04 September 2013

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Author: April Geneieve Tucholke
Series: Between # 1
Genres: Mystery, Supernatural, Horror, Gothic, Young Adult
Publisher: Dial
Released: 15 August 2013
Summary: courtesy of goodreads.com You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.  Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?  Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery... who makes you want to kiss back.
Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.  Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch
My Review:  I know I’m in the minority here – and this may be a case of “getting my hopes up real high” but . . .I was disappointed in this book.  I got sucked in by the beautiful font on the cover (I’m a total font nerd) when I saw this, and I have been waiting since last November (over nine months) for this book to come out, and in the end it was – meh.  The “gothic” aspect of this novel was my favorite part – probably because it borrowed so heavily from the gotic-esque novels before it.  I liked how Tucholke brought in the idea of the Devil and the crossroads and Robert Johnson (one of my all time favorite musical artists) and I wish it could have been explored more, annnd I pretty much was unsure about everything else, from the tiny sleepy town to the large house to the mean brother (and mean best friend) to the mysterious house guest.
The problems I had with this novel were. . .numerous.  I felt like none of the characters were really driven.  Where are we going?  What is the point of this story?  There were so many things which were brought up and then quickly resolved.  This novel seemed like a character study more than an attempt to tell a story, and then I came away feeling like I didn’t know any of the characters at all.  There is something to be said about the beauty and idea of that, maybe Tucholke was attempting to grasp what it’s actually like to be that age – struggling and not know whether to be mean or nice, or flirty or withheld or shy.  Writing characters who don’t know who they are because it is how the age group depicted acts?  Yeah, I could see that being the attempt, but I'm not sure YA is the place for that attempt to be made.
My main issue however, with this was confusion.  Confusion at what, exactly River is, at how much he controls, at what Violet’s grandmother was warning her against.  I was confused throughout most of this novel and then confused some more when it ended.  Young Adult books don’t usually confuse me, I’m pretty willing to suspend my disbelief and just go with it, but with Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea I was left confused and wishing there had been more of an explanation.  It felt so episodic with a  few gothic mentions thrown in and then to have nearly nothing resolved (setting up for the next book I presume) I closed this book with a feeling of heavy annoyance.  Why were no questions answered?  It's like the blurb for this book.  It asks a lot of questions, and yet after over 300 pages you still have no clue what's going on.
Honestly, I feel like this review could have gone either way – in another world I would have praised Tucholke for her aptitude to capturing the teenage condition, and her ability to leave the reader wanting more, but as it stands both of those aspects left me annoyed and unsure of whether or not I will be picking up the sequel.

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