Review: “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” by April Genevieve Tucholke

12930909Title: “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Genre: YA contemporary, Gothic, urban fantasy, PNR

Publication Date: August 15, 2013 (Penguin – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

☆: 5/5 stars – definitely in my top ten favorites for 2013 so far!

Review: Wow, guys. I seriously just can’t even after finishing this book. YES, IT’S THAT GOOD. And yes, it DOES live up to the hype, very much so. “Between the Devil” is an adventure in gothic horror and magical realism, between religion and cults, and between romance and compulsion. Best of all? NO LOVE TRIANGLES. Dancing for joy (and for those who have read the book, you’ll get a laugh out of that one). If you’re going to pick one breathtaking gothic horror YA to read this year? It HAS to be “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”.

Where to start? Every single technical part of this book was flat out amazing. I seriously have NO complaints or areas to nitpick. AT ALL. If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know how very, very rare this is. Sensory imagery/language, plot development, worldbuilding, character building, character development – it was all crisp, clean, and really well put together and I only read the ARC. I can’t imagine what the final copy will look like (but I do plan to buy it as soon as I can!). I mean, I’ve read some ARC copies where the editing really needed to be tuned up, but this felt like reading a final copy. That’s how airtight Tucholke’s writing is. I will warn you, though, this book isn’t for the faint of heart when it comes to horror/slight gore.

My favorite technical part of this book: the character arcs/development. For each of the main cast (River, Sunshine, Violet, Neely, Jack, others) we get significant development from beginning to end. They all become different people, in some way or another, by the same events, by the end of the book. I feel like that kind of character development in YA is so rare right now, it was so deliciously refreshing to see a debut author do it right. You can see how all of the same events affect them differently, and how strong the change is (for Sunshine, I’d say, most of all, but I won’t say why or how), and it’s a very smooth progression that’s easy to follow throughout the book.

The worldbuilding is also absolutely top notch. Tucholke does the smart thing when building her world: she shrinks her world down to the size of the town of Echo and focuses on it and it alone. This includes its sensory details, and its backstory, as well as its characters. It may be a small town by the sea, but it has so much going for it, and the detailed descriptions were so lush I felt as if I were really there, with the characters as they took this strange journey.

And then there’s the romance: Tucholke does the right thing by making us wonder – is it love or compulsion between River and Violet? Magic or lust? Actual interest, or is it the Devil trying to take her away? Who IS the Devil? Is it River? The fugue states and slightly unreliable narration in the middle was a great touch, and that made the character development all the more believable. When Neely shows up, we’re thankfully not bludgeoned over the head with a two-brother love triangle (THANK GOD YOU GUYS SERIOUSLY), and that was really refreshing as well. All of this is pretty slow-burning, and though there’s a very strong magnetism between River and Violet, it’s not instalove and that was a huge relief. The relationship, whatever it is (even after that ending I’m not sure what it is), feels natural, and real with its slow burn progression.
Final verdict? Flat out in my top ten (possibly in my top five) for 2013 so far, “Between the Devil” is an absolute must-read for gothic, horror, magical realism, mystery and general YA contemporary fans. Seriously one of the best debuts I’ve read within the last few years, “Between” is out now from Penguin in North America, and the sequel is coming out next year (TOO LONG TO WAIT!). Seriously give it a read when you get the chance – you certainly won’t regret it.


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