Lovely, Dark and Deep: review

January 23, 2013 2013, 3.5 star books, contemporary, tonya 36 ★★★½

Lovely, Dark and Deep: reviewLovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
on December 3, 2012
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
three-half-stars
Wren Wells is hiding out. 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 northern woods of Maine. All she wants is a little quiet, a place where she can be in control.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal is hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won exile, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
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.

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36 Responses to “Lovely, Dark and Deep: review”

  1. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I reviewed this book yesterday and Wendy stopped by my thoughts and mentioned that you’d liked it with reservations, so I wanted to come by and see what you thought of it.

    I agree with all you said about the setting and the poetic language describing Wren’s mind and emotions. The author wrote this book after the death of a friend, and it is clear that she understands the shape of grief and how debilitating it can be. Wren’s grief also appears to be coupled with survivor’s guilt or PTSD, making it even more consuming. I highlighted so many passages and went a little overboard in quoting the book because the language is just so wonderful.

    While I loved Cal and the fact that a romance was woven into this book, especially between two people who really shouldn’t be together. I can definitely see what you mean about it beginning quickly, without much prompting from Wren. I had an easier time seeing why Wren fell for Cal than why Cal was so adamant about getting to know Wren. Though I suspect that he recognized something in her that he also saw in himself. And I can see your point where this story could have worked really well if the romance had grown more subtly. In any case, I am thankful that they have each other.

    Also, I didn’t notice that there is actually a person on the cover until after I read the book! Sometimes I just don’t pay attention. Though I guess the fact that she blends into her surroundings is also the point.

  2. Jill

    The cover for this is to die for. I think (and hope!) I’ll enjoy this more than you since a story with darker, more tragic elements is my favorite type of story.

  3. Sarah (saz101)

    Oh, Tonya, wowowowow. Wonderful review.

    That passage alone would sell me on it, but coupled with that magic review? I love how you’ve described Amy’s writing, and the sadness and also that you’ve touch on the MC seeking help with her grief. You’re right. It’s normally something that’s forced on YA protags, not something they do themselves. Wonderful! ♥

    • tonya

      Isn’t it? It just makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea on a window seat and watch the snow.

  4. Lea

    Hnadn’t heard of this yet either, so thank you for putting it on my radar! Poetic writing and set in the woods? sign me on! (Shame about the romance, though – I’d love to see more books where the love interest remains an interest.)

  5. Lea

    Hnadn’t heard of this yet either, so thank you for putting it on my radar! Poetic writing and set in the woods? sign me on! (Shame about the romance, though – I’d love to see more books where the love interest remains an interest.)

    • tonya

      I’m glad I could introduce you to something new! I agree on the romance; though I love a good swoon, I want it to feel organic and realistic–especially in contemporary stories.

  6. Julia :)

    Hmmmm I may give this a read. I’m bummed out that the romance feels tacked on, especially since I’m not a big romance fan as it is, but otherwise it sounds like something I might enjoy. Thanks for the review! :D

    • tonya

      Yeah, I was disappointed in the romance aspect as well, but despite that element I still found it an interesting story.

  7. erin

    Thanks for the great review! I’ve been reading such great things about this book and I’m definitely going to have to add it to my wishlist :)

  8. Vivien

    I’ve heard really great things about the prose in this novel. After a few glowing reviews I had to get my hands on it. Now I just need to read it. Sounds REALLY promising!!

  9. Keertana

    Gorgeous review, Tonya! I love the cover of this one and have had it on my shelves for awhile, but never felt compelled to pick it up. It’s such a shame about the romance, especially since it seems to only be there because romance is so often prevalent in a contemporary read. :/ Still, this seems like a promising debut for sure, so I look forward to reading it soon.

    • tonya

      It sad on my shelf for quite awhile as well. It just has such a quiet feel about it, doesn’t it? Easy to overlook, but definitely worth the read. :)

  10. Christina

    Though the writing definitely does sound lovely, I think I’m going to pass on this one. You had me excited until you hit the romance. It goes to fast and he serves as the catalyst for her recovery. I am so tired of reading books about heroines with problems that end up being sorted by having a boy enter their lives. If they get a boy, great, but they need to resolve their problems themselves. If the boy was the ‘solution,’ losing him will put them right back into their depression or self-loathing. *sighs*

    • tonya

      I think I may have mischaracterized the romance, in that case. It wasn’t so much that her love for Cal made her recover, but seeing him deal with his own tragedies and still be so open and kind made her realize that she needed to seek help for herself.

      The romance *was* unrealistic and unnecessary for me, but I wouldn’t say it falls into the Twilight/New Moon category, haha.

  11. Sam

    Romance for the sake of romance? As much as I enjoy a romantic plot, I do feel authors (far too often) force them in. Still, this does sound like a very worthwhile read otherwise! I completely overlooked this book but it sound like I should grab a copy when I can. I’m glad you were mostly impressed, Tonya. Great review!

    • tonya

      I totally agree; not every story has to be a romance. In this case, it did add some levity in an otherwise very heavy book, but it just didn’t sit right with me.

      Still, it was a very good (if depressing) read. I hope you’re able to give it a read soon. :)

  12. Amy

    This sounds like a really great book. I have only seen a few reviews for it, but so far they are all good. It’s too bad the romance didn’t totally work, but it still sounds like a fabulous book. Great review!

    • tonya

      It is a very good book, despite my issues with the romance element. I hope you like it, if you have the chance to read. :)

  13. Bonnie R

    This does sound wonderful. But a fast-developed romance when the MC is battling depression does sound a touch off. Wonderful review!

    • tonya

      It really was an unsettling element, but on the other hand it added some levity in an otherwise very heavy book. Still, a friendship would have been more realistic.

    • tonya

      Thank you! I’m glad I could introduce you to something new. Doesn’t seem like it had a lot of marketing behind it.

  14. Karen

    I hadn’t heard of this book. I’m glad to hear that Wren seeks professional help. I hate when serious subject matters are resolved by love alone.

    I’ll be adding it to my TBR pile.

    • tonya

      I’m happy I could introduce you to something new! And I too was happy to see professional help introduced; when her issues were so serious, healing without additional help would have been unrealistic. I hope you’re able to give it a chance. :)