BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA is a dark and beautiful story set in a small town by the sea. Violet White and her twin brother Luke are left alone in their family mansion while their painter parents visit Europe. To make some money, Violet rents out the guesthouse and River West moves in. Violet is awkward in a cute, quirky way, but she oozes confidence she doesn’t realise she has. I liked her a lot. I struggled to decide how I felt about the mysterious River right up until the end, which was nice and how I think the author intends him to be read, so I won’t say any more on him. This book had me under its spell from page one—the moody atmosphere, the small town setting, the gothic scenery, the constant sense of unease. And the artistic references were right up my street! The whole book really did seem like a work of art in itself. This was something close to perfect for me. The twist blew me away. I thought it was faultless. It’s the kind of book that makes you keep reading “just one more chapter” before bed, then reluctantly stopping several chapters later because you can’t keep your eyes open. The kind of book that stays in your mind when you’re not reading and long after you’ve finished entirely. Stunning debut.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
ARC received from Penguin Teen
Release Date: 8-15-2013
Reviewed by Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say: Enchanting, Grotesque, and Utterly Beautiful
Have you ever been completely swept away by the magic of a book? I mean, the kind of swept away that leaves you breathless and aching and dying for more? Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was that book for me. Reading it was like hearing a noise in the dead of the night and getting up to check it out. It’s the fear that lingers after looking into the deepest recesses of the dark and finding nothing, but just knowing, something is there. Lurking. Biding its time. April Genevieve Tucholke’s world is both monstrous and beautiful, with whispers in the dark and monsters in the shadows and stolen kisses in the night. I’ve never read anything like it. Her world has unequivocally and irrevocably placed a shadow on mine, and I can only dream about finding myself, once more, caught between her Devil and the raging sea.
From page 1, I felt completely and utterly immersed in April’s world, and for the hours it took me to read it, I wanted to be nowhere else. Even after I was done, I wanted to plunge head first back into the tumultuous world of secrets and devils. I could smell the sea salt lingering in the humid air, feel the cool breeze wafting in from the cliffs, and feel the thumping in my heart that accompanies unbridled fear. I loved the picturesque town that April built—it was enchanting and dangerous—like the imaginations of Bram Stoker and Emily Bronte and William Faulkner merged together to create a quietly deceptive town with its own brand of madness. I could picture every part of it, from the decaying mansion on the edge of the sea, down to the crunch of the rocks on the paths into town. Wild and treacherous and full of darkness, the town of Echo is truly a masterpiece of all things that go bump in the night.
I absolutely adored Violet, our main character. She was off-kilter and perceptive, and I loved how she could sit outside in the sun and read Hawthorne and quote poems and see right into someone’s soul. I felt her turmoil and her desires, and I loved watching her struggle with her own sense of right and wrong. I loved watching her come to her own conclusions about River, and more than that, I loved how she pushed aside truths for her gut instincts. I felt each emotion as it poured out of her. I loved her strange sense of fashion (wearing her dead grandmother’s younger clothes), and how she didn’t care about what anyone else thought. She was strong and confident, but allowed herself to be scared when she really needed to be scared. I loved everything about her—she is definitely a heroine that I will long remember.
And then there’s River West. His name just rolls of the tongue with spice, but you know he’s one of those spices that will leave your mouth burning for hours. He’s hot and cold, up and down, and the secret that he holds is definitely a doozy. But with a name like River and a smile that could light up the night sky, who cares about deadly and terrifying secrets? I loved River because he is one of those perfect gothic men that walk a fine line between good and evil, but when it comes straight down to it, you just don’t know which side he favors. He reminded me of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights because he could be the cruelest of cruel with a smile on his face, the Devil in sheep’s clothing. Yet, there is something about him that makes you want to wrap your arms around him and never let him go. He’s the bad guy that you can’t help but fall in love with, he’s the troubled guy that can’t be fixed, he’s the guy your mother warned you about. He’s the Devil that holds your hands and kisses your cheeks and makes you want everything and nothing and then everything again. He’s Trouble, and don’t you just love it?
I also loved April’s minor characters—Jack, Sunshine, and Neely. They each had a personality all their own, and they brought life to the story. They all fit perfectly into this gothic tale of love and horror, and none of them will escape unscathed. Watching their horrors and triumphs and losses was heart-breaking and amazing.
It’s been a while since a book was able to worm its way into my heart of hearts and put up for a permanent residence, but this book has done it. It’s the perfect mix of horror and romance, and I just couldn’t get enough of River and Violet. April’s writing was gorgeous in every aspect, and she brought the small town of Echo to both life and death. T.S. Eliot wrote, “Between the idea and the reality Between the motion and the act Falls the shadow.” I can’t help but think this describes April’s world perfectly—a place that exists between now and then, between love and hate, between life and death. A place that exists in the shadows, in the dark and with the Devil.
“There’s truths and then there’s truths, Violet. And some damn truths shouldn’t be spoken out loud, or the Devil will her, and then he’ll come for you. Amen.” PG 4
"People said time was relative, and I guess that explained why my life before River felt line a handful of seconds--brief flashes of small events that added up to very little. But my life after River was a three-volume saga. Epic. With quests and villains and murderers and unsatisfactory resolutions and people being torn apart." Pg 364
"River leaned over me, wrapped his fingers around my neck, and pulled my ear to his lips. "I'll make you dinner when I get back, and afterward, I'll be answering questions,' he whispered." Pg 132