I’m going to be honest, this really doesn’t belong in “This Week in Vampires”, mostly because there aren’t any vampires in it. I did not find this out until the end, and since I read the whole thing, I’m doing a review anyway. I also have other reasons for including it. This book is good. Well, in comparison to the other TWiV novels. It’s easily the best of the books I’ve read so far.
So this review may be a bit longer than the others, as there were many scenes I liked. And for the first time, I’m shouting SPOILERS, because I think people should read this book.
I choose Super Dark by Tanith Morse because of the opening dialogue.
(Willowy blonde approaches main character)
“‘What are you reading?’
‘It’s George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ I answered.
‘Yes it’s one of the classics.’
‘What’s it about?’ I rolled my eyes. Who didn’t know about the Thought Police, Big Brother, and Room 101?”
Teenagers, usually. Excluding, of course, the students who brag about having read Nineteen eighty-four.
Alright, pretension! I can work with this!
The willowy blonde’s name is Becky, and she has English with the protagonist, Sam, at St. Mary’s High. Sam is new in school, and had secluded herself away from the rest of the students during lunch to read her book. Reminds me of myself in high school, except I lacked (going by my past experience in this genre) that je nais se quoi I’m sure this heroine will possess. I’ll admit, I was very prejudiced against this book, but in my defense, this is the cover:
That looks like a Twilight knock-off if I’ve ever seen one. However, smacking her gum, Becky leans in and asks:
“You’re her, aren’t you?”
Turns out Sam’s at a new high school because she and her mother move around a lot. They move around, because when Sam was seven years old, she and her BFF Elliot Marsh were abducted. Elliot was a slightly chubby, blue-eyed, light haired child, who loved to play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Sam. On a Halloween ten years before the narrative begins, Sam and Elliot were dressed as Batman and Batgirl (points!!!). It was nearing their curfew. Elliot was done trick-or-treating, and said they should go back, but Sam bullied him into going one more block with her.
Then creeper van pulls up, and out pops horror show time:
“He was the most hideous creature I’d ever seen: seven feet tall, with bloodshot eyes, dirty overalls, and a matted beard that hung down to his waist. His bushy brows met in the middle, and his neck and hands were covered in thick, black hair. His lips scared me the most: they were purple and punctured with teeth marks.”
Batman and Batgirl were thrown into the back of the van, where hay was splayed about and a swarthy, creepy woman dressed like a Matryoshka doll, (no, not for Halloween,) was crouching in the corner. Elliot, having always been the protector of Sam, begged the old woman to take only him, and let his friend go. For some reason, they listen, and threw Sam out, driving away, having left her in a cold, unfamiliar neighborhood. After screaming for help and being returned home, Sam became a media sensation as the police and people started a manhunt for the Gruesome Twosome and Elliot. The three are never seen again, and the investigation goes cold. Only Elliot’s parents hold out hope that he is still alive, and Sam keeps in contact with them over the years. Naturally, Sam’s parents just tell her to buck up and deal with it, as there are no therapist in fic——
“I wound up seeing a counselor every month until I was twelve, to help me cope with the situation, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. “
That’s—–huh. I hesitantly reach out for this realistic and intelligent narrative. I wanted to trust it, but I have been burned so many times before.
Sam exercises obsessively, as her counselor recommended it to fight depression. To stop people from recognizing her, she dyes her red hair black, and slouches about in hoodies and track suits. Wait, maybe that had less to do with recognition and more to do with being seventeen.
Despite Sam’s reluctance to be around anyone, Becky worms into her life. They start hanging around a classmate named Frasier Harrison. He’s a nerd who wears thick glasses, has bad skin, and dresses like Duckie from Pretty in Pink. The three are partnered on an English project together, and meet at a public library to work on it.
That’s when things get sexy.
