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Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Published: 2013
Length: 360 pages

My star rating:  ★ ★ ½

Violet White, seventeen, and her twin brother Luke live alone in their family’s run-down seaside mansion, annoyingly nicknamed Citizen Kane or “the Citizen.” With their irresponsible artist parents still abroad and too proud to find a summer job, Violet decides to rent out their guest house. When the irresistible River West moves in, however, strange things begin happening in their small town, and Violet starts to remember all the warnings her grandmother used to give her about the Devil.

Well, when you put it that way, it sounds pretty cliché, doesn’t it?

And it was.

Still, we could have had it all well, something.

Look, I knew what I was getting into when I checked this book out—YA “Gothic” romance. For what it is, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea wasn’t dreadful, but it fell pretty far short all the same.

The writing isn’t terrible—sometimes it was rather lovely, in fact—and the idea itself wasn’t brilliant, but it was decent. It is, at least, very atmospheric, though hindered by the heroine’s annoying first-person narration.

The characters were all pretty flat. Violet, the bookish outcast who’s actually beautiful and doesn’t realize it and who wears her grandmother’s vintage clothes a lot; River, formerly known as Edward Cullen (that’s not entirely fair—River has a few good moments); Luke, the insecure brother who’s secretly sensitive and artistic. Yawn. Their names are also terrible. Violet, River, Sunshine, Neely…eugh.

It’s fair to say that this book was Gothic (horror, maybe not so much). Ms. Tucholke knows what elements are supposed to go into this genre—decaying grandeur, dark family secrets, mist-shrouded cemeteries, unhealthy love stories…yeah, she gets it. (She references Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily” and several Hawthorne stories, and while I love Faulkner and Hawthorne both, alluding to other, better Gothic writers does not a good Gothic story make.)

Unfortunately, she knows how to write YA romance, too, so it’s pretty clumsy and heavy-handed. There’s instalove (oh, God, is there ever), a possible love triangle, and the ever popular “I love you but we can’t be together because you’re too dangerous” trope. It’s at least mildly less grating here than in Twilight. Mildly. But it’s the same flavor.

There’s also some pretty gratuitous violence, especially towards the end. Not entirely sure all that blood-letting was necessary.

Unfortunately, the Devil himself is conspicuously absent. (I was promised the Devil, dammit!)

For all that, I may still have given this book three stars…if it weren’t for the ridiculous plot twist that makes the last forty pages or so a total clusterfuck of confusion and melodrama. I believe it’s what they call “jumping the shark.”

Overall, not a terrible read (and I had the benefit of reading it in one go on a stormy Saturday afternoon) if you don’t mind a book with high sugar content and some unneeded gore. It had its eerie moments, but unfortunately they were few and far between. It’s just what it looks like: semi-paranormal YA romance with a Gothic façade. If you don’t go in expecting much else, you won’t be too disappointed.

It was still somewhat better than similar fare like Ashes on the Waves and Spellcaster, and it isn’t a blatant ripoff like Starcrossed. Damning with faint praise, I suppose.

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