Monday, 8 April 2013

Pretty Dark Nothing by Heather L. Reid

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Published: April 23 2013 (I have an EARC)
Publisher: Month9Books
Website: Author’s Website

Quinn’s life is not as perfect as it used to be. Her love of her life, Jeff, suddenly dumped her. Her dad left for a life with another woman. Her mom works non-stop and is never home. It has been twenty-three days since Quinn has slept for more than ten minutes at a time. This is because demons have been haunting her dreams. She survives on energy drinks and caffeine pills. Her grades have crashed and she has been benched as cheerleading captain. One day, her demons begin to bleed into reality, terrorizing her to her limit. 
Aaron, an amnesiac, is drawn to her, and constantly saves her just in time from the demons, albeit he cannot see them. As he is drawn to her, he becomes entangled in Quinn’s demon-infested life.  

                Pretty Dark Nothing. Sounds intriguing. What is the pretty dark nothing that the title refers to? Don’t expect to be blown away with an explanation. The book misses the ah-ha! moment that usually happens when you figure out the full meaning of the title. When these three words are used, it is used just as it in the title-as pretty words that mean nothing, aside from being dark and dramatic.  It is also used twice. The dramatic effect of purple prose is weakened if you keep throwing it at the reader, unless you want it to be a whole concept and explain it.   

A cover done right. It conveys the helplessness and vulnerability that Quinn faces. Essentially, she is all alone in her torment, falling into a bleak world. It is a monumental improvement over the trend of covers I have been seeing lately, namely, a lone female in a flowing dress and hair whipping in the wind.    

Paranormal/Horror Elements
                The beginning of the book is fantastic for the horror elements. Quinn falls asleep and the demons invade her dreams and try to kill her. The horror in these dreams is eerie, as shapes are made up mostly of binding whips of fog, twisted trees, and moonlight. Later on the demons take on more definite shapes with wings and sharp talons, hissing and whispering hair-raising sentiments. A horror element that stood out the most to me is how psychologically damaging the demons are to her. She cannot sleep. She might see them during the day if she looks too hard. She begins to believe the hurtful things they say, such as that no one likes her. It makes a terribly bleak setting for the protagonist to overcome. It had me hooked.
Aaron’s psychic ability should have been utilized better. Maybe he should have used his ability to actually connect with Quinn and see her demons. The story would have been much richer. Instead the reader is fed bits from Aaron’s past. It is interesting to read, but it doesn’t move the plot further, nor does it contribute to the end reveal. If you’re going to give your characters a special power, they better use it to move the plot.

The Terrible Person Award (Slight Spoilers)
Quinn wins a ribbon for being a terrible person. A protagonist that the reader is supposed to connect with shouldn’t have one of these pinned on them. It is baffling to me. Did the author realize how awful she made Quinn to be? She pines for Jeff, but oh hey, Aaron is totally into her so she sucks face with him. Then she runs off to weep for Jeff, and then she goes on a date with Aaron, but then she is caught kissing with Jeff, and then she has nothing, except that everyone is secretly/not so secretly still in love with Quinn. She thinks everyone hates her (and they do/or they should be if they were real people) but everyone is actually obsessed with her because she’s the protagonist.
In her defence, everyone has difficult moments in their lives. Her boyfriend of four years broke up with her via text-message and began a relationship with her arch nemesis. Her father left, started a new family, and hasn’t contacted her since. She’s entitled to some crying time in the fetal position. I feel for her plight with the demons and the shadows that are tormenting and influencing her. But everything else about her makes me hate her. She leads Aaron on and treats him like dirt. Twice. She is constantly the victim. What happened to fighting back? Or even trying to fight back? What happened to going all Nancy Drew on this and figuring out what is going on with her? Nope, doesn’t happen. This is an example of a weak female protagonist. She’s there for the audience to sympathise with, but she isn’t active in her own salvation. Of course, she needs a man for that. Two, apparently, one who likes to be treated like dirt and the other is a pretty terrible person too.    
The good thing about Quinn? Her name is Quinn. That’s pretty cool.  

Writing A Story (Spoilers!)
                This novel claims that it is about Quinn and Aaron fighting her literal demons. Except it isn’t. And it ends on a totally different note. Saving the world. Really? Where did this come from? Angels and heaven and guardians and light and dark souls? If this is going to be your ending, these concepts need to be included somehow in your beginning. I do recall Aaron remembering that he saw a figure by his hospital bed. This simply isn’t enough. It is like writing a love story and then BAM! aliens land and take over, the end. Sure, Reid can write a sequel (a very obvious sequel), and it will probably be much more interesting than this installment, now that something has actually happened to Quinn (other than her being a terrible human being). Do I care at this point? Not really.
                This book does not stand out to me for having any particularly moving characters. If a teen reader is interested in the paranormal and horror genres, it is a suitable read if there isn't much else on the shelves. The beginning is fantastic for bringing out the sympathy for Quinn, as her life spirals downward at the hands of the demons. The demons are frightening and have real-life influences. In the end, the protagonist is a terrible person. It would make great fodder for discussion for weak female protagonists if it were used in a YA book club. You could also encourage book reports comparing a weak female protagonist to a strong female protagonist.     


  1. I found your blog after you posted on Anne Allen's blog, and I'm glad I did. Wow, what a thoughtful and detailed review. It was a pleasure to read. Your blog's going on my list. Thanks! :-)

    1. Thank you very much! I appreciate more followers and I hope I can create more content soon :)

  2. Oh my god, this book is horrible! I haven't finish it yet but I have to. I got from Net Galley and have to review. I don't know what to say. The story really sucks.

    1. You can always tell them that you really didn't enjoy the book. Reviews are supposed to be honest, and if the book is so bad you couldn't finish it, tell them so. Just also tell them why you disliked it so much. It took a lot for me to finish it because I hated Quinn so much.

  3. And you are right about the cover. That's why I requested the damn book. I should know better :-(

  4. Oh god, Quinn was so annoying! And I hated the "I can't get over my ex" thing. The worst was the best friends part that always ends up being the love of your life. Couldn't endure it
    and... DNF.

    1. It was difficult to finish. The whole haunting by demons thing was great. The rest...not so much.