Review: The Dark Between
Title: The Dark Between
Author: Sonia Gensler
Published: 27 August 2013
Format: Hardback, library book
Themes: Death, supernatural, friendship
Memorable Quote: “Worship isn’t the same as respect. Every man I’ve known has felt the need to think for me, but perhaps all ladies suffer that from the men they know”
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Synopsis: Welcome to early 20th century Cambridge, England, where seances and spiritualism are schemes for fraudulent mediums and an important study for scientists. Three young teenagers, Elsie, Kate, and Asher, find themselves at Summerfield college as they attempt to escape their pasts. Seemingly they have nothing in common, although they find out that each one of them has a connection to spiritualism, which could help or harm them as they attempt to catch a killer. Is a killer like Jack the Ripper at hand? Or is it something from the other world?
This is my first Sonia Gensler book, and I have to say, she’s got a knack for dark mysteries. Ghosts, murder, the supernatural, and history? All this book needed was a murder board and it would have had every little thing my heart desired.
The cast of characters are well-written teenagers. What does that mean exactly? They honestly act their own age. Elsie is easily lovestruck, Kate is uncompromising in how stubborn she is, and Asher is moody and a bit lost. While they can be a bit annoying, I admire that they are written so truly to their ages because we don’t see a lot of that in YA books. Sure, books are written where the characters are 16/17, but let’s be real, they don’t act like 16/17 year olds. They’re given that age for the sake of the genre.
Anyway, while the connections between Kate, Asher, and Elsie are vague at first, they do tie together nicely as the story progresses and we begin to learn more about each of the characters and their backstories, all of which were different kinds of heartbreaking.
Kate is an orphan. She is the illegitimate daughter to Frederic Stanton, a brilliant man who died under questionable circumstances. Her mother passed away after accidentally overdosing on her medication. Kate worked for a fraudulent medium, who fired her when a group of skeptics exposed her. With nowhere else to go, Kate heads to Summerfield College to meet her father’s teacher turned colleague, Oliver Thompson, in order to get some answers.
Asher is an American, traveling in England to get away from his father. He is charming, critical of Kate and Elsie, and doubtful of the spiritualist movement that his father is part of. He visits Summerfield to see Oliver Thompson, who is a family friend.
Elsie believes she is ill from a near-death experience. Her reliance on her medication is basically an addiction, but it keeps her from seeing the dead – like her cruel grandmother who claimed she was poisoned. She also has an intense love of photography, and is at Summerfield to stay with her uncle – Oliver Thompson and his wife, as she has become a burden to her family.
Death is a major theme in this book, so I caution anyone who is uncertain about reading books with heavy undertones of death.
Gensler’s research and attention to detail in this book are fantastic. I loved reading her descriptive settings, and how she really embraced various components of the early 20th century, such as clothing, schooling, society, and even medicine and its addicting properties. Everything about the writing was hauntingly realistic, and the creepy cover of the book added a little something extra. It was easy to feel like I was in the middle of the story, feeling the same way the characters did, seeing what they saw – especially when it came to Elsie’s horrific visions of the dead.
While a mystery book with young people solving the crimes that the grown-ups can’t figure out might sound like a book version of Scooby-Doo** (minus the talking dog), I can assure you that The Dark Between is smart, haunting, and well-written. Nothing is quite as it seems, and I was a bit surprised that I was wrong when it came to guessing the identity of the murderer. I definitely applaud Gensler for keeping readers on their toes with her fantastic plot-twists.
**I’m not bashing on Scooby-Doo or saying that it’s dumb. I’m a HUGE Scooby-Doo fan. I still re-watch the shows and movies**
So… if I’ve been pretty much raving about the book, why did I only give it 3.75 stars? To be honest, I really felt like the book needed a sequel. There were enough questions left unanswered that I was kind of frustrated. However, this was a bit of a realistic part of this book, because we don’t get all the answers we want in real life, especially when it comes to crimes and the supernatural.
I’d still like a sequel.
Did you read The Dark Between? What did you think?