Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ARC Review: The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Children
464 Pages

They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand . . . except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn't even know why she killed—or whether she'll do it again.

Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander's, Kansas—something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. Jule, the outsider at war with the world; West, the golden boy at war with himself; Daniel, desperate for a different life; Cass, who's not sure she deserves a life at all; and Ellie, who believes in sacrifice, fate, and in evil. Ellie, who always goes too far. They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town—and in themselves.

I'm not really sure why I thought I should pick this up. I had received some great feedback friends saying that Robin Wasserman was The Shiz. I can definitely see why they believe so, but reading The Waking Dark did absolutely nothing for me. The horror genre is not a favorite of mine, and I rarely pick those books up (unless they have zombies in them) because I've never really enjoyed them. Sadly, I didn't enjoy The Waking Dark either. I put down the book frustrated, annoyed and utterly dissatisfied.

Oleandar, Kansas was once a sleepy town, where everybody knew everybody and nothing really happened. Until "the killing day" when people are murdered one after another in different places across town all in a few hours. Only one of the murderers is still alive, and she says she doesn't remember and now she is locked away from the town and people she grew up with. What the people of Oleandar don't know is that this is only the beginning; something is now haunting the town--blood-thirsty and dangerous, no one is safe.

This book is filled to the brim with horror. From the very beginning, we witness death after death after death. There's no happy ending in sight and the romance is dismal (I know; what a vain thing to think about, but love me some romance). This novel is extremely graphic, and while I usually have no problem with gore, it did not sit well with me. I wanted to love this book, but it just wasn't for me.

Wasserman's prose is phenomenal though. It's dark, and creepy. She couldn't have matched the tone of the novel any better than she did. I can completely understand why people love her work. She is a brilliant storyteller, and has produced a truly haunting read in The Waking Dark. I would love to see what else she can do (if she can do it with a slightly happier ending… please?).

The plot made me squirm. The overzealous religious characters made me extremely uncomfortable. I'm not a religious person, nor do I really enjoying read about religion so I struggled a lot with that side of the story. That and the insane political aspects of the story, and the scientific elements left a sour taste in my mouth. Rather than entertain, these parts of The Waking Dark made me very uncomfortable.

We get a glimpse into many lives in this novel, and I found that while I was intrigued by all of the character, but for some reason, we didn't click. I felt horrible for (most of) them. Wasserman really puts her characters through the ringer. But I was oddly detached as the book progressed. The characters I really liked either died, or acted out in some way that ended with me disliking them. Either way, this story and it's characters did not work for me as well as they did for many of my Goodreads friends.

While I didn't connect with this novel, I would definitely give her work another shot. I'm extremely curious about The Book of Blood and Shadow, which released last year. I hope I will enjoy that one more than I enjoyed The Waking Dark. It seems to have a bit more of a focus on romance (again, vain), and if the author uses this wonderful prose in that novel as well, I believe that I will really like it.
I received an e-copy of this novel from the publisher for my honest opinion and review via Netgalley.

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