Kate’s Review: “The Darkest Corners”

25639296Book: “The Darkest Corners” by Kara Thomas

Publishing Info: Delacorte, April 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: Audiobook download from the library!

Book Description: The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them. Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch. But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

Review: When I’m not obsessing over podcasts (which is, admittedly, not often), I try and find a good and/or interesting book to listen to when I am either driving or at the gym. I usually don’t have a plan when I go into looking for an audiobook, and will just look for what’s available. I didn’t have many expectations when I randomly downloaded “The Darkest Corners”, as even though I’d seen it around I’m always a little hesitant around YA thrillers. They can be hit or miss, in my experience. But I think that my limited expectations worked in “The Darkest Corners” favor, because I ended up thoroughly enjoying this book as I drove around or ran on the treadmill.

Comparisons have been made to Gillian Flynn, and I actually enjoyed this book more than I have most of Flynn’s work. The first reason is the intricate and tense plot. When Tessa and Callie were seven years old, Callie’s cousin Lori was murdered, seemingly part of a serial killer’s rampage. They were the only witnesses at the trial, as Callie said she saw a man named Wyatt Stokes in their yard. Tessa never actually saw him, but was pressured into confirming it. Now time has passed, and Tessa is questioning whether they had the right guy or not. A lot of this reminded me of real life crimes where police interference and public prejudice focus attention on someone who may actually be innocent. The town of Fayette, where the book takes place, is a small one where difference is looked upon with suspicion and poverty is a plague that seeps into all facets of life, and the underlying tension of this reality lingers on the page. As Tessa looks more into the crime, the story takes on very noir-esque tendencies, which I greatly enjoyed. I did find myself surprised by a number of the twists, and was happy that most of them were laid out and unwound in ways that didn’t make them feel like they were out of nowhere.

The second reason is because of our main character, Tessa. While she has the same baggage and messed up background that you might see in a Flynn novel, I think that Thomas knows how to bring more humanity out of her main character. Tessa is certainly damaged, and is having a hard time coming back to her home town, but her struggles and inner conflict manifest in more understated ways. She and her best friend Callie both react to their self doubt and guilt differently, and while Callie being a walking mess might have been a more tantalizing POV in a story like this, Tessa’s subtlety and less obvious trauma was a more rewarding(?) experience as a reader. That isn’t to say that Callie doesn’t go through her own journey, nor that she isn’t an interesting character in her own right. Seeing both her and Tessa approach their investigation in their differing ways was a neat way to unfold all of the intricacies to this mystery. Their interactions with each other felt real too, as they are both aching for the other and the friendship that fell apart, as well as deeply feeling the resentment that each has for each other and the choices that they made after their testimony. Neither of them are totally right nor totally wrong in their baggage related to each other, and their coming to terms with their tattered friendship was one of the best parts of this story.

I do think that there were a few too many balls in the air regarding the various facets and side stories with the drama. From Tessa’s convict father to her MIA mother and sister to the abusive father of another friend to a run in with Neo Nazis, it did feel a bit much at times. I am all for red herrings, but when you have a whole school of them I feel that it’s a bit overwhelming and overwrought.

That aside, I found “The Darkest Corners” to be a very well done thriller, one that goes well beyond the YA set and could hold it’s own with other stories aimed towards adults. If you are suffering withdrawal from the lack of new Flynn stories, this is a book that you should probably get your hands on.

Rating 8: A very well done thriller that should absolutely be put on the same pedestal as the works of Gillian Flynn and Ruth Ware.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Darkest Corners” is included on the Goodreads list “Liar Liar: YA Books with Unreliable Narrators”. 

Find “The Darkest Corners” at your library using WorldCat!

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