Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus
Novel: Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus | GoodreadsRelease Date: October 6, 2015Publisher: Thomas Dunne (St. Martins Press)Format: HardcoverSource: Publisher
A troubled teen, living in Paris, is torn between two boys, one of whom encourages her to embrace life, while the other—dark, dangerous, and attractive—urges her to embrace her fatal flaws.Haunting and beautifully written, with a sharp and distinctive voice that could belong only to this character, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unforgettable young adult novel.Summer Barnes just moved to Paris to repeat her senior year of high school. After being kicked out of four boarding schools, she has to get on track or she risks losing her hefty inheritance. Summer is convinced that meeting the right guy will solve everything. She meets two. Moony, a classmate, is recovering against all odds from a serious car accident, and he encourages Summer to embrace life despite how hard it can be to make it through even one day. But when Summer meets Kurt, a hot, mysterious older man who she just can't shake, he leads her through the creepy underbelly of the city-and way out of her depth.When Summer's behavior manages to alienate everyone, even Moony, she's forced to decide if a life so difficult is worth living. With an ending that'll surprise even the most seasoned reader, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unputdownable and utterly compelling novel.
This book hit me at the wrong time. This isn't a light read, it's heart-wrenching, and therefore it's probably not the book to read when you've had a rough time. It was a hard week for me and I was longing to have the sort of emotional journey that I knew this book would provoke, but I wasn't expecting it to be quite so dark. Needless to say, I stayed up much later than I should have, sobbing my eyes out.When I first opened the book, I was nervous. I don't often connect well to narrators in third-person, and I was disappointed because I was hoping to connect well to this one. This was an issue for me in particular because I noticed that the book was also told in present tense, so I was worried I'd constantly be aware of reading and not sink into the book the way I'd been hoping to.While I can't particularly say that the feeling ever went away, I can say that the characters and setting and plot made up for it well-enough. It hinged on horror, with a significant allure.Despite Summer's fascination with romance (constantly citing her desire to "hold hands in Paris" and her certainty that she wouldn't be so low if she had someone to love), she doesn't romanticize anything. Ann Jacobus does this brilliant - perhaps too brilliant - job of describing the magnetic pull that Summer has towards rivers and buildings and death. She also does a remarkable job characterizing how difficult it is to get through a single day.I can quite confidently say that I've never seen such a realistic, and terrifying, portrayal of alcoholism in teens. Summer drinks constantly. It's not a partying, screw-you, I-need-to-forget-everything type as we often see portrayed either; it's self-destructive and all-consuming. She has bottles of vodka stuffed in her closet and a flask on her at all times and takes shots before studying, school, all the time. She needs it to function. Later in the book, she often tries to quit and makes it through the day with only a few sips at lunchtime or whatever the timing may be. If you know any other YA books that deal with that dependency in teens, I would love to hear about them in the comments. Because I was absolutely blown away by the capacity in which Jacobus painted Summer's personality using alcohol as both a solution and catalyst to her problems.Summer aside from that was self-destructive (obviously.) She was snarky but never overly so - in the sense that I felt like she had deep-rooted issues that were constantly stifling her. In that sense, I never felt as if she were abrasive or uncomfortable, which would have been easier to characterize. She often relapsed. She, quite simply, had difficulty focusing on anything that wasn't alcohol and even then, it was a coping mechanism. She didn't want to forget anything specific; she wanted to forget her entire life. It was unbearable for her to continue. She was strangely good with kids and curious about people although she had little desire to connect with them. All in all, I found her to be quite distinct.Her two love interests - if you can call them that - were different, although interrelated. Moony, a boy who suffered massive physical issues due to an accident when he was twelve, talked in fragments because it was hard for him to talk. He was involved in finding props for the school theater, and was the soccer manager. He tutored her in French and often cleaned up her messes but still dealt with being frustrated and misunderstanding her sometimes, which I appreciated. (As tempting as it is to read about the boy who always comes back, it's not realistic all the time, particularly in the scenarios from the book.) I liked Moony well enough - he wasn't particularly swoon-worthy but I'm not sure that was the point anyways.Kurt, on the other hand, was dark and enthralling. He popped up exactly whenever Summer was hoping to avoid him, but always managed to persuade her to go with him. He was older and dangerous and seductive. He made her feel awful about herself but she couldn't stay away, yet another trait that correlated with Summer's intense self-sabotage and inability to recognize when she went too far.There were a lot of difficult, difficult elements in the plotline. Summer's family was messed-up but never fit into clean lines; they were still very much a part of her life, even influencing her from beyond the grave. Details like family inheritances, reputations, and disorders shadowed her often. She attempted to get along with her mother, but still felt horribly disconnected and pressured by the idea of getting to college. From the outside looking in, it's easy to say "just do your schoolwork" or "get into college", but from Summer's standpoint, it was nearly impossible. I was strangely soothed by the way the family issues turned out, and by their continual impact on the storylines.The plotting was marvelous. There's one element of the plot that was smartly inserted and when the "big reveal" happens, it's done so subtly and cleanly that I had no doubt it'd been like that all along. That takes talent, and I found it admirable.The details are careful. It feels like a city within the language; you can feel the grittiest, darkest, worst part of the city paired with the delicate romance of it as an ideal. It's both realistic and horrifying, a seedy underbelly. All I can really say is that the mood is curated well, an atmosphere that both feeds and feeds off of Summer's emotional instability. Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an incredibly gorgeous, apt title that quietly sums up the turmoil of the novel.I loved this book. I found it to be both important and repellingly magnetic. It made me feel the highs and lows of Summer's life, which wasn't always pleasant. At some points, I felt too affected by it which felt dangerous. I recognized a lot within it, but also found myself enlightened by an inner perspective of struggles that I doubt I'll ever be able to truly understand. It's raw.Recommended for anybody who loves: Revolution; It's Kind of a Funny Story; All the Bright Places; etc,.