Thursday, August 22, 2013
Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
My mood usually determines how harshly I rate a book. Disappointment always plays a big factor... and also, a 2 Star rating on Goodreads is equal to an "It Was Okay", which is what I'm wavering on since it seems like such a low rating, and I didn't want to give it such a low-looking rating. My own personal "It Was Okay" rating is usually a 3 Star rating, but I have to adjust for Goodreads. Because I most certainly did not like this book, but by all rights, it's not a bad book either.
I have to give props to this book for the beautiful imagery and the excellent writing. I thought the mood was set-up wonderfully, the writing was smooth, and everything just seemed to keep falling into place. I’m not extremely familiar with Gothic literature (as this particular book is categorized), and to be totally honest, I know I’m not the best reviewer in the world. I’ve always been a bookworm, always loved to read, but my opinions are sometimes moot depending on my knowledge of the subject matter (as well as my knowledge of life experience in general). I like what I like, I enjoy what I enjoy… and sometimes, certain types of books, certain types of stories, certain types of characters, just don’t hold my interest.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a conflicting book for me. The first few chapters were excellent and I had this feel of “I know I’m going to love this book!” But as the story progressed, I found myself less and less interested in the goings-on of Between, of Violet and her brother, of the mysterious River West who strolled into town with that strange, charming aura, of the enigmatic Sunshine whom I just didn’t quite understand. And the more I read, the less I really cared about what was happening to the characters, between the characters, or even around the characters.
The blurb of the book was fairly straightforward: Violet White and her brother live a rather quiet life in a quiet town; ”nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town” (is what the actual blurb says), until River West comes into their lives one day. With him, comes a series of events that would change Violet’s life. And then there’s an ominous hinting at a deeper horror that may be River and how he’s planned out his presence with Violet.
(I thought that maybe he was the “Devil” or something supernatural like that since this is a paranormal romance after all -- which, honestly, is probably where I went wrong since paranormal romances and me have proven that we often times don’t get along… with sparsely few exceptions.)
I wasn’t all too excited about the blurb. I’m not even half sure why I suddenly got so excited by the book, wanting to read it so badly that I put it on my “I MUST GET THIS AS SOON AS I CAN GET MY HANDS ON IT” list. I was just drawn to it without even realizing why (which is kind of creepy considering the parallel of watching Violet being drawn to River in such an unreasonable obsessed, fashion).
Anyway, back to the book itself.
Let’s just start off with this: “It’s not you, it’s me.” Because “nothing much exciting rolls” through this book at all.
I’m going to chance a guess that this is one of those books that just didn’t keep my attention because I JUST wasn’t interested enough in what was going on. The reason why I’m conflicted about this book is because, on some strange level, I enjoyed it despite… well, NOT being very entertained by it. I might have done a bit of over-analyzing (I certainly made a lot of marks and notes during the reading of Between and not much of it ended up being positive notes). I might have been expecting something else (I went into it expecting horror and some, and I quote someone else, “mind fuck” inducing events). I was ready for some spine-tingling action, some strange twists and crazy surprises…
But nothing really jumped out at me as totally mind-blowing. Except maybe some of the ending when a bunch of family secrets got revealed. But by that time in the book, I was already so indifferent that it didn’t really HIT me with the impact I think it should have hit me with.
By all rights, this wasn’t a bad book. It’s got some incredible ideas and it really achieves a good success of tugging at your imaginative strings. I credit the writing for that because it set the mood pretty well. Between could be a good book -- if you can find the appeal to appreciate it or even be interested in it. I DO give it props for finally picking up the action and pulling me in by the end of the book (but I stress, by then, I was too far indifferent to appreciate the shift in pacing).
But I had trouble becoming invested in the book when I had absolutely no idea what was really going on. I found myself constantly trying to figure out the point of all the events happening. Was everything going to at least hint at tying up in the end? Is there even an actual story being told aside from the “I’m in love with the mysterious, lying, psychopathic, morally insane River West”? Was anything going to happen at all?
