Review: The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

  • Title: The Dead and the Dark
  • Author: Courtney Gould
  • Genre: mystery/thriller
  • Intended audience: young adult
  • Format read: eARC
  • Publisher: Wednesday books
  • Pub date: August 3rd, 2021
  • Trigger warnings: homophobia, slurs, funeral, drowning, murder, child death, claustrophobia (buried alive), blood, violence, police
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.

I read The Dead and the Dark for the first time back in April, but I couldn’t post a review on pub day like I planned to because the review I wrote the first time was an absolute mess. I was so blown away by The Dead and the Dark that my original review is totally incomprehensible blabbing about how much I loved it. At the time, it was one of the best books I had read in a while, so it was an easy five stars for me.

I would describe The Dead and the Dark as a paranormal mystery/thriller about one lonely girl, her ghost-hunting dads, and her unlikely new friends. I am not usually a huge fan of paranormal, but this type of magical realism-style paranormal blended into the story so perfectly. I simply found it to be such an enjoyable read. I was completely sucked in by the creepy, atmospheric writing and the shreds of mystery that were scattered throughout the book. Gould managed to succeed at crafting both a page-turning plot as well as a deeply emotional story which work in tandem to create a successful thriller that the reader can get invested in.

The plot was extremely well done, it consistently kept me guessing. From the beginning you can tell that there is something else going on underneath the surface, and as you keep reading Gould slowly peels back each layer to reveal the mystery and further intrigue underneath. Each twist and turn was surprising, but in hindsight I could see the seeds Gould had planted of each one. The further I dove into the story, the less I wanted to put it down.

I also appreciated that this wasn’t just a page-turner relying on suspense and plot to drive the story forward. The characters and their relationships were all well-written and well-developed. While it is a book about mystery, it is also a book about loneliness. Logan, who has been forced into a strange, largely homophobic town, feels lonely, which is exacerbated by the growing distance she is feeling from her dads, Brandon in particular. Meanwhile, Ashley is intensely lonely after the disappearance of her boyfriend and best friend Tristan. The two girls manage to not only collaborate to solve the mystery behind the disappearances, but to forge a deeper connection with each other. I thought the way Gould portrayed their loneliness and their eventual bond was extremely well done.

And of course, I couldn’t finish this review without pointing out the amazing pacific northwest setting. It was so well done, and the creepy elements of the book blended so well with the rural Oregon setting. Overall there was a very clear sense of place, which really enhanced the story for me.

If you like young adult mystery books with a little creepiness, then I would definitely recommend The Dead and the Dark.

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