Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dark Song by Gail Giles

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 7, 2010)

Book summary: Mark said he heard the dark song when he creeped houses. The song the predator's heart sings when it hears the heart of the prey. I heard it now. Mark said it had always been in me. Lurking. Waiting for me to hear.

Ames is not the person she was a few months ago. Her father lost his job, and her family is crumbling apart. Now, all she has is Marc. Marc, who loves her more than anything. Marc, who owns a gun collection. And he'll stop at nothing--even using his guns--to get what he wants. Ames feels her parents have betrayed her with their lies and self-absorption, but is she prepared to make theultimate betrayal against them?

My review: Dark Song is one of those novels which makes the reader think about the reading experience during and after. Ames could sit next to you in school. Marc could live on your street, stand on line next to you at the supermarket, buy cookies from neighborhood kids. Giles has crafted a strong story of betrayal and misplaced trust. Main character Ames has seen her posh lifestyle destroyed right in front of her face. Every day her parents' fighting escalates as their situation worsens until one day she comes home to see her mother's beloved piano being taken away. The truth is a once rich family is now broke. And Ames blames it all on the stupidity, greed and lies of her parents. The first half of the book shows the complete breakdown of Ames' family and how it effects her and her younger sister, Chrissy.

I found the first part a bit slow but I have read some of Giles' other books and figured something was coming. "Something" turned out to be Marc, a baby faced local who answers a social networking site shout out for help placed by Emily, Ames' best friend. Ames is immediately drawn to him. Marc seems to understand her plight in life, how her parents betrayed her, and he stands up for her.

The author paints a sly portrait of a psychologically damaged young man infatuated with guns. Marc's manipulations and handling of the fifteen year old girl is cunning. I found Part 2 hard to put down and the ending was realistic and gripping. Ames wasn't an easy character to like with her pouty, spoiled brat ways but by the end I was on her side. Her parents were worse with their selfish behavior and harsh treatment of Ames. Chrissy has to be one of the smartest six year old siblings in YA lit today. The lines she says while playing with her teddy bears are priceless. 

Dark psychological stories are not books that leave the reader feeling happy. What they do--if they're as well crafted as Dark Song--is get under your skin, make you uncomfortable, and they make you think. I may have finished this one days ago but the story remains with me.

Rating: +++1/2

Favorite excerpt: (From page 167, ARC)
     "Marc's face softened. His bottom lip did this little twitch thing that made him, I don't know, look like a child lost in a crowded mall. So vulnerable.

     "Tossed out of the boat. That's a great way to put it." He turned to scrub the other side of the sink so our conversation would become inconspicuous. "Yeah, I'm familiar with the feeling. It's how I knew."

     "Knew what?" I whispered the words, but it didn't matter because the rest of the world had fallen away. There was a cocoon wrapped around Marc and me. His eyes were gentle and understanding.

    "I know your family betrayed you."

    I gasped, and a tear leaked out from my left eye."

Cover comment: Since the rose is important in the story, I really liked this cover. The watery petals is a cool effect. I'm not sure I'm a fan of the tag line "She fell prey to the predator's heart."

Book source: Traveling ARC tours

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