Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

Lovely, Dark and DeepBook: Lovely, Dark and Deep
Author: Amy McNamara
Publication Date: October 16th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 3 Stars

Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
Before this book, if someone had approached me and said that it was possible to write a 350 page novel that basically revolves around a teenage girl angsting in a forest, I would've called bullshit. But this book proved me wrong. Apparently, teenagers can have a lot of angst. Enough to fill 350 pages. I don't want to blaspheme Lovely, Dark and Deep though, because at its heart, it's a beautifully written book. The writing is poetic and conjures up images in a way that a regularly written script of dialogue and hasty descriptions can't. One of the first things that clued me into the prose was the quote on the front jacket flap:
I came here because it's pine-dark and the ocean is wild. The kind of quiet-noise you need when there's too much going on in your head. Like the water and the woods are doing all the feeling, and I can hang out, quiet as a headstone, in a between place. A blank I can bear.
I still can't believe she compared herself to a headstone. She's basically saying her life is a cemetery. This should have been enough of a clue that I was about to venture into depression-land, but apparently it wasn't enough to drive me away.

The entire time I was reading, I kept imagining myself in this silent forest, the kind of forest you find in the east. The trees have heavy snow-covered boughs, and the only sound is silence. Other times, it seemed that this book had submerged me like a rock in the ocean, where everything is muffled but in clarity. This is the world that Wren seems to move through. After her car accident, when she sees her boyfriend die before her eyes, she's lost and can't seem to find meaning in normalcy anymore. The grief in this book is potent, and I had to take breaks from the book because there were times when I thought it would take me under and not let go.

Wren is a tormented character; she takes midnight jogs in the forest and basically wanders around, oblivious to everything around her. It wasn't so bad in the beginning, but as the book went on, I found it really hard to like her. There's an amount of grief that i can deal with, but the way she treated the people around her seemed too harsh. Her decisions were so childish, especially when she decides that she hates Nick, that I couldn't feel sorry for her. She hates quickly and falls in love equally quickly. Cal remains two-dimensional; although his illness gives him character, I never felt like I truly understood him or what he and Wren found in each other beyond their mutual knowledge of what grief feels like.

What I did like, besides the writing, were the side characters, like her father, Mary, and Zara. Although there's not enough exploration into each, their personalities are warm and offset the coldness that seems to surround Wren. When they appear in the book, despite Wren's sulky responses to their attempts to help, they seem to be beacons of hope and recovery. The normalcy they provide becomes more frequent, and I think McNamara did a good job of inserting them into Wren's life slowly but surely. I would've liked her to come to terms with her mother in some sort of way, but I guess the point of that and what happens to her and Meredith are both evidence that there are some circumstances in life that change everything, and there's not much we can do to change it back.

Lovely, Dark and Deep is a heavy novel, but it doesn't have enough momentum. As I mentioned in my introduction, it's 350 pages of teenage angst. The end didn't seem like an end because the story cuts off, and maybe McNamara intends for us to imagine the rest of Wren's life, now that she's learned to care about others again. At any rate, the story just seems like one prolonged moment, and I have a hard time finding a plot in it. It could have been cut down a lot more so that the sadness was more profound and seemed less like it was dragging on. Also, the fragmented sentences sometimes interrupted the flow of things, especially since the rest of the writing was poetic and smooth.

Well, that's that. I'm exhausted from this book. Time for some Julia Quinn! 
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