Becky spots a capped, muscular man sitting at a near-by table and chats him up. She brings him over to met Sam and Frasier. His name is Lee: six-feet tall, full lips, white teeth, and a beauty mark,and an art student at a nearby College. Sam is hit instantly and painfully in the vagina with Cupid’s arrow. However, this doesn’t follow the Bead of Blood, “OK, together forever!!!” sentiment. She’s suspicious and unnerved by her physical reaction. Becky invites Lee to go bowling with them later in the week, and everyone parts ways. Later that night, Sam daydreams so hard about Lee she drops her tea mug, which shatters and burns her feet (incidentally, this takes place in the UK, which explains all the casual teenage drinking, but doesn’t explain the absence of the letter ‘u’ in color or favorite). She’s left shaken and confused. Maybe it was the shock of an emotionally stunted teenager getting her first lady-boner, but Sam seems to feel something is just off about the attraction.
This was my first indication that Sam was a critical thinker, and one to assess a situation and the people around her carefully. This was CPR to me after so many books where characters had the depth of reptiles, stumbled onto penises as they appeared, or just announced how they felt.
Anyway Becky drags Sam and Frasier to go bowling with her clique, where Becky waits desperately for Lee to show up. When he does, Sam notices all the other females seem to be as attracted to him as she is. Again, instead of insipid longing, Sam is perplexed and weary. That doesn’t stop her from having a sexy, hands-on bowling lesson from Lee, where her little socially awkward heart beats so fast I find my affection for her growing. Seeing the lesson, however, Becky and all the other girls ask him to do the same, which he does. Sam realizes he was just being a nice guy, and at the end of the night, Becky insist on a ride home from him. Sam dismisses herself as being silly and moves on.
Strange behavior and questions continue to follow Lee. When a drunken Fraiser falls down forty stairs during a classmate’s birthday party, Sam and some other kids rush up to Frasier. He says he thinks his legs are broken. However, Lee appears, and feels Frasier’s legs up a bit, then helps him up. Frasier says he feels fine, and he and Sam leave by Taxi. Sam again feels something is off here, as she was sure Frasier was injured. Frasier then interrupts her by PTFOing onto her shoulder. A week or so later, Frasier shows up to school with clear skin and no glasses. He tells Sam he’s sure his legs were broken: when Lee touched him, he healed, and his face and eye sight have been getting better ever since. Sam dismisses this healing man claim—for now. Then there’s the more worrying statement that Becky had stalked Lee’s art school campus, and no one had heard of him.
Lee seems rather interested in Sam, and takes her on a date to a photo exhibit. Things seem to be going well, and apparently Lee is loaded. He drives a Lotus, and takes Sam to a very expensive restaurant. Sam orders tea, as it’s the only thing she can afford. Lee says it’s all on him, and orders their meal for them. He finally takes his cap off, and he has very dark eyes and hair. He lends in to ask what their doing next, when he frowns and rubs his eye, complaining that his contact is coming out. After returning from the bathroom , Lee is distant and short, deciding to take Sam home. Although feeling confused and a little pissed about the hot-to-cold, (Get use to it, girl,) Sam notices that a black car with tinted windows is following. Not missing a beat, Lee maneuvers to try to shake them off. When that doesn’t work, Lee stops and gets out to confront the car, only for it to speed of. When dropping her off, Lee asks Sam to be his muse: He wants to draw her.
Feeling guilty, since her friend Becky has a crush on Lee, Sam tells neither of her friends when she hops into Lee’s car to go to his apartment for her drawing session. She mention this fact to Lee, which leads to this creepy as fuck dialogue.
“‘So nobody knows you’re with me tonight?’ He emphasized the word ‘nobody’. I shook my head.
‘No, I haven’t told anyone.’ The instant I said it, all of my old paranoia came flooding back. Why was he so interested in whether I’d told anyone? Had I climbed in a car with Jack the Ripper or something?”
Lee replies that he doesn’t bite. They then both laugh, although Sam admits it didn’t seem funny.
They arrive at Lee’s apartment, which turns out to be a penthouse with windows facing the whole city. There are a lot of appliances still in their boxes laying around. Sitting down on the couch, Sam sees a credit card for a ‘Stuart Weaver’. She begins to wonder if Lee is a pseudonym: Maybe that was