How To Make Friends With The Dark – Kathleen Glasgow Quick Review
16 year old Tiger is concerned about normal teenage things. Her clothes, her best friend, a boy, a dance, a kiss. Then one day, her mother dies. And she is alone. And nothing that mattered before, mattered anymore. This book is a guide to grief. What you might go through, what others go through, how it will feel in the dark, how dark and isolated it can be. How one person came to terms with it and continued life not on the other side of it but beyond the beginning. Embracing the dark and the grief that remains after it enters your life.
How To Make Friends With The Dark is a wonderfully heartbreaking, tough and hopeful book. One that I could not read in one sitting. This book requires breaks. Tigers grief is hard to be pulled into for too long. The pacing converges into this, a bit strange, cyclical or unpredictable out of the blue, but in a way that makes sense and adds realness to the story. Tiger’s mother has died and with her Tiger has lost normalcy – routine, predictability. It gets slow. You’re afloat with Tiger, you’re close to her thoughts, and all at once something is happening that feels out of her control and the the pace hurtles forward.
Kathleen Glasgow seems to know how exactly to push all m emotional buttons. She goes in on issues – death, grief, depression, suicide, sickness, abuse, addiction. Tiger gets deep, down into the dark. The new lows she reaches dealing new perspective not just to her but for me as the reader.
Strong, complicated and varied forms of female relationships.
Some things aren’t resolved outright, as it tends to not in life.
While there was a budding romance, there is no push into pursuing the previous or new which I appreciated. Tiger didn’t need a romance to take over this story. She had enough on her plate.
Tiger’s mom, June, wasn’t depicted as perfect. Neither was the relationship between mother and daughter before her death. June was complicated and had lived with her own life and grief and had her own faults. She wasn’t the best mother but she was Tiger’s, and her loss was devastating nonetheless.
Told in an effective and engaging manner where I felt that even if I didn’t relate to or particularly like a character, I could still feel for them which really highlights the honesty and empathy embedded into the book.
Grief didn’t feel like isolation in the end. It felt like a community. Something no one goes through truly alone. Something you won’t get past but can pull yourself up from.
It’s not a quick or easy read. The visceral and gut-wrenching nature of it takes time.
The pacing at times added to the difficulty getting through the book. Sometimes mundane and repetitive and too much into Tiger’s thoughts with few events for too long.
– 4/5 Raw, dark, messy and relatable. A guide to grief.
“From one of the most followed booktubers today, comesAgain, but Better, a story about second chances, discovering yourself, and being brave enough to try again.
Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal — but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?
Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change — there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!
Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.
Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic – the possibilities are endless.”
A semester abroad in London is 20 year old Shane’s chance to fix her college mistakes. Binging Netflix, remaining friendless and unkissed, Shane is unsatisfied with her choices in life. London is her chance to push herself out of her bubble. A redo. But the reality of turning around her life is a difficult and complicated journey. One that will take all her will, some personal growth and a dash of magic.
Again, but Better is Christine all over from the moment it begins. Told in very personal first person, present tense, the plot follows Shane in 2011 as she goes to London on a semester abroad and spans through years of her life journey. All of it giving a sense of nostalgia and reminding me of myself in my teenage years.
The book is told in a slice of life style following Shane day to day through school, work etc on a loop and it could be a little mundane at times. Some parts of the book I really just wanted to flip past until something new happened, though, I think, Christine did well spicing things up and keeping things relatively tight. Another minor downside I saw with the plot was its sometimes obviously formulaic nature. There were times where it was blatant that something was being set up and I found myself guessing the why’s and resulting events before it was played out in the book.
Just when you start to feel deflated in the plot Christine utilizes a well used time skip. Things are fresh as we catch up with Shane again, and though she’s still thinking about Pilot in 2017 and still not following her dreams of writing, she has evolved somewhat from the 20 year old we first met at the beginning of the book. And then the time travel. God was it cathartic to see Shane regain that lost time and opportunity, that chance at her lost love and lost dreams.
The magic/fantastical element felt a bit, you know, so this is here and works, whatever, onto the romance! But its not really about the magic,so I sort of forgive the lack of details there.
The themes of self discovery, first love and self love were discussed with an authentic quality and progressed through the growth of characters. I could really feel for Shane through her struggle of figuring out what she could do with her life and struggling to give her passion of writing any legitimacy in the eyes of her parents who expect her to have a stable career and future. Her social anxiety and self doubt a running theme for most people. I appreciated that despite the magical redo, there was no quick fix. Everything she wanted to accomplish took work and continuing to push herself out there, and we see that, even if it didn’t all result in immediate success.
Shane (and I almost wrote Christine) is funny, insecure, naive, a little dramatic and a dash clumsy though in a way that resonated as endearing and relatable. Pilot is charming though he has some legitimate faults. The romance is sweet, warm, a little goofy (in a good way). I was quite convinced and taken with their chemistry.
I had no major qualms with the slight/but not really/but definite emotional cheating. Relationships and people are complicated, these things happen and I am the last person that’s going to berate an author for not creating picture perfect characters who either only make palatable mistakes or are made to be positive role models and influences rather than just fictional characters who in ways reflect us and the sometimes shitty choices we make.
