In the very near future, I have a Book Chat video coming out about the book trend of 2016 -- dark, gritty YA -- and Kara Thomas' The Darkest Cornersco In the very near future, I have a Book Chat video coming out about the book trend of 2016 -- dark, gritty YA -- and Kara Thomas' The Darkest Corners could not be a more perfect example of that. It's part of a new wave of crime novels that eschews the lurid crime-porn approach of previous thrillers and mysteries, and instead seeks to really dig into the idea of good guys and bad guys, and play with reader perceptions and biases in fascinating and complex ways.
Building upon a familiar scenario (creepy serial killer + pretty young girls = Very Bad Things), and then slowly and steadily picking it apart, The Darkest Corners keeps the reader constantly doubting and guessing (and I say that as someone who is rarely kept guessing). There are lots of twists and turns, false starts and sudden realizations, but it's all done in a very believable way, with excellent pacing; things are revealed at just the right moment to keep readers on their toes, and to keep the whodunit aspect fresh and present throughout, without ever feeling overdone or cheesy. Though there are a lot of suspects -- and a lot of suspicious things -- it's not really a "Villain du Jour,"an inexpert attempt to twist things and shock the audience. Instead, it feels very authentic, in the way that communities who are faced with tragedies like this begin to question everyone and everything, and at the same time, turn a blind eye to any answers that hit a little too close to home.
Thomas pulls in real-life crime scenarios, grounding the story even more in something the audience can relate to and recognize (the Casey Anthony case, for example), and spins those real life influences into just-distorted-enough versions to hold up a mirror and reflect the reader's biases back at them; each successive reveal or piece of doubt makes the reader examine how easily things can be distorted, and how biases and extraneous circumstances can override impartial judgement and justice. And -- as the forward from editor Krista Marino points out -- how unreliable eyewitness accounts and memory can be, especially when the damning evidence is gathered through the eyes of a child.
What really elevates the story for me, though, is that it doesn't just rest on being an intriguing mystery, well-told, but also adds in fantastic depth through the character of Tessa, her interactions (or lack thereof) with the people in her life, and the brokenness that so many of the characters deal with that's not even necessarily related to the murders. Though much of the problems in the book of course are related to the crimes and the feeling of insecurity and helplessness that resulted, there are problems outside of that, too, and Thomas doesn't ignore that. Real world, everyday problems like domestic and substance abuse, bad family situations, poverty, mental illness, etc., are all rolled up into the characters' lives and their responses to the murders, just as they would be in real life -- we none of us have just one problem to deal with, and all other problems don't cease to exist just because one bigger one has come along. Thomas uses this to build a story that feels very real and authentic, and much more related and rooted in reality than just another mystery novel. And all of it together builds tension and anxiety in a really good way -- my heart was actually pounding towards the end.*
I have a LOT more to say on this and a number of other gritty, dark YAs, so make sure to keep an eye out for the next Book Chat discussion (which is coming up in the very soonish). Until then, let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Oh, and PS: Some of you may remember might excitement when I unboxed this book & shared its contents on instagram (seriously, some of the best marketing, ever); well, it gets better! The website for The Darkest Corners contains more of the newspaper clippings I was going on about, and a whole bunch of other stuff, too, making the book a more immersive experience! I would definitely recommend checking it out, if you end up reading this. The attention to detail is just. . . ...more
Don't think this will appeal to everyone, but for those it does, it's a really interesting look at depression, mental illness, creativity and connectiDon't think this will appeal to everyone, but for those it does, it's a really interesting look at depression, mental illness, creativity and connection. The end felt a little weak, though....more
I love this series. I'm a huge mythology nerd, and have been for literally as long as I can remember (one of my earliest memories is of repeated watchI love this series. I'm a huge mythology nerd, and have been for literally as long as I can remember (one of my earliest memories is of repeated watchings of Clash of the Titans with my dad. I think we drove my mom nuts with how much we watched that movie, and similar others), so this series is always a win for me. This one is interesting because it's told by each of the Muses, in turn, so you're kind of getting a two-for-one: Apollo and the Muses. On a personal note: I delighted in seeing Apollo get called out for his general douchebaggery. ^_^...more
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Though occasionally some of the poems were a little too saccharine for my cold, dead heart, for the most part, these were striking and evocative, withThough occasionally some of the poems were a little too saccharine for my cold, dead heart, for the most part, these were striking and evocative, with really strong moments and turns of phrase sprinkled throughout. They're centered around the central theme of a romance (mostly), which I think will win some over and be too much for others. (I, for one, am a-okay with having a collection of poetry about many different things, rather than a series of poems on a single narrative, which can lead to a feeling of sameness -- but that said, they center around that theme well, and really dig into it in different ways, if sometimes redundant.) As a form, the different approaches worked for me to add some variety (and I love blackout poems, they suit my puzzle-loving brain), though the ones accompanying photographs seemed more throwaway to me, and I started feeling the urge to skip them. But the variety does mean that there will likely be something to suit most readers. ...more
Deserts and djinn and cross-dressing girls, I'm in. 4.5, full (video) review here. But basically I've been seeing people saying this was boring, and IDeserts and djinn and cross-dressing girls, I'm in. 4.5, full (video) review here. But basically I've been seeing people saying this was boring, and I just... ...more
This was cute, had great humor throughout, and the art was very clean, crisp and colorful (yay, alliteration!). Also, roller derby. What more could yoThis was cute, had great humor throughout, and the art was very clean, crisp and colorful (yay, alliteration!). Also, roller derby. What more could you want? =D...more
Good, very quick, and not as much of a sobber as I was expecting (though also not as impactful as I was expecting -- but still very good). Video revieGood, very quick, and not as much of a sobber as I was expecting (though also not as impactful as I was expecting -- but still very good). Video review of this one, which you can find here. (live 2/27/16)...more