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Monday, April 25, 2016

Dark, Disturbing Psychological Thriller Unique in YA Fiction

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ten years ago, Tessa Lowell left her troubled, redneck life in tiny Fayette, Pennsylvania, behind.  With her father in prison and her mother MIA, there's only one family member Tessa cares about seeing again—her older sister Joslin.  But it's Glenn Lowell who's summoning her home.  The dying inmate's last wish is to see his youngest daughter. 

Although reluctant to return to Fayette, once she's there, 18-year-old Tessa can't seem to make herself leave.  Too much unfinished business.  Like the secret she and her childhood BFF keep, the one that may have landed an innocent man on Death Row.  The guilt is eating Tessa up inside; Callie deals with hers as all alcoholics do—by drowning it in booze.  When it becomes apparent that a new killer is on the loose, the girls will have to decide what to do with their knowledge of a decade-old crime.  Then, there's Joslin.  Tessa knows she's close, knows she has answers Tessa needs—all Tessa has to do is find her.  And what about their mom?  Where is she hiding?  Although she thought she was beyond caring, suddenly Tessa is desperate to find—and question—them both.

As Tessa investigates her own past and its unsettling connections to her present, she comes to some shocking conclusions.  She and Callie aren't the only ones keeping secrets.  But does Tessa really want to know the answers if they're too horrible to contemplate?  Yes. If she's going to stop a killer, she's going to have to face some horrifying truths about her family, her past, and herself.

If you happen to peruse the YA shelves at bookstores and libraries, you're not liable to find many dark, disturbing psychological thrillers.  With the recent popularity of adult books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, that may be changing.  I'm not sure The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, deserves comparisons to these bestsellers, but it does offer at least one whoa-I-didn't-see-that-coming twist.  The plot, although melodramatic and far-fetched in places, moves along at a fair clip making for a tense, exciting read.  In spite of this, I didn't find myself loving The Darkest Corners.  It's depressing, for one thing.  I think it's the big info dump at the end of the novel, though, that annoys me most.  It steals the finale's thunder, making the ending feel rushed and anticlimactic.  Overall, then, this book kept me reading; its execution just lacked a little something, leaving me feeling disappointed with a novel that should have been right up my alley.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs plus milder expletives), violence, and references to mature subject matter (underage drinking, prostitution, sex, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Darkest Corners from the generous folks at Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.  Thank you!

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