Besides which I found Shane to be a positive influence anyway, if that’s what you’re looking for in a book. I was surprised by her growth and her ability to think of herself and her own life, needs, aspirations and relationships outside of her romance with Pilot. That feels sad to say but YA characters can be a little overly involved in their romances. It was a wonderfully surprising growth in the character that emphasized living life first for yourself.
I will say though that personally I found Pilot a little difficult to like at points. Some of his actions toward Shane and his girlfriend felt cold, a little cowardly and a little indecisive. Still, 16 year old me would be into Pilot. 28 year old me was put off.
The rest of the characters were interesting and a diverse group (perhaps for the sake of being diverse) but since so much of the plot does end up being romance and Shane’s issues with herself and her parents, we don’t see them develop or too much of them at all.
For a debut I felt like the book was decently written. I was prepared for and dreading disappointment but I, well, wasn’t. There was an authenticity and bright, engaging feel to the whole book that screamed Christine, and if you’re a fan of Christine that’s a plus. The ending is positive and fluffy and feel-good. Everything wraps up nicely, and I was left contented and entertained. While there were some minor hindrances for me on the way to that end, ( I have to mention the over-stuffing of pop culture references that felt a little ‘how many of Christine’s favorite books, shows, musicians and authors can we mention in every chapter?’) I have to hand it to her, the girl can write a decent book. I am already anticipating her future works and improvements.
I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
– 3/5 A charming slice of life with a dash of magic.
When her relationship comes to a sudden end, Laura Lochner escapes city life for her sisters house in the suburbs. Despite the lack of luck she’s had in love, with the support of her sister Rosie, Laura pushes herself to try again. She’s met someone online. When she doesn’t return from her date the morning after, Rosie is left trying to piece together what could have happened to Laura… or what Laura could have done to her date.
The Night Before is separated between Laura’s past therapy sessions, Laura’s present POV, Laura’s POV from the night before and Rosie’s present POV. It sounds like a potentially clustered mess of chapters but I promise you, it is very easy to follow and the different POV’s worked well to serve the purpose of the book.
I could not stop reading this book. I flew through it all in one night, pulled in and consumed by the mystery. It was all the qualities I tend to fall in love with; emotionally resonant themes, characters and events, an unreliable narrator, intriguing twists and turns that had me changing my perception again and again and again.
Though I am new to Walker’s work, I could see her skill at evoking unease and dread, keeping the suspense and mystery building. Using carefully drawn out personal details and past events to color the characters and add to the way the readers view their actions. The subtle word choices that could be read as honesty or guilt or innocence or as a threat. The troubled girl who could be victim or predator just as easily. Who is the dangerous one? Laura? Jonathan Fielding, a stranger that Laura met online, who she’s alone with and vulnerable with, who she could potentially know nothing about? Are we being led to disregard Laura’s ability to be a victim because of how she and others perceive her?
There is no shortage of clever misdirection utilized. Honestly, I suspected several people, almost everyone, in turns which made the revelations at the end satisfying and the extent of it all surprising.
The two POV characters are convincingly their own voices. The rest felt mostly like background characters as the focus was for the most part on the two women and told in first person.
The one thing I had some trouble with (which I won’t go into much as I don’t want to give anything away) were some of the character decision making and opinions that felt kind of like odd leaps. There was also a lot of backstory, internal monologuey, telling but it was used well and definitely helped with some aspects of keeping up the story’s mystery.
This was a great read. I really recommend it. It’s short, it’s compelling and it’s psychologically dark.
*I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
– 4/5 The Night Before checks all of my psychological thriller boxes. It’s twisty, tense and the writing pulls you in and makes you question everything.
I’ll Be Watching You – Courtney Evan Tate Quick Review
Emmy Fisher lives with her 15 year old daughter Leah in a small Florida town where she owns and runs a beach-side inn. They live quiet and idyllic, uneventful lives. Mother and daughter sharing a close bond. When one day Leah goes out into the water and never returns, Police rule her death a drowning despite not finding a body. But Emmy finds that, despite their closeness, Leah did not share everything with her and her dark secrets might be the reason she’s disappeared.
I’ll Be Watching You is told between mother and daughter in present and past. The story is easy to follow despite the frequent POV shifts and time jumps. Tate’s writing really pulls through what is a pretty saturated story and genre. This standard light mystery has a fast paced, to the point, tight plot and gets dark and twisted in a hurry. It turned out to be another of the few books I’ve devoured in one sitting this year.
Both POV’s build tension. The mother’s POV emotionally touching and gut wrenching at times as she deals with grief and the motherly instincts to protect her daughter. The daughters piles questions for the reader and though she makes some infuriating decisions is rounded off with a good dose of growth by the end of the book. Both experiences are told and felt with a level of authenticity and relatability.
The end reveal was not super surprising but was satisfying. There are so many adult males in Leah’s life that the suspect list is lengthy but there are clever tells and diversions throughout. The ending itself was warm and satisfying despite the delve into a few hard to believe places. Did I need the forced relationship in the end? Probably not – but I did kind of like the fuzzy, sweet, everything worked out note the story closed on.
– 3/5 A quick and simple missing child mystery with a tight plot and satisfying reveal.