is a quiet presence in the story, silent but powerful.
Rosalie is a breath of fresh air. She and Bella have traditions and rituals ranging from Saturday morning grazing at Trader Joe’s to sleepovers and reading trashy romance novels aloud to each other. She has a unique sense of humor and a quirky personality that has made me laugh out loud several times throughout the story. She provides some comic relief while at the same time being exactly what Bella needs – she draws her out, stands by her loyally, and is just all-in-all a damn good friend.
I debated whether or not to mention anything about the dream realm, but any recommendation for this story would be remiss without mentioning Jacob, Leah, and Seth. They are all that remain of the creations of little Izzy’s mind that once populated her dream world. Their canon personalities translate so perfectly here that I found myself rolling my eyes at Leah and laughing with Seth. Jacob is unfailingly loyal, and it could be said that he’s a much better friend to Bella here than in canon, but that’s a debate for another time. Suffice to say that I found myself loving Jacob’s pack.
Bella…there is just so much to be said about Bella. At different times, I’ve wanted to kick her, scream at her, hold her, cry with her, laugh with her…but somehow, through it all, I’ve come to love her. She’s made some questionable decisions, but that’s part of what makes her human. She is a fragmented soul, never at home in any one place. She feels torn between Forks and her new home in Boston, between the real world and the dream world, between Bella and little Izzy. She has all the talent and potential to do anything she wants in the world, yet she works for a temp agency. She is extremely self-aware and questions everything – many of the chapters open with a series of philosophical reflections as Bella struggles to come to grips with herself. The image of Bella as a scarecrow, a husk, arises many times, and in her own words, she thinks:
All those years of careful cultivation in rich soil, and I’m still trapped in my husk, refusing to burst out and become…something else. Something greater. I’m too afraid, I guess, to decide what I am and put down roots. Or maybe deep down I know I’m not special at all.
Her greatest fear is not being real, not being seen. The moments she treasured with Edward are those when he really noticed her, and she is most affected by strangers who see her and are kind to her. Because of this fear, she admires those who – like Edward and Rosalie – put themselves out there for others to see. At the same time, she hides behind her Hamlet-like indecision because it is a safe place for her, a place where she cannot be mocked or ridiculed. This duality of Bella is just yet another instance of that ambiguity that makes this story so compelling.
Beyond the characters and the unique plot (you know, that part I have to avoid describing in too much detail), the writing in this story is phenomenal. When I first started reading, I thought, “Damn, I wish I had come up with this story!” It was just such a fresh idea. But as I read through the first chapter, I quickly decided that I was glad I had not come up with this idea because Ms. Beden has such a gift with words, particularly with description and figurative language. Some of the most vivid imagery I’ve ever read has been in this story – from the seemingly simple, yet so elegant, “My linen dress floats up and around me like swirls of cream poured into a cup of coffee” to the one that I just can’t seem to get out of my head for reasons even I don’t quite understand – “With a swish and a beep as the appliances in my apartment take a deep breath, the power comes back on, the TV loud and embarrassing like a drunk uncle at a family reunion.” Anyone who knows me knows the weakness I have for detail, and Ms. Beden is able to give us just the right amount. Her work is striking and poignant without spending pages describing every little detail.
In the end, there are just countless reasons to read this story…and no reason not to. I’ll admit that it may not be for the faint of heart. Some of the choices Bella faces are heart-breaking, and you may not always agree with her decisions. But there is no story that has kept me on the edge of my seat like this one – no story that has made me gasp and cry and laugh all within the same chapter this way. I am eagerly awaiting Ms. Beden’s next update, and just because I’m evil, I’ll leave you with a few cryptic little tidbits. If you don’t pick up “Sleepers, Awake,” you will never understand the significance of crackcrackers or fruit stickers or days-of-the-week loincloths. Of course, the true tragedy is that you would miss out on a compelling, original, completely awesome story by one of the most talented writers I have come across.
SorceressCirce is the author of “Just One of the Guys,” where she gets to geek up Bella, play dress-up Edward, and make Jasper the best BFF ever. She is a wife, a teacher, a mother, and a game-addicted tomboy who refuses to grow up and has been known to be a foul-mouthed pervert. She has far too many upcoming fics and so many ideas in her head that she needs to grow another one.