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Cher-y-lynne {sher-uhl-lin} –noun 1. One who formerly sold and recommended children’s books at a bookstore; a specialist in young adult, middle grade, and picture books. 2. A para-educator at a middle school. 3. A struggling young adult writer. 4. A lover of chocolate and popcorn. Archaic: An Audiology and Speech Language Pathology major at Brigham Young University. Questions? Suggestions? Books you'd like me to review? E-mail me at cherylynne1 (at) gmail (dot) com.
This is a blog for my ranting, raving, and occasionally brilliant opinions. You have been warned. Enter at your own risk.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

I put down my fork. The hunk of meat loaf in my mouth felt like Styrofoam when I swallowed. "I saw Daniel today."

Mom glanced up from trying to prevent James from chucking his food across the table. The look that said, We don't mention that name in this house, passed over her eyes.

We discussed just about everything around our kitchen table: death, teen pregnancy, politics, and even religious injustice in the Sudan--but there was one topic we never talked about anymore: Daniel.

Dad wiped his mouth with his napkin. "Grace and Jude, I could use both of you at the parish tomorrow afternoon. We've had a great response to the charity drive. I can't even get into my office, it's packed so full of canned corn." He gave a slight chuckle.

I cleared my throat. "I talked to him."

Dad's laugh strangled off, almost like he was choking.

"Whoa," Charity said, her fork paused halfway to her mouth. "Way to go with the revelations, Grace."

Jude slid back his chair. "May I be excused?" he asked, and put his napkin on the table. He didn't wait for a response and walked out of the kitchen.

I glanced at Mom. Now look what you did, her eyes seemed to say.

Despain, Bree. The Dark Divine. New York: Egmont, 2009.

Grace Divine is from a perfect family. Her father is the local pastor, her mother is a homemaker, and her brother Jude is the hottest, sweetest, and most popular boy in school. But there's one secret that they never talk about--Daniel. A boy who lived with them for awhile, then disappeared after a tragedy involving Jude. A tragedy that no one has ever disclosed to Grace. So when Daniel reappears in town, she wonders if everything has been exaggerated, and if there's any chance that forgiveness will find its way into her family's heart again.
Loved it. Seriously loved it. Is it just a paranormal romance? No. It's also a retelling of the prodigal son. Fascinating. I've heard some people say that they felt the religion was overdone--I disagree. I think the religion was perfect. I feel like I understand Grace Divine, and her struggle to exist in a world where she is seen as a "walking morality barometer" simply because she's the preacher's daughter. That is essential to the story.

I loved these characters. For once, we have subplots and minor characters whose lives are just as interesting as characters in the romance. I loved Jude! What a complex character he is. He had so many layers, and we just kept getting peeling the onion. Incredible. I could understand Daniel and all his bad boy-ness. I felt for him. I fell in love with him. Why? Because he actually screwed up in the past. No, really! It wasn't some misunderstanding, it wasn't justified or rationalized, he really and honestly and truly screwed up! YAY! Just like real people do!

And the ending was the way it should have been. I HATE HATE HATE when the first book in a series ends in a cliffhanger. Actually, I hate it when any book does that, but particularly first books should be standalones. The way Suzanne Collins did it in the first Hunger Games was correct: Leave the reader wanting more, but not needing more. In the Dark Divine, you find all the answers you were looking for, but there's a new problem that arises at the very end of it that leaves you wanting more. It's one of those "Oh, I'm glad we figured that out. Wait...holy crap, what are we going to do now?"

All in all, for a novel trying to walk that fine line between being popular and being well written, it does great. It works on both levels. Whether you like literary or commercial fiction, it's definitely worth a try.

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