The Dark Light by Julia Bell (expected July 16th 2015, Macmillan Children’s Books) received with thanks from NetGalley
‘Ten minutes to midnight!’ Jonathan shouts over the sound of the blazing fire. Sparks rise into the sky and mingle with the stars. ‘Only ten minutes!’ Bevins says, falling down on his knees. ‘So it begins.’
Rebekah has lived on the island her whole life, and it’s only now that she’s starting to wonder what she might experience outside her strict religious community. Alex has been sent to the island to escape her dark past, and through her eyes it’s a dark and sinister place. Thrown together by chance, Rebekah and Alex strike up an unlikely friendship and it’s together that they attempt to break free of their worlds and make a world of their own. But when a kiss between the girls is witnessed by an islander there is no escape they can make – the Rapture is coming for them all.
I knew I recognised the name from somewhere, and when I popped this sucker open I had my thoughts confirmed by the author bio. I’ve been quoting from The Creative Writing Coursebook for nearly four years of studies! That said, somehow the knowledge that she was the author of that made me nervous. I can’t explain it, but in the past I’ve not enjoyed the books of individuals who ‘practice what they preach’. And sure, that’s a grand generalisation, but it’s just a pattern I’ve noticed in my own reading tastes.
So, what worked for me?
Concept – The premise to this book is pretty gnarly, don’t you think? I mean, anything that involves an extreme religious sect/cult/circle is going to get heavy. I was looking forward to seeing how it all panned out and more than anything I wanted them all to get off that damn island! *inappropriate flashbacks to Battle Royale*
Rebekah – I really felt for her character. At times I wanted to hit her upside her head, but Bell did a great job in getting me to trust in Rebekah’s voice and motivations. Despite her brainwashed-crazy, she was a likable gal. I think she showed the most development as a character.
Grit – There were some scenes that made my skin crawl. The quote ‘the evil that men do’ springs to mind. I thought those scenes really brought the story to life. However, they were few and far between and I found the lulls difficult to get through. Some of the male characters are terrifying!
What didn’t work for me?
Alex – This story is told from a dual POV. I’m not a fan of this device, but I can be swayed. But not here. I found Alex to be weak as a character, and I don’t mean her personality, I mean her representation on the page. She identifies as lesbian, but for the life of me I don’t know why she was so obviously gay. You know? Her appearance, her attitude, her whole being was a little too cliche for me. And I just didn’t feel any connection to her. I much preferred Alex through the eyes of Rebekah (who was really interesting to read as she figured out her feelings for Alex). Oh Alex. I’m sorry, but I didn’t see the point of your POV. :(
Pace – Slow. But not. That’s sounds weird, I know. But there were some parts (especially the last third) that tripped along at a fast pace. And then there were times when I just was not engaged at all.
Ending/message – *sigh* The ending. *sighs again* The ending was… frustrating. I’d just clambered through the whole of this book and how am I rewarded? Well, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so let’s just say the part that I really gelled with in this book was thrown back at my face. Also, Alex (sorry Alex) I had no clue how her character did a complete 180. Literally, she changed her colours over the course of a chapter. But how? I don’t know. I didn’t believe it. It was weird.
And the closing sentiment? *gag*
I think by the end I was starting to really get on board with this book. The action, the pace, Rebekah being a badass… I was glued! And then everything goes to shit and I’m left with a clammy message about life? Nope. Not buying it. I might have, if a certain something had not happened. But it did. So…
All in all I found this book easy to read. There were highs and lows, but I found Rebekah’s journey made it worth it. My main reasons behind the rating are to do with the characterisation of Alex, and ending. I felt betrayed, and not in a good way. Sometimes a book can smack you in the face and leave you mouth agog.. but still exhilarated. Here, I was just annoyed. Nice cover, but a justified 2 out 5.