Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke [Published by Speak]
“You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand….”
Children are disappearing. Groups of young boys and girls form small armies to hunt for a monster. People are seeing things that shouldn’t be there and doing things that shouldn’t be done.
And it all starts when an irresistible guy named River West shows up in Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town.
Is River somehow connected? Is he just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or is he something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back.
Interesting but Disappointing
The synopsis really grabbed me when I picked this puppy up. Oh and that cover! Perfect. I saw it at Barnes and Noble and went:
It sounded dark and Gothic… and it was those things, but it didn’t live up to the potential in my mind that it could have. I was expecting something else when I opened this up. The actual Devil, for one thing.
Spoiler Warning: It was a metaphor.
Instead, it was a cross between being super simple, like To Kill a Mockingbird, and then caught somewhere in the same realm as the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. And then there was the endless prose that, quite frankly, often put a hiccup in the writing because it just didn’t make sense. Super flowery words work for certain books, sort of like Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series. Just using those books as an example, Juliette starts out as being pretty mentally fractured and a stone’s throw from being completely crazy. She often repeats words or uses really complicated prose to describe what she’s feeling without just telling the reader, because she’s nuts and she can’t trust the simplicity of just saying I’m happy or I’m sad.
And as far as I could see, Violet in this book, was just… a ditz.
I liked certain aspects of the plot, which isn’t exactly like what you read in the synopsis, that were genuinely interesting. However, I was thinking that the actual devil was going to show up in this book. Color me silly, but I was thoroughly disappointed when I realized that was not happening.
Also, the characters fell flat for me.
I found myself really wanting to sympathize and love them, but there just wasn’t enough meat to their stories. Tragically enough, Violet and her twin brother were pretty much abandoned by their rich artsy-fartsy parent’s who traveled the world without them. The two of them were practically left in the Gatsby-mansion to play house. Instead of the story really fleshing out the hurt and the abandonment that these two should feel, it was devoted to painting them like adults. They acted like anything but adults though. I don’t feel like that was the intention, unfortunately.
The characters were cute and funny sometimes, but they more often than not remained two-dimensional. They didn’t build the foundation of the story as I thought they should have.
Now let me get on my feminist soap box for a minute here.
Sunshine, Violets supposed best friend in this book, fell into the category I like to call, the sacrificial slut. I don’t mean to use that term loosely either, because that was how Violet described her to us. Also, to add to that, Sunshine’s body type is curvy and full. So sunshine isn’t skinny like our protagonist, Violet.
She drinks sweet tea and sits on her porch most of the time, unlike Violet who is always out and about doing something. So here we have Sunshine, the bodacious friend, with a sexual appetite, who is also lazy. She is used by boys that she craves attention from. Instead of empowering the over-weight best friend, the writer chooses to treat her like a bad role model, who ends up getting a pretty bad end of a deal towards the end of the book. Why can’t Sunshine just be a sexually awakened and a sexually active woman? Why can’t she just like fooling around with boys? Why does she have to be a sacrificial lamb? These girls are young, yes. But they are not Nuns.
Stepping off of feminist soap box.
Not to mention, the protagonist in this book was not the typical heroine that I love to read about. She was overly confused all the time. When she suspected things weren’t right with the slightly creepy but handsome River West, she just dove in head first anyway. Not the kind of girl I tend to respect. And there is something about a couple of teenagers who barely know each other deciding to lay down in the middle of the day to take a nap together that just does not scratch at the back of my teenage memories.
Lastly, but probably the hardest part for me to get past, was that I did not like the love interest. I didn’t sympathize with him. I didn’t want to get to know or understand him. I literally wanted, pleaded, with the book God’s to sucker punch him out of the story. He was narcissistic, creepy, and overall a complete headache. I found myself mentally pleading with Violet to leave the room every time he came around. There is a part in the book, towards the end, that just gave me the chills. There is a situation (I’m trying to not give too much away and spoil anything here) where the protagonist and a love interest almost have sex while she isn’t fully consciously aware of it.
I can’t… I just can’t.
It wasn’t a bad story. For some people, this may be a great read and it may be in the writing style that you like. There were several creepy scenes that could put chills down your neck, but for me? It turned into too much of a River West centric soap opera. You may love these characters. You may love the story. So, even though I was disappointed, you should still pick it up, if a good mystery is something that you enjoy. The outcome of this book was definitely something I didn’t see coming. For some reason, because I assumed that the Devil, or something very closely demonically related, would be involved, I lost interest when I realized that the Devil wasn’t joining the Gothic Tea Party.
So if you’re looking for a book about the Devil, I warn you ahead of time: The DEVIL isn’t in here.