Friday, January 2, 2015

A young adult novel with an edge

Dark Art

By Tim Waggoner


Publisher:  Past Curfew Press

Pub. Date: December 7, 2014

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sarah Pennington has the misfortune of being paired with the local weird kid, Ben Phelps, in her high school drawing class. Ben turns out to be a talented artist and he shows her a drawing of a sinister man with knifes that he calls Shrike. Sarah is at first leery of Ben but drawn to him even when she discovered he has anger issues and may be hiding some dark secrets. But when Shrike starts appearing in her dreams, and is attacking people she knows in real life, she and Ben has to comfort the evil to find out where it came from and how to destroy it.

It should be mentioned up front that the plot of Dark Art may sound a little too close to that of Nightmare on Elm Street and Shrike to that horror icon Freddy Kruger. Yet the similarities leave quickly as you read Tim Waggoner's exciting young adult horror novel. The big difference is that, unlike Freddy, Shrike is a product of young Ben's own emotions and difficulties in dealing with his anger. In this, the author has create a YA novel that is not only fun to read but deals with a essential part of growing up into adulthood; understanding and expressing your emotions. Waggoner does this without one ounce of preaching, expressing the issues through the action and tribulations of the two main protagonists.

The strength of the book lies with the characterizations of Sarah, Ben and Shrike. Ben and Sarah comes off real and mired in teenage angst, the good kind and the bad kind. Young readers will find themselves able to identify with them. Shrike is the boogeyman but he is a monster created of real and normal fears resulting from trauma and coming-of-age stress. The three main characters being so deftly drawn heightens a minor problem that the rest of the characters seem much like bit players simply there to serve the plot. It is not that big of an issue though, as we are caught up with Sarah and Ben's own dilemma so much that we can forgive the two dimensional backup. However when it comes to the action, Waggoner has it moving like a train on fire causing the reader only a little time to catch his breath before moving on.

So Dark Art is a sturdy contender in the YA horror/fantasy genre giving the readers a harrowing tale while adding a little insight into their own emotional makeup. There is violence in the story. It's a real live horror story not some Meyers hack job, but the violence is well done with relevance to the tale. However, the audience for this book should be considered. Dark Arts may be a fantasy but it deals with reality and real life issues. Its themes, which involve both death and suicide, may be too much for the Pre-teens and Tweens but should be fine for the mid-teens which I think it was meant for. Come to think of it. many of those tweens and teens are already gulping down King novels. So who knows?

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