Title: Lovely, Dark, and Deep
Author: Amy McNamara
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Age Group: Mature YA
Source: ARC provided by the publisher
Lovely, Dark and Deep is certainly accurately named. The prose is absolutely lovely, at times bordering on poetic (which is no surprise given McNamara has her MFA in poetry). There is a rhythm to the words, a cadence that so deftly draws the exact shape of Wren’s mental state. Short staccato sentences, and long streams of consciousness give the words a voice and a mood all their own, pulling the reader right into Wren’s story. The writing itself is nothing short of breathtaking.
However, for all its loveliness, the depth of the story’s darkness make it a painful and heart-heavy read.
Wren Wells wants to disappear. After a devastating accident that kills her boyfriend, but leaves her unscathed, she abandons her college plans, and moves to the woods of Maine to live with her father. She seeks the quiet and the dark, and most of all, the solitude. Somewhere she doesn’t have to speak. Away from her mother’s prodding, and the sad eyes that worry and wonder.
“I came here because it’s pine dark and the ocean’s 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 place that could swallow me if I need it to.”
But even in the quiet of the woods, and the space her father gives her, she can’t escape the guilt, and the grief. Everything reminds her of Patrick. Every breath is a reminder that she is alive when he is not. And does she deserve to be? After what she did?
After weeks of sleeping days away, and waking groggy and unrested, Wren’s father finally forces her to do something productive with her time. She begins working part time at the library in town, and acting as an assistant to Cal Owens, a young man with secrets and grief of his own.
Though she is reluctant to let him in, Cal quickly becomes a integral part of Wren’s new life–the one she’s finally beginning to make for herself. Through her relationship with Cal, she begins to discovery who she is now, and how she’s different from the Wren that was.
I found the stark portrayal of Wren’s grief and subsequent depression very realistic, if painful to read. McNamara pulls no punches in describing Wren’s emotional state. I appreciated the accuracy, as well as Wren eventually seeking psychiatric help, which is not, in my experience, often seen in YA.
Though Cal is the catalyst for much of Wren’s recovery, he is the element of the story that worked the least for me. I liked his character quite a bit, and enjoyed his and Wren’s dynamic, but I felt their romance developed too quickly. Wren, grief-stricken, barely functional, and mostly mute, is attracted to him from the first moment they meet. Likewise, though Wren was not at all polite or inviting during their first meeting, Cal is insistent and unrealistically adamant about getting her to spend more time with him.
I found the romance element too prevalent and unrealistic for a story so otherwise focused on Wren’s depression. I could have done without it entirely, and would have appreciated Cal’s character more if he’d remained a friend with possibility, rather than a full-fledged love interest whilst Wren was so broken.
That being said, Lovely, Dark and Deep was a beautifully crafted story of overcoming grief, and rediscovering yourself after tragedy.
This review also appears on GoodReads.