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Khanh the Killjoy

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - “His name is River West,” Sunshine slipped in. “And Violet’s decided she’s going to be mad as a hatter in love with him.”...Sunshine was dead right, and we both knew it.River West. Sunshine Black. Rose Redding. True White. Violet White. Blue Hoffman.Did you pick up a copy of US Weekly by mistake? Oh, these silly celebrities and their strange baby names! Oh, wait, no. These are some of the names of the characters within this book. I should have known something was wrong when our big man, River West, sauntered up to the "aging ballerina" house in his pressed linen pants and his wallet full of benjamins and his fifties car. What do they always say? Listen to your instincts? I never listen...and I am always drawn to a beautiful cover. In my defense, that is a gorgeous cover, people.All these high ratings, I can't help but feel like I'm missing something. I didn't understand this book, I really don't. I think it was a waste of the time spent reading it. The writing is lovely, although it leans towards the side of purple prose at times. This book tries to sell itself off as "Gothic" and it does have a gothic feel to it by way of the ancient rotting house and the small-town setting; the writing reinforces this, and it really is beautiful.This book has a timeless feel to it, which is how a good gothic-styled book should be. It's supposedly set in the present day, but I feel like this book could easily be set in the 1950s or 60s by the old-fashioned atmosphere of the book. The town itself feels out of place in modern time; the town is still focused on social standing and family history, there are the odd eccentrics; I actually think this book has more of a lazy, summery cicada-chirping, mint-julep-sipping, American Southern atmosphere to it. Our main character Violet also has her head phased solidly in the past, wearing her dead grandmother Freddie's old clothes, reading her letters and reminiscing through her nostalgic tales of the Grand Old Days when the White family still had money to go along with their status.I always feel bad giving a poor rating for quality writing, but to me, the writing was all that this book had going for it.What is severely lacking is the plot. Read the summary, because I honestly have no idea what I just read. I didn't know what the big mystery was, I didn't feel like there was a sense of anything urgent that I was supposed to expect...it was dull. It feels more like a summer contemporary YA with some "scary" paranormal children-of-the-corn elements sprinkled into it for shits and giggles. Things just happen out of nowhere, for no reason; the plot did not follow any reasonable expectations, the story just diverged into whatever direction it felt like. As with a lot of paranormal-type YA this year, this book completely fails in delivering an intriguing plot and believable, complex characters. The summary promised me " faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror," but this book only delivered on the former, not the latter.I didn't hate Violet, but I didn't like her character either. She has a personality, that of the annoying kid in your class who constantly quotes obscure authors and factoids at you and unwittingly make you feel bad that you didn't get the reference. Violet is a reader, she loves books, and makes rather pretentious references to them throughout the story. Her twin brother Luke, describes her best."We all know you’re a smug bookworm, sister. Stop showing off." There were seriously so many references to art, poetry, music, literature throughout the book. It would be a fun scavenger hunt for a reader, but for me, it just made me dislike Violet more and think of her as a smug hipster prone to bragging about all the obscure shit she knows that others don't.Jack Kerouac. Aldous Huxley. Faust. W. H. Auden. Wuthering Heights. James Faulkner. Cab Calloway. Zane Grey. An American in Paris. Jackson Pollock. Impressionism. Casablance. Fucking enough already, you're smart, we know that, Violet.Have I mentioned I hate insta-love? Let me re-emphasize. I hate insta-love, and it really is insta-love with River the moment he quite literally swaggers into her life like a swanky 40s Clark Gable. Violet, who has never been in love until now, who has never expressed interest in anyone in all of her 17 years, who is a stark contrast to her "slutty" alpha-male twin brother Luke, takes one look at River and madly falls for him. Their attraction is inexplicable, instant, and incredibly painful for a rational reader to see.I breathed in the warm, boy smell of him, the smell of leaves and autumn air and midnight and tomatoes and olive oil. His face nestled into my hair, and the last thought I had before I fell asleep was that I’d known River all of one day and yet it felt like years and years.There's also a sad attempt at a love triangle, too. Nope, nope, nope. Run, don't walk.River is not even an attractive character. He's good looking, certainly, because god forbid Violet should fall in love with an ugly guy. He's good looking, he even sleeps beautifully, like "a woodland creature or someone under a fairy spell. Sweet and pretty and quiet, with glossy eyelids and mouth in a soft pout." His personality is not at all attractive; in short, he is a fucking psychopath, and yet Violet maintains her delusion for him anyway. It's foolish, and makes me think the less of Violet for yet another failure in her astoundingly dull character.There was no point for the existence of her twin brother Luke, or his pseudo-gf-fuck-buddy Sunshine in the book. The only purpose I can think of is that they serve to be the carnal, sexual foil to the sparkling pureness of the innocent and all-that-is-holy Violet.Sunshine's character bothered me too, the portrayal of her character borders on insidious slut-shaming. Sunshine is an unabashedly sexual creature, she flirts shamelessly with Luke, she shows off her body, particularly her breasts. Even if it's not outrightly stated BY Violet, as the reader, I get the sense that our narrator disapproves of Sunshine's more carnal nature. There's a very holier-than-thou Mary Magdalene feeling of disapproval towards Sunshine.In summation: there was no discernible plot; there is action, but it largely made no sense, and I did not enjoy the book for anything besides the writing.