The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman
Published: 10 September 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 464 (hardcover)
Genre/s: Young Adult, Horror, Mystery
Source: Own library
They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand . . . except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn't even know why she killed—or whether she'll do it again.
Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander's, Kansas—something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. Jule, the outsider at war with the world; West, the golden boy at war with himself; Daniel, desperate for a different life; Cass, who's not sure she deserves a life at all; and Ellie, who believes in sacrifice, fate, and in evil. Ellie, who always goes too far. They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town—and in themselves.
When I first saw reviews of The Waking Dark popping up, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. Horror is (perhaps obviously) one of my favourite genres, and I like them dark, spooky and intense.
The Waking Dark jumps straight into the story - jumping through the stories of the teens on the 'killing day' as they witness people they know murder each other in a variety of ways - from the more predictable through to more 'unique' methods. Each scene is intense and are used to introduce the characters and their personalities as they react in different ways to the chaos around them.
Wasserman's writing style is unique, and works very well - there are long run-on sentences and the language is very descriptive, but rather than slowing down the story, it actually makes the reading more frantic and addictive and builds the tension perfectly. The plot itself is very Stephen King-esque although I felt that the characterisation of Wasserman is actually slightly stronger as they are all unique and easily discernible from each other, which is something I often struggle with when there is a larger cast of key characters.
True 'horror' in Young Adult literature is something I haven't been able to find very often - to be honest I usually find them to be quite watered-down and a little too happy-ending-ish. But The Waking Dark isn't a book for the faint hearted - there is a lot of violence, but it's chilling rather than just shock-value.
The only thing that didn't really work for me was the ending - although I liked the resolution it felt a little too neat and I had some questions that weren't completely answered enough for me personally.
This was a difficult review for me to write as there is a lot that happens in The Waking Dark, but I really don't want to ruin the surprise for anyone that reads it, but I will say that this is one of my favourite horror stories this year - it has an old-school horror vibe but a with a modernity that I really appreciated.