Monday, March 5, 2012

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies

200th post! Woohoo!

Title: A Beautiful Dark
Author: Jocelyn Davies
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperTeen
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Pages: 390 pages (hardcover)

On the night of Skye's seventeenth birthday, she meets two enigmatic strangers. Complete opposites;like fire and ice;Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair and aloof. Their sudden appearance sends Skye's life into a tailspin. She has no idea what they want, or why they seem to follow her every move only that their presence coincides with a flurry of strange events. Soon she begins to doubt not just the identity of the two boys, but also the truth about her own past.

In the dead of a bitingly cold Colorado winter, Skye finds herself coming to terms with the impossible secret that threatens to shatter her world. Torn between Asher, who she can't help falling for, and Devin, who she can't stay away from, the consequences of Skye's choice will reach further than the three of them could ever imagine.


Once upon a time, there was an idea, A Beautiful Dark, and me.

See, I like to write too. I want to be published one day, and one of the many ideas I've had (but have not yet had the chance to pursue) went like this: an agent of good, an agent of evil, and the high school girl they're trying to win over to their side of an ancient war. Only good is also evil, evil is still evil (but sympathetic), and the high school girl will take no bull from either of them. She won't waste her time with anyone who don't give her the respect than she deserves and would rather die than be forced to join the war on either side against her will--and does, actually.

It sounds like a lot of YA these days, right? But A Beautiful Dark in particular seemed to come close to what I had planned. I don't want to be a plagiarist or a copycat (and despite what the success of one author might tell you, being a plagiarist or a copycat does not get you anywhere), so I resolved to read this book despite knowing I wouldn't like it very much. I don't always read bad books for snark, you know. It's occasionally for a pseudo-educational purpose.

And lo and behold, my instincts and were right. I did not like this book, but it gave me some food for thought and a greater sense of direction with my own story. I'll have to make a few changes because they're more similar than I would like them to be, but it will inevitably improve my story so it doesn't end up being as bad as A Beautiful Dark.

In equal parts, Sky drove me nuts and earned my pity. On the drove-me-nuts side, she was inconsistently characterized and I couldn't get a good handle on her. In a single chapter, she does from "I vowed to avoid [Asher and Devin] as much as possible" to "If I kissed [Asher] right now, he'd taste like mint" to (when Asher asks her on a date) "[Meeting my friends] was the truth, but it felt like I was making up an excuse somehow."

But Skye wants to go to Columbia! Fantastic! Aspiring for admission to such a college is a quality I like in heroines. Tell me, what does she want as a career? What is her planned major? How much has it influenced who she is?

Hello? Anyone?

Exactly. It's called characterization. Readers could have gotten a deeper sense of who Skye was with that kind of detail, but a half-baked attempt like this only makes the book worse. Books like A Beautiful Dark that make half-baked attempts at characterization like that (it seems so obvious the detail was shoved in at the last minute so the book wouldn't be called anti-feminist) make me angrier than books that don't try at all. This isn't the only book to try such a trick. It's more like the fifth I've read in recent memory.

Devin and Asher were not well-developed as love interests or as characters. Skye knows their pursuit of her has nothing to do with wanting her affection--in fact, she brings this up multiple times. So why is she attracted to them? Why does she tolerate their attentions and agonize over whether or not she likes them when they aren't worth a second of her time? They aren't worth her time. Skye should have the self-respect to recognize she deserves more than lies and games of hot-and-cold. Every woman does.

Do we really teach young women should tolerate and even encourage someone's pursuit of them even if she knows it's a farce? We're in 2012, not 1889. Why do we still teach them to disrespect themselves like this when it's wrong on multiple levels? I was practically on my knees begging Skye to have some self-respect and tell them to piss off until their pursuit became more about her than each other, but she never did. I thought she would after demonstrating the presence of a working brain, but it appears only a miniscule piece of that brain actually worked. This is why I pity her.

This book doesn't have enough action to be plot-driven or enough deep characterization to be character-driven, so what drives the book? Nothing. It's a plotless piece of fluff. Only read it if you absolutely love love triangles. Again, ONLY READ IT IF YOU ABSOLUTELY LOVE LOVE TRIANGLES. You will not like it otherwise. Writing is blah, supporting characters are blah, and everything about this book is just. So. Blah.

In terms of enjoyment, it gets one star, but it earns a star back because it was useful. I have a clearer idea of what I want to do. For one thing, my heroine is going to have enough self-respect to tell her suitors to piss off when she figures out they're not actually fighting over her, just what she can do. A girl is worth more than that kind of treatment. For another, she's not going to flip-flop about how she feels multiple times in one chapter. Books like A Beautiful Dark make me weary of YA and our society, but they teach me so many things. I suppose I can be thankful for that much.

2 stars!

What am I reading next?: Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield


  1. Thats cool that you were able to improve your book after reading this! I don't think I will read this book though. I don't want to waste my time one it :(

    Tess @ My Pathway to Books

  2. I read a lot of books I'm sure I won't like with that reason in mind. The pain is almost always worth improving my own work. Whatever your decision is on whether you'll read it, I'm sure it's the right one. Thanks for commenting!


I love hearing what others have to say about books and it makes me feel less like I'm talking to an empty auditorium, so comment away. Thank you for reading my blog post!