By 25% I was wondering when the story would start picking up. By 50% I was wondering if I had missed something important somewhere. By 75%, I finally stopped caring and just finished the book. Events would take place, but then they would just fizzle into nothing significant, like it was just a passing anecdote in Violet White’s mundane life.
And the characters… I find it hard to really enjoy a book fully if I don’t really care about the characters. For the first part of the book, they were strangers to me and I didn’t really care about them. By the end of the book, I understood them better, but I still didn’t really care about them. I couldn’t find a reason to really care what happened to them. And it bugged me since, this is fact, I actually appreciate that these weren’t your substandard YA characters.
I loved Violet’s voice and her personality teetered on “damsel in distress” meets “old fashioned spinster with an attitude”, with a pinch of “entitled, rich brat” all rolled into one. Sure, she had that annoying “stuck in the past, oft times holier than thou” personality. But she seemed like she was just a typical girl who grew up in a big house, with a family of “used to be” wealthy and had no knowledge of much going on outside of her monotonous life. It was great that she wasn’t a standard congenial, cynical, butt-kicking, heart of gold type. She was just an ordinary girl.
The rest of the characters also didn’t fit the same standard YA character role calls. It wasn’t like River was a broody, handsome badass (since he was proven to be an insane, lying inconsiderate bastard early on in the book). Sunshine wasn’t the supportive, loving best friend… I’m not sure WHAT Sunshine was, really, and we’ll leave it at that.
Luke was a conundrum on his own because I don’t think I ever really understood the point behind his dual personality. Starting off as the jackass brother and then ending off as an actually okay guy really got my brows furrowing since I never really got the reasoning behind his “outward” personality versus the person he truly is. So he confused me enough that I lost interest in him before he become the type of character I’d actually like.
And despite all of my appreciation for how well the characters were created… I still had trouble really caring about them. It just wasn’t there -- that connection. In a sense, they’re not the typical YA characters, but in another sense, they seem too unnatural and too fake to be relatable. Old fashioned, traditional, rich, wealthy Blue Bloods indeed… even IF they don’t really have their wealth anymore. Just the whole spiel by Violet about how they didn’t have money, but she was never going to actually get a job since she’s supposed to be living on old money inheritance… well, that kind of riled me a bit. The constant mentions of art and old literature and a lot pop culture (maybe) references that I just shrugged at cause I didn’t get them… Violet’s “painful” memory of wishing she’d been home-schooled, like her father, rather than having to attend public school with everyone else.
Yes, Violet, you guys are kind of snobby.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea just wasn’t for me. For me, the pacing of the story progression was too slow for my liking, the characters were ones I had trouble connecting with, there wasn’t much going on in the story that I could fathom, and finally… in all honesty, I’m not a big fan of paranormal romances anyway. It’s one of those genre combinations that have always slipped under my radar since the concept doesn’t mesh well with me.
Violet’s obsession with River (which I’m not entirely certain wasn’t a hundred percent all her own feelings alone since she fell in love with him the moment she saw him -- HELLO! instalove!) was to the point of unhealthy, and her inability to push him away even when she knew that there was something wrong with him kind of irked me. I mean, who admits to herself that the guy is a liar, dangerous, AND that she’s not sure she actually loves him that much, but still goes and falls asleep in his arms in his bed? Who finds out about all the horrid things that a guy has done and STILL kisses him and lets him touch her so intimately? And doesn’t kick him out immediately?
Anyway, I had a lot of notes and comments going on with this book, but there came a point where I finally just decided to stop analyzing and just finish reading the book without thinking about it too much. I realize that this review may sound slightly bipolar, but that’s because I’ve got a multitude of conflicting thoughts on Between that I can’t seem to pen properly.
In the end, my conclusion is still the same as what I started off with:
This book wasn’t bad. I just didn’t like it.
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