Kate’s Review: “The Dead and the Dark”

Book: “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould

Publishing Info: Wednesday Books, August 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect

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.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

Given that I am a HUGE sucker for the ‘small town with terrible secrets’ trope, I am always on the lookout for books and stories that showcase it, and showcase it well. In the past few years there have been books that have hit the mark and missed the mark, and when I requested “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that it was a YA horror novel that not only had that highly enjoyable theme, but it also had a sapphic romance to go with the scares. Since I was a bit let down by a previously hyped book with these themes, I was hoping that this one would give me what I wanted, and for the most part it did!

“The Dead and the Dark” is told through two third person perspectives. The first is that of Logan, a teenage daughter of Brandon and Alejo, the hosts of the ghost hunting show “Paraspectors”. Her Dads were raised in Snakebite but never fit in, and Logan has a strained relationship with Brandon that she hasn’t been able to really figure out. Ashley, on the other hand, is a local teenager who is basically a member of Snakebite royalty, but ever since her boyfriend Tristan disappeared she’s felt like something is off. When Logan’s dads are suddenly suspects in Tristan’s disappearance, Logan and Ashley have to work together to try and figure out what happened, and what secrets the town is hiding. Both characters were well explored and given depth, and I found myself eager to get to each perspective as the book went on. They are both good characters on their own, but Gould is sure to make their interactions as they become allies, then friends, then maybe something more, enjoyable. But Gould doesn’t stop there, as the supporting characters are also interesting and do more than just furthering the plot that Logan and Ashley work within. I liked getting to know Brandon and Alejo, as well as the other teens in the town who range from helpful to downright hostile. Snakebite as a town is also well explored, as the small town with a secret theme has layers of small town angst and pain for outsiders that come to the surface.

As for the plot and the horror elements, “The Dead and the Dark” did some new things that I really liked. I don’t want to give too much away, as there are definitely things here that I want readers to discover without the potential for being spoiled. But, like many good horror stories, there is thought and purpose behind the dark fantasy and horror elements. As Logan and Ashley start to find clues to the evil that is hurting local teens, they also start seeing the every day rot, be it due to sexism, or homophobia, or just plain resentment of anything different from what is known. This ties into the big reveal as to what is going on, and then another reveal within that reveal that legitimately caught me off guard. And it was done in a way that built it up, made it believable, AND socked me right in the feels. So much so that I found myself crying a bit, and I’m not really used to crying while reading YA horror novels.

I had a really good time reading “The Dead and the Dark”. The horror elements were creepy, the sapphic elements were very satisfying, and I will definitely be checking out what Courtney Gould has to offer the genre in the future!

Rating 8: A creepy and suspenseful YA horror story with enjoyable characters and a small town with secrets setting, “The Dead and the Dark” is a fun read with a nice romance to boot.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Dead and the Dark” is included on the Goodreads lists “2021 Sapphic Releases”, and “Monsters and Magic Society”.

Find “The Dead and the Dark” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Highlights: August 2021

It’s hot. Oh, need more? It’s also humid, and we’ve had a lot of smoke drifting in from fires. So, summer is definitely here! While we both appreciate our A/C for the magic it is, neither of us is quite prepared to complain enough to want winter back. Fall, on the other hand…But the evenings are still lovely and there are a bunch of books lined up to fill our time this coming month. Check out our picks below!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Forestborn” by Elayne Audrey Becker

Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Firstly, I love everything about this cover. Without reading the book description at all, I could already have a fairly clear sense of the type of fantasy story we’re dealing with. Rora and her brother are shifters, a kind of magical being that are particularly feared recently after a dark omen has foretold two shifters and death. But they’ve found their way, under the watchful arm of their friend, the young prince of the land. But when he falls ill with a magical disease, Rora, her brother, and the prince’s grim older brother must venture into the wild lands in pursuit of a cure. This book has a lot of potential to be just the sort of thing I like! I mean, I’m always down for the “grim older brother” romantic interest type at the very least.

Book: “Nolyn” by Michael J. Sullivan

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t even managed to read and review the very last book in his previous series! But what can I say? I have a hard time finishing things I’m enjoying so much! But now that Sullivan is releasing a new trilogy, it’s probably safe to finish that one out. At the very least so I can jump into this one next! Set in his same world of Elan, only many centuries after the events of the “Legends of the First Empyre,” the stories follows Nolyn, the heir to the empyre who returns from exile to find himself caught up in more than he had expected. I still haven’t read Sullivan’s original series, but all of his books are written to be enjoyed by new comers as well, so I’ll probably still jump to this one next rather than go back to the first ones. I’m really excited to see what’s in store next!

Book: “Wildwood Whispers” by Willa Reece

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Why I’m Interested: In some of the marketing and early reviews for this book, I found some comparisons to “Practical Magic” and that’s all it took! I can definitely see it, too, given the description of a grieving woman returning to her small-town home in the Appalachian Mountains after the death of her best friend. The story describes a town full of old folktales, deep woods, and mysteries to be found and explored, all while delving into what it means to return home and to process grief. I think this one will ride or die on the strength of the writing, but if it’s anything like the style found in “Practical Magic,” I’m sure I’ll love it!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Why I’m Interested: While it’s true that sometimes YA horror can be a bit hit or miss for me, I am always looking for a book that will hook me in and give me a case of the willies. If a cute side romance is involved I’m even more game. So when I heard about “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould, it definitely had potential! In small town Snakebite, Oregon, teenagers are disappearing. Logan is visiting with her two dads, who grew up in Snakebite but left as outsiders, and now have a ghost hunting show. Ashley is a local and well to do daughter of a popular family, but her boyfriend is missing and Ashely has been seeing visions of him. When the town thinks that Logan’s dads are to blame, she and Ashley team up to try and figure out what is going on, and start to fall for each other. This has ‘Kate’ written all over it, honestly.

Book: “How We Fall Apart” by Katie Zhao

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Similar to the above statement, I also am always on the lookout for YA mystery thrillers where it’s hard to know who to trust, and everyone seems like they could be duplicitous. “How We Fall Apart” by Katie Zhao seems to have the potential to check all those boxes. When Queen Bee of Sinclair Prep Jamie Ruan goes missing and ends up murdered, it’s her former friend Nancy and her new friends Krystal, Akil, and Alexander who brunt the suspicion of their peers. The rumors are started by the online persona of The Proctor, who has everyone’s secrets up their sleeves to air at their whim. Now Nancy and her friends need to find out who really killed Jamie, before they all lose everything. Downright scintillating.

Book: “My Heart Is a Chainsaw” by Stephen Graham Jones

Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Jones is one of my must read authors, as his horror stories are deeply disturbing as well as supremely moving. He weaves in lots of themes with the scares, about identity and hope and what it means to be Indigenous in the United States. But he also has a deep love for all things horror, so when it was announced he was writing a ‘final girl’ slasher story, I was PUMPED AS HELL. “My Heart Is a Chainsaw” is the story of Jade, a teenage girl in a small Idaho town that is starting to gentrify. When she starts seeing the tell tale signs that her town is falling victim to a slasher killer, she taps into her encyclopedic knowledge of the slasher genre to try and find the ‘final girl’ who will save them all. This is not only a highly anticipated book of the month for me, but also of the entire year.

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