Happy Friday, guys!
Today, I'm reviewing The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, out in April from Delacorte/Random House!
I loved Kara's Prep School Confidential series, and have been looking forwarded to being seriously creeped out by another one of her thrillers.
Not surprisingly, The Darkest Corners is creepy, and fantastic, and I can't wait for all of you to read it.
Expected publication: April 19th 2016 by Delacorte
Format read: Galley via publisher
Tessa's journey from start to finish is a disturbing and fascinating one, as author Kara Thomas carefully unpacks layers of hidden trauma, violence and mysteries, as only as she can.
There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.
Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.
Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.
But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.
So when Random House Children's gave me the opportunity to read The Darkest Corners ahead of time, I immediately said YES.
Things that worked:
From the moment we first meet her, it's obvious that Tessa has had a tough, challenging life. Thomas is careful to show how aspects of that life (and the subsequent cynicism) has toughened her, but also emphasizes glimpses of what Tessa could have been, if it wasn't for her family.
As Tessa struggles with the ramifications of returning to Fayette, including the resurgence of multiple ghosts that she had thought were long gone, we see how our cynicism
On writing and plotting
I think it's important to point out from the get-go, that The Darkest Corners is a mystery that unfolds slowly.
Thomas is fairly realistic in her depictions of Tessa's youthful case-solving abilities, including the fact that a lot of Tessa's initial methodology seems to involve guess work, and pursuing paths that lead to slow, unyielding paths. However, that's what makes each subsequent legitimate discovery more exciting, especially as Tessa and Callie increasingly begin to realize that yes, their younger selves may have gotten the murderer wrong.
But as Tessa and Callie begin to stir the pot, Thomas is careful to show the correlation between action and reaction. Other individuals and long-forgotten begin coming out the working, which definitely kicks up the tension and the action in the second half of the book - all to its explosive end.
On darker issues
Like the Prep School Confidential series, Thomas doesn't hesitate to include dark issues in ...Corners, including prostitution, solicitation and battery.
While I definitely felt uncomfortable at reading the activities of some of these characters, it's ultimately what makes the story so compelling. Thomas is essentially shining a light onto some of the darkest corners of society - pun intended - and how it's that which can drive people into giving into some of their basest and most animalistic instincts.
However, I would encourage parents and educators to engage with younger readers on some of the discussed issues, and see what kind of dialogue can possibly occur.
On friendship and relationships
Even as Tessa and Callie are thrown into the midst of trying to uncover the truth about Lori's death, Thomas is careful to remind readers of the confusing state of their friendship, and how it was (and is) that relationship which helped sustain Tessa through the earlier years of her life.
It's a fantastic reminder of how friendships and relationships help us through difficult times, and also how it's those relationships that can help humanize us, even as the worst of the worst happens. Tessa also sees this to some degree with surprising secondary characters as well, who support her in surprising ways.
Without giving spoilers away, Kara has absolutely written the type of ending that will make you go, "OH SHIT!", flip frantically to the back to find out if there's anymore to that ending, and wonder about all of the unspoken ramifications, all in the best way possible.
Nicely played, Thomas. Nicely played.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
But if I really wanted to get in-depth, I would say that the one thing I would have loved was for more. The ending left some unanswered questions in the best way possible, and I would love to be able to pick Kara's brain and get some more information on those questions!
Tessa and Callie's journey is disturbing and occasionally terrifying, but Thomas also makes sure to balance their hunt for answers with contemplative analysis on family and teenaged friendships. The fact that Tessa and Callie can find solace in friends and family even after everything that's happened to them, is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit against the face of all odds, and one
Highly recommend for all mystery-loving readers, full stop. You don't want to miss this one!