Friday, September 13, 2013

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

Happy Friday the 13th!

When Maureen Johnson came to town this year, she said that if I liked scary stuff I had to read Robin Wasserman's The Waking Dark. This week we've had leaden skies, storms, and even flooding. Definitely the kind of weather for staying indoors and reading something scary.

They called it the killing day. The day when five of Oleander's citizens became murderers. A babysitter, the owner of a drugstore, a high school coach, a preacher, and a tweaker... they had nothing in common except that they all lived in Oleander and they were all killers. And no one knows why they did it. West, Daniel, Ellie, Jule, and Cass all survived that day. None of them imagined ever living through such horror. None of them imagined it would happen again.

I am amazed this is a teen book for a number of reasons, the primary one being the pacing. Paired with the length, The Waking Dark would stylistically seem to be better suited for adult shelves. But I'm glad it's not. As with Rowling breaking down the standard accepted length barriers in kid's fiction, I'm glad that the folks at Random House have gone for such a meaty and slower paced book in a genre where the sad trend seems to be diving as quickly as possible into the action - character, setting, and story development be damned. Unless, of course, you're a fan of the King of horror himself :) and a few other additions of late (Justin Cronin's tomes come to mind). And yes, both of those examples are in adult horror rather than teen. See, Wasserman's style is just atypical of what's previously been presented in much of YA.

All of those things listed above - character, setting, and story development - are spot on in Wasserman's latest. It makes Waking Dark a hefty and dense read, but an ultimately satisfying one.

With one small, minor exception. My one and only complaint is the big reveal. So much time is spent leading up to this and then the explanation comes and goes in the blink of an eye - or the turn of a few pages. Everything else is so well developed and honestly nothing is missing from the reveal it just felt unbalanced in terms of the amount of space given over to it.

The Waking Dark is like the cousin to all those R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike books I read in elementary school and the younger sister of the King titles I started reading just a few years later. In fact, it's exactly what I wanted to get my hands on in the teen section when I actually was a teen. (And it certainly still hits the spot today as well!) Other than the fact that the main characters here are teens, there's nothing incredibly teeny about this book. It's dark and it's pretty violent, well-written and ultimately, I think, appealing to horror fans of all ages.

Rating: 4/5

1 comment:

Peggy Ann said...

Good review. You have made me want to read it even though I am not a teen:)