The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Publication date: December 22, 2009
ISBN 10/13: 1606840576 / 9781606840573
Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: I listened to the audio book, but I also bought the hardcover
Keywords: Love, Romance, Family, Friendship, Christianity, Morality, Art, Audiobook
Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.
The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.
The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.
How I found out about this book:
I saw the gorgeous cover on goodreads.com when my friends started adding it to their TBRs. I started following the author's Twitter feed, too. Later when Jane needed a suggestion for what to get with her audible.com credits, I suggested this--she listened to it, and said she thought I would definitely rate it 5 stars! She was right. She knows me so well!
I really loved Grace Divine. She's a well-rounded character--smart, artistic, loving and just a little bit self-absorbed--just enough bad to balance out the good stuff and make her a likable, believable young person. The attraction between her and Daniel Kalbi is likewise believable: they grew up together, they have common interests, and their current relationship fairly seethes with conflict. Her father seems to be the only one who wants to help him. Her mother blames him for hurting Jude, the eldest Divine sibling and all-around golden boy. Jude hates Daniel so much that he practically becomes a different person--nothing like the loving, gentle and caring brother she knows. And although Daniel seems do his best to drive her further away--flaunting his bad-boy attitude and occasionally flaring up with open hostility--she can't help but wonder what really happened between him and Jude, and hope that if she can solve her brother's problems, there might be a chance for her to be with Daniel.
Normally, even a tiny whiff of Christian-conservative will make me cringe inwardly--I mean, she's the pastor's daughter--I thought to myself, that's got to be a prominent element in the book. But Despain poses intelligent, meaningful problems for Grace--how to reconcile her own beliefs and the catechism taught by her father with the moral dilemmas presented by Daniel. Do I help someone who needs help, even if my family hates him? Is my duty to my family, to my friend/loved one, or to God? Can I do something that I know is wrong, if I know it is the right thing to do?
Despain likewise balances out the serious themes of her book with well-placed levity--one moment Grace is wrestling with ethics, the next moment changing her outfit ten times before going to see Daniel and wondering why all her clothes look so boxy.
The Dark Divine hits most of my favorite novel criteria clear out to space:
Great plot & twists: The Prodigal Son returns, the daughter of the house must struggle to reconcile her love for him with the jealousy of her righteous older brother. Oh, and he may have a little, tiny, supernaturally-occuring, pre-existing condition...
Excellent mythological/paranormal elements: But because it's a major spoiler, I think you should discover what that is for yourself.
Engaging characters: There's quite a cavalcade of family, friends, and peripheral characters here. My favorite second-stringer has got to be Grace's best friend, Amy. If you listen to the audiobook, you'll get what I mean more exactly than just by reading it--narrator Eileen Stevens does a brilliant job with all the voices, but with Amy's best of all.
Believable dialogue: I think this is much more noticeable in the audiobook--again, Eileen Stevens does a masterful voice-acting job with Despain's words, and adds that extra unnameable flavor to what is already well-done dialogue.
Puzzling circumstances: I hate nothing more than being able to see exactly where things are going, exactly whodunit, exactly what comes next in the formula. Despain kept me guessing until the very end!
Meaningful themes: Young adulthood is all about conflicting priorities, and Grace runs the gamut in this novel: Do I listen to my parents, or do what I think is right? Can I keep a secret, or a promise, or both--or neither? Ultimately, what is the right thing to do, and what consequences can I expect my decision to produce?
I think some readers will find the pacing a little slow at times--after all, Grace does spend a lot of time wrestling with her personal demons. Poorly written introspection will drag a reader right to the edge of boredom, at which point, to save themselves, most readers will put the book down and read something more entertaining. As for myself, I was too engrossed to stop listening--I felt like I was right at Grace's side, looking over her shoulder, hoping and praying she would make the right decisions. I was hooked.
Who should read this?
Well, everyone! You'll like this if you enjoy puzzling over ethical and emotional conundrums, if you like cute guys (good or bad, TDD has 'em all!), and if you like a good balance between humor and serious issues. If you like danger, mystery, and high-stakes (just how much is a soul really worth?), you'll love this book. I thought it was well-written, interesting, and it's not every day I can say that I thought the editor did a great job. So whoever edited this book, high-five! Well done.
I'd recommend this book for readers as young as mature middle-schoolers: there are references to drugs, booze, abuse and other PG kind of stuff. Otherwise, it's pretty clean. I know that sounds contradictory, but you'd have to read the book and see those elements in context to understand why I just said all that. :)
The Dark Divine is Bree Despain's debut novel.
Find the author at breedespain.com, on Twitter @breedespain
Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/tddaudiorev
Find this book on goodreads.com, listen to a snippet at audible.com, or buy it now!
What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!)