I only recently came across Courtney Gould’s first book, The Dead and the Dark. I liked it, and when I saw this, I picked it up.
My fear after reading The Dead and the Dark had been that Gould would write a sequel and just keep following the same characters. I didn’t feel they could support the weight of a series. I’m happy to say that Gould didn’t do that; the story is all new. Unfortunately, while the characters are nominally different, there’s a great deal of sameness to them – the first book had a somewhat generic group of muddled teens meeting a troubled outsider who falls for one of them, and this book … has a somewhat generic group of muddled teens meeting a troubled outsider who falls for one of them. In both cases against a background of murky ‘bad stuff’ and problematic parents. The characters are so similar that early on I kept wanting to check whether it was somehow a sequel.
I felt the actual horror of Gould’s first novel was the weakest part, and again I felt that in this book the mysterious power (some sort of military site pollution with unlikely effects) was poorly supported. While, as in the first book, the characters were stronger (and similar), I also this time found them very frustrating. The protagonist, Beck, not only seems to have no care at all for her younger sister (but is not really presented that way), but consistently – in the course of her investigation – fails to follow up on lead after lead after lead. The story ends up being a jerky, start-stop process, constantly derailed by … it’s never clear exactly what.
In the end, I decided that the book was not intended as a straight novel at all, but as an allegory about … loss? depression? I’m not sure. Read that way, I give it a little more room. As a novel, it didn’t really work for me. Gould is a talented writer, but I’m thinking the stories she wants to tell are just not to my taste.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.