Book Reviews: Under the Dusty Moon and The Dark Days Club

under the dusty moon and the dark days club paper trail diary

I’ve got two new YA reviews for you today! I have been reading a lot of YA lately (so much so that I am craving reading adult fiction right now) and these two have been part of it. One is set in present-day reality in Toronto, and the other is set in 1800s England with a sci-fi twist.

under the dusty moon paper trail diary

Under the Dusty Moon by Suzanne Sutherland, Dundurn Press, out now.

Victoria is 16 in the sticky summertime and she is rarin’ to go. She’s spent her life living under her mom’s shadow; Micky Wayne was the singer of a famous Canadian band called Dusty Moon (this is fictional) and now after some sleepy years, she’s hitting the road again as a solo act. Victoria is both happy and sad about that — while they have a close relationship more like friends, Victoria has intense separation anxiety yet also yearns for independence — so she can’t quite figure out how to feel. It doesn’t help that Micky is definitely not normal mom-mature — aka making Victoria do the cooking and cleaning, and leaving her at home alone when she’s high on pain killers from an accident — so it can be confusing for Victoria. Things are changing in her life and she hasn’t had much experience yet to know how to handle surprises. Nor does she have a great grasp on her emotions, like any teenage girl, especially who has grown up in these circumstances. And yet, a lot of the book is about a budding relationship with a stoner kid from school named Shaun, experiencing sexy things for the first time. It also tackles Victoria’s relationships with her grandma and best friend, though their story lines are pretty thin. Overall, for me, Victoria wasn’t a very likeable character, and I think that can bother readers. It is bothersome for sure, but think about if you liked the protagonist in every book you read — it could start to feel top-heavy. Victoria is selfish, rude and overwhelming. But I chock that up to being 16 and not having a lot of strong relationships, really. We’re supposed to see her growth.

Disclosure: Suzanne Sutherland is a pal of mine; someone who I really admire personally/professionally. She helped start the Toronto Zine Library, which I volunteered at for a few years, and has written two other amazing books: When We Were Good and Something Wiki. She is also the new Children’s Editor at HarperCollins Canada! Honestly I do have to say I liked those two books better, but Suzanne’s writing style is just as strong in Under the Dusty Moon. Sometimes it reads like a love letter to Toronto, when she describes certain streets, parks and restaurants, though that familiarity will obviously only sit with those who know the scenes. But I think those who don’t live here would get a sense of the city’s summer buzz. She also has a few hidden treats in the text that reference past work and her personal life, which I thought was super cute. Suzanne is a fantastic writer and storyteller and I am so excited to be able to watch her career explode. I’m sure many more great books are ahead!

the dark days club paper trail diary

The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman, via Razorbill Books, out now.

When I heard this book being pitched, I believe the publishing house called it “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Jane Austen.” Which is pretty close, though this book can never be as badass as those two gifts to mankind. Not to say this book is bad, just, that’s a tall order! Anyways, that’s what interested me in it, and I’ve been looking for a sci-fi series to fall into, and I love books about strong yet reluctant heroines (see also: Hunger Games). So, here we have Lady Helen Wrexall, an 18-year-old who was born into upper class, but her parents mysteriously died 10 years ago, leaving her mother’s name tainted as a traitor. It’s 1812 in London. She has to present herself to the Queen in her big poofy dress, spend her days with her aunt embroidering or shopping, must ask for permission to do almost anything, and oh, learns she is a direct inheritor of powers that can help save mankind. A mysterious gent named Lord Carlston comes back to town — the rumours say he was banished to ‘the continent’ for murdering his wife — and everyone is on edge because of it. He’s also a distant cousin of Helen’s. Suddenly, Helen finds herself in a lot of situations with Carlston, who takes her under his wing to show her this new world she is destined to help, and she develops an attachment…

I didn’t love this book as much as I’d hoped. The concept of what is evil — these different kinds of monsters who take energy from people by growing invisible whips and tails — just felt kind of either boring or too complicated. It is also almost 500 pages, which felt at least 200 pages more than it needed to be. The saving grace is its protagonist, Helen. Because of her and the time period she lives in, the story is very feminist and Helen is shown as pretty strong-willed, always wanting to do her own thing and not bend to all the different authoritative men in her life. So I did like her as a character, and her house maid/new partner Darby. The Dark Days Club is being made into a series, so I can see how this book is needed to sort of set everything up, so I don’t want to totally write it off yet.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for the ARC of The Dark Days Club and Dundurn Press for the ARC of Under the Dusty Moon. This in no way influenced my honest review.

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