Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Release Date: August 15, 2013
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
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 guest house 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.Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.
When Violet makes the decision to rent out their guesthouse, she and her twin brother aren't expecting any takers. With their parents in Europe, Luke is mostly concerned with girls, and booze; Violet is happier with a book and her grandmother's old dresses while their house spirals into a state of decay. Then they meet River. Charismatic, worldly, with a down-to-earth smile and a way of making Violet forget about being mostly alone. It doesn't take long for Violet to think that she knows him.Then the bad things start to happen: kids find themselves gripping stakes, prowling the graveyard for the "Devil in pilgrim clothes" that swooped down and took one of them. People that the twins thought they knew start acting out-of-character, acts of violence that they shouldn't have been capable of doing. Violet starts to unravel River's lies, but not before her town goes spiraling out of control.I went into the book with a few expectations that were completely proven wrong, but not in a bad way.First off, I was expecting it to be more like The Diviners - dark and freaky in a cultish kind of way. It was dark, and it was freaky, but the elegance and the relationships strung throughout it made it more graceful in a way. This isn't one of those books that horrifies you to the point where it's disturbing. There are some violent scenes and this is definitely not a book that you want to read at night - I made the mistake of reading this past midnight when I was home alone. Still, it's really quite lovely. The writing is compelling and the characters are a bit twisted, but it's beautiful and not overwhelming.Secondly, I had been expecting more of a character-driven focus. Would Violet really be in love with River? Was he the incarnation of evil? I was expecting more of an internal struggle on whether or not to trust him. Instead, she did go back and forth on her feelings towards him, but he was never purely wicked - he had some good in him, and he wasn't the reason for all of the bad things that happened in the book. He was a pathological liar but also brutally honest at strange times. He was a truly multi-faceted character.The characters were messy, to say the least. They were complicated, and that was pretty beautiful in its own way. River was dark and a bit twisted but that was only the parts of him. Other parts were sweet and thoughtful and scared, and so Violet was conflicted about him. He lied a lot, and so it was this constant guessing game as to whether or not to trust him. I was really surprised by how much I liked him. It was so excellent because even though he was just as screwed-up at the end as in the beginning, he changed as a character.There were some plot threads that I would love to see a little more exploration in but the plot itself was dramatic and lush. It was elaborate, but still clearly laid out. It's nice to see such an intricate idea presented in a way that was really clear. There wasn't a point in the book where I was confused, but it still drew in some really nice elements. A lot happens, but it has this sprawling pacing that's pretty nice - it's slower than I would have expected, but I still liked it.Violet was a sweetie. River describes her towards the beginning of the book and it's really spot on throughout - she's caring and honest but also independent and capable of some horrible things. I liked her a lot because she seemed like a person I would run into on the street and really end up connecting with. She was really easy to connect to as a character, but also different enough to where she completely fit the mood that the story called for.Violet had this tendency to give in really easily to River. I'm not sure whether that was due to weakness as a character or his charm, but I could see it annoying other readers. I didn't necessarily think she was passive but I think that she didn't have an especially strong resolve. But to be honest? I think it was more realistic than if she immediately noticed that there was something off with River. She was confused during a lot of the time because she couldn't decide how she felt about River.The supporting characters were really great too - there was Luke, Violet's twin. I would have liked to see a little more about him, but there were some nice subplots and some development in there. There was Neely, a character who I immediately loved. Then there was Jack and Brodie and all these ones who really rounded out a great cast of characters that constantly wavered and warped.I tend to go for books like this that have a really vivid mood. If it's creepy, I want it to rattle my bones and make me sleep with the lights on. Strong settings, mystifying characters, and a twisted plot is a must. The mood of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is ominous but not overtly so; I'm actually really surprised that I loved it as much as I did. It's different. It wasn't an extremely powerful mood but it was subtle and the writing was really good.I think that it was a really wonderful book. It was creepy and well-written, slow and subtle and messy. I feel like most people will either love it or hate it. I loved it because I'm really drawn to this type of read. My only warnings would be to people who might get frustrated by Violet and River's relationship or slower pace.In the end, I really enjoyed it. I loved the absorbing descriptions and constant back-and-forth about River's character. While the characters weren't extremely powerful, they all tended to straddle the line and make you wonder whether or not they were good or bad. The plot is clearly written but the characters are the furthest from black and white, leaving you to draw your own conclusions. If you like a captivating paranormal with plenty of character, I'd definitely recommend this one.Recommended to anybody who loves: Beautiful Creatures; The Diviners; Fallen; The Nightmare Affair; Ashes on the Waves; Sweet Evil