Author: Robin Wasserman
Narrator: Mark Deakins
Length: 13 hrs 40 mins
Publisher: Listening Library
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Source: received from publisher via Netgalley, purchased audio
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible
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.
So, I should have taken it to heart when others were comparing this novel to Stephen King's works. I tried to read Needful Things years ago when my sister offered it to me, and I only got halfway through before giving up. Still, that's quite an attempt, considering the book is nearly 800 pages long. Apparently, I'm not really a fan of Stephen King, unless it's a movie adaptation. Those I like. Those are sufficiently creepy and not at all boring.
I liked Wasserman's The Book of Blood and Shadow. It's the only other book of hers that I've read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. So, I was expecting a similar experience here. Unfortunately, me and this book, we just didn't click. Maybe it was the fact that I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the galley I received from the publisher. Maybe it was all those points of view. Maybe it was the horrific nature of the book itself or the fact that it did remind me so much of Needful Things, what with the town reducing itself to chaos. Whatever the reason, I only partially listened to the last third of the book, favoring other activities over what was actually going on in the story at that point.
Despite the many varying perspectives in this novel, there was but one narrator. And he did an okay job, though I never felt the passion or horror that a narrator of this story should have conveyed. It was like he was reading any other book. There was no sense of the despair of these kids, no real sense of urgency or danger or any indication that these horrific goings-on weren't standard fare in the town of Oleander.
It also probably didn't help that I was confused by whose perspective the story was being told from 50% of the time, since there weren't any hints at transition, nor did the voice really change on the audio. And there were a lot of differing points of view along the way, with the narration even switching to some of the more minor characters from time to time.
So, maybe I didn't love this book. But I can admit that it was still a very well-written, horrifying piece of literature. It was atmospheric and creepy and utterly unpredictable. The Waking Dark is as gruesome and unpleasant as it gets for a young adult novel. And it was very well done. The character depictions are evocative, their actions nearly indescribable...and yet, the author truly captures their motivations, their fears, and their secrets in the brief moments we get behind each characters' eyes.
This book wasn't really for me, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good book. I'm not squeamish, but this story was just a touch too disturbing for me. But if that's your cup of tea, look no further. I definitely feel like this novel will appeal to fans of Stephen King and horror fans alike. I was hoping for a horror-light version of The Goonies...you know, the camaraderie despite the differing backgrounds and families, trying to solve a problem, face a common foe...all that. What I got instead was just...insanely disturbing.
About the author:
I'm the author of the Cold Awakening Trilogy (Skinned, Crashed, and Wired), Hacking Harvard, the Seven Deadly Sins series, and the forthcoming Book of Blood and Shadow. I'm also a crazed Stephen King fan and David Foster Wallace evangelist with an embarrassing list of Important Books I've Never Read But Can Bluff About Well Enough to Discuss at Cocktail Parties. I'm working on it.
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