I discovered Jacquelyn Mitchard way back in 1996, when I read her debut novel, The Deep End of the Ocean,
a powerful book that has stayed with me all these years. Since then,
she has continued to write in a range of genres and for a wide audience,
from adult fiction to picture books.
Last year, I featured Mitchard's What We Saw at Night, the first in planned duo about teens who suffer from xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), a rare genetic disorder that makes them fatally allergic to the sun. Told from the first-person perspective of Allie Kim, who can leave the house only after sunset, that book introduced us to the extreme sport of parkour and ended with a major cliffhanger.
What We Lost in the Dark picks up right where the previous installment ended. This bullet review assumes you've read the first book.
- Basic plot: Allie and Rob are still stunned over Juliet's apparent suicide, although Allie is convinced that foul play was involved. With their hearts no longer in parkour because it reminds them of their friend, the two teens take up deep-water free diving (without oxygen tanks) while trying to gather evidence against the man they believe killed their friend.
- What works: Allie and Rob's relationship, which would seem too intense for most YA books, is made believable when you consider that people with XP die young. The two are determined to get as much out of life as they can, while remaining hopeful that genetic engineering may eventually offer a cure for their condition. In addition, there is plenty of thriller action and some seriously creepy scenes.
- What doesn't: I found the number of coincidences needed to pull off the plot to be a bit hard to take. For example, while on her initial dive in Lake Superior, Allie just happens to discover a prime piece of evidence against the bad guy. There is also strong foreshadowing, which meant I was able to guess some of the surprises revealed at the novel's conclusion.
- Recommendation: If you've read the first book, you'll want to read What We Lost in the Dark to see what happens. If you keep your expectations in check, you'll enjoy this novel more than I did.
- Audiobook: My full review will be published by AudioFile magazine, but in a nutshell, narrator Rebecca Gibel didn't hold my attention. I was not a fan of the tone of her performance, although other listeners thought her voice was perfect for Allie. (Blackstone Audio; 8 hr 12 min)
Source: Audio: review (see review policy)
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