If you took some of today’s hottest genres in Young Adult fiction, mixed them together and added a heavy dose of Greek mythology, the results would be Kelly Keaton’s Darkness Becomes Her, the first in a new paranormal trilogy.
The book tells the story of 17-year-old Ari, who’s always hated her strange teal eyes and her silver hair that can never be cut or changed (despite her best efforts). After growing up in the foster care system, Ari goes in search of information about her mother, who she is, and where she came from. Her search leads her to New 2 — what used to be New Orleans, before the city was destroyed by a pair of powerful hurricanes. (The book is set in the not-too-distant future). It is in the rebuilt Crescent City where Ari uncovers a world where the paranormal is common and a place where she may finally fit in. The only problem is that the closer Ari gets to learning the truth, the more she puts herself (and her new friends) in danger.
Darkness Becomes Her offers a unique and compelling blend of themes from various genres: the supernatural, southern gothic, dystopian and Greek mythology. And while at times, it can feel as if the stability between all these elements is teetering precariously, Keaton deftly maintains a delicate balance throughout the entire book. She makes the chaos of this wild combination work, and the result is a refreshing tale for readers of YA paranormal lit.
Keaton’s also done an excellent job of writing a book that both establishes what’s to come in the series, while also standing on its own in terms of action, drama and character development. It’s not just an introductory book. There’s a lot going on, and it’s all quite compelling. Darkness Becomes Her offers plenty to make this book alone enjoyable, while also piquing the reader’s interest for future books.
And in a world where the YA shelves are packed with paranormal stories, Keaton makes her mark. I think it’s partly due to the meshing of genres she employs, but I think a lot of it has to due with her use of Greek mythology.If you’ve done any sort of study into Greek mythology, you’ll have fun following the clues and figuring out Ari’s secret before she does. And when the truth is revealed, it sets up that many more intrigues and challenges ahead for the next books in this series. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I LOVED the way Keaton incorporated one story in particular into the heart of this book. It’s new, unique and brilliant!
There’s one other element about Darkness Becomes Her that was a real high point for me, and that’s the fact that it’s a much more mature YA book than many on shelves today. Yeah, it’s got that “14 & up” warning (which for some parents can be a turn-off), but as an adult reader, it’s refreshing to find a character in YA that is so mature. Ari is 17 in this book, but she’s only a few months shy of 18 and she carries herself much more like an adult than a teenager. Sure, she’s still figuring some things out and she definitely makes mistakes — but it’s nice to see a character mature enough to recognize and learn from her mistakes independently. Ari is a well-rounded character, with a tough past (she’s experienced some horrors in her youth) and a unique outlook on life. And much like my favorite vampire slayer Buffy, Ari knows how to kick serious butt. Not because she’s a supernatural beastie … but because her good foster parents taught her self-defense! How cool is that?
And of course, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t at least mention Sebastian … okay, sure, Ari falls for him a little fast, but so did I. And once you learn his secrets, you start to understand the reasons for his immediate charm. He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, and I have a feeling we’ll learn lots more about Sebastian and his family in books to come. Plus, Sebastian’s just one member of a very colorful and (for the most part) endearing cast of supporting characters. I think it’s this collective group of individuals that help make Ari an even more enjoyable character. She’s not the only one who’s interesting; she’s surrounded by a very lush and detailed world, characters included.
Darkness Becomes Her is in stores on February 22nd.