Thursday, 22 March 2012

Dark Storm - Sarah Singleton

GENRE: Young Adult
PAGES: 352
PUBLISHER: Simon Pulse
FORMAT: Paperback
BUY IT: Waterstones

Ellie is staying with her maternal grandparents for the summer, while her recently bereaved dad takes off on holiday with his new girlfriend. Upset by his apparent callousness, missing her mother, and jealous for her dad's attention, she begins to spiral into depression. Her grandparents suggest she joins a local theatre group, to meet people her own age and get away from the dark thoughts that threaten to engulf her. But then she gets roped into a seance at the theatre, and is the only one who actually sees a real ghost. Now a spirit is contacting her from beyond the grave - and as the dead boy's story unfolds, Ellie finds herself falling in love with him. But if she solves his mystery and helps release his soul, will he be lost to her forever?

Dark Storm appeared in my pigeonhole at work after my annual leave as an unexpected (and wholly lovely) advance copy treat from Simon and Schuster. Inside, along with the book, was a cutting of a review of the book from SFX. I can't find a link for it on the internet anywhere though so unfortunately I can't share it with you. The long and short of it is that the final paragraph was highlighted for my attention and says: "In the end, this isn't a shallow love story but an exploration of all sorts of love, and loss." [Miriam McDonald - SFX] I don't completely agree with this view point, but I'll get round to that.

EDIT: You can find Miriam's review HERE.

Dark Storm did catch my attention almost immediately; Ellie, the main character, finds a package behind the shelves of a secondhand bookshop at the same time that a mysterious breeze slams the shop door. (With me yet? This is the stuff a bibliophile's dreams are made of!). When she finally gets the package home she finds a deconstructed model theatre and a script for an historic version of Romeo and Juliet. Storyline-wise, it began to shape up as a great tale. I loved the settings of the beach, the sea, the cliffs and even the multiple designs of the theatre (I don't want to give too much away by explaining that). It really did make me want it to be Summer so I could have my coastal holiday. I loved its atmosphere and the ease of the prose, but the only thing I didn't like was most of what happened after the promising beginning. 

I don't enjoy being negative in reviews but I felt this story could have worked without her being in love with a ghost. Harry's story is interesting, I love the multi-dimensional feeling that delving into and reliving his past gives. This could have been achieved in another way, and the front of an exhibition for the Marine theatre would actually have been enough for this reader.

Don't get me wrong, even though I didn't necessarily agree with the premise of the book it didn't stop me from reading; I didn't feel like I hated it so much I wanted to stop. Nevertheless there were a couple of other things that irritated me. Take Ellie for instance, the story's main character. I'd like to say that Ellie is a complicated character but I really don't think that she is. Her premise is that her mother has recently died, her father has gone on holiday with his new woman and she is currently bunking up with her Grandparents. To an extent I did understand this, and to a point I even sympathised with her, but she is her own worst enemy. She is blinded by an absolute and selfish love for a ghost that she can't have, and although the real point of this is that she is trying to find comfort in something, that something is not really conceivable. It might not be a "shallow love story" as McDonald points out, but it is an obsessive love, overruling and verging on violent.

I do have some nice things to say about this story though. Alex is probably the character I loved the most, beautiful, loving, laid-back Alex - the exact type of guy you want to have a holiday romance with. It was because of him that I wanted desperately to shake Ellie and tell her to open her eyes.

Finally, if I had to sum this book up in a few words it would be: a great summer read. It's not difficult, it won't tax you and it has enough intrigue to keep your attention away from the ice-cream van. I would still encourage people to read it if they want something light, I did actually enjoy it, as negatively as I might come across.

Also -- Has anyone any idea why it is called Dark Storm? Just a query.

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