A Trick of the Dark by B R Collins

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A Trick of the Dark by B R Collins
Buy A Trick of the Dark from Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Trick of the Dark from Amazon.com

Genre: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: An unsettling, dark supernatural thriller that's full of teen angst.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-1408809150

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What if you found a way to cheat death? What if it left you pain-free forever, both physically and emotionally? But what if it also meant you had to split your soul, and that left you unable to touch anyone ever again? After Zach and Annis are dragged to France for a family reconciliation events are set in motion that cannot be undone. Annis sees Zach killed by a the tumbling wall of an old ruined house, yet moments later he is standing, unharmed, in front of her. As she tries to help Zach, and appease her bitter, broken parents, she is dragged deeper and deeper into the horror of Zach's situation.

This is a dark, exciting read that raised some interesting ideas about life and death. There is a warning on the cover, and from me too, that there is a lot of swearing. I'm no prude, but I was quite shocked at just how much there was and I actually felt it was a distraction from what is otherwise an excellent story. It seemed like it was being done just to be cool or authentically teen, purposefully shocking or controversial. I didn't think it needed it, and it would have been better without quite so much. For me, the language would put the book in the mid to late teens age range, but that's a personal preference and I'm sure plenty of younger teens will read it too if their parents don't mind.

This is also a tale that is dripping with teenage angst. To be fair on the teens in question, Zach and Annis are having a pretty terrible time of things even without the whole splitting of souls and cheating death thing! Zach accidentally discovered their father was having an affair, and so their bitter parents have dragged them to France to renovate an old barn in an attempt to heal the rift in their marriage and in their family. Zach has also been thrown out of school, involved in drugs, and so they also hope that removing him from any bad influences will bring back their clever, loving son. Annis, who feels herself to be the overlooked, under-achieving little sister, is stumbling along just trying to get through each day. She idolises her older brother, rather unhealthily I thought, and would do anything to help him as we soon discover.

So, there's a lot of parental moans, teenage grumpiness and general malaise. Moody teens will love it! I personally felt a little bit sorry for the parents, being one myself, as even if they are being blind to Annis' needs and they aren't helping Zach at all, the two kids seem like really hard work! After sympathising with Annis initially I found that towards the end of the book I didn't like her at all, which was interesting as I hadn't liked Zach initially but grew to like him more through the story.

Some readers might find it too intense, as the focus in the story is really entirely on Annis and Zach. Their parents appear at the beginning, and later towards the end there is a friend, Peter, who plays a small part, but mostly everything is about Annis and Zach and with lots of inner thoughts as well as letters from Zach to Annis the tone is very intimate, immediate and personal. You can feel the hormones bubbling as you read and I half expected to discover an acne breakout when I got to the end of the book. I had a similar experience when I read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer which immediately rocketed me back to my own teenage love troubles (no vampires for me though!), but this book was more unsettling, and much darker.

My one real quibble with the book was that Annis really took far too long to figure out what was going on with Zach. I know this continued the tension and suspense in the story, but really she had far too many moments of almost seeing the truth, too many hints of what it might be that was going on, so that I was almost shouting at the book, frustrated that she was being so slow! Still, this was otherwise a good story and a good, compelling read with some thought-provoking ideas about life and death that I would go into further but I don't want to spoil the story for anyone. I wasn't frightened exactly, but I did find it chilling and unsettling. So, with the language warning, I would definitely recommend this.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For more on immortality try The Legacy by Gemma Malley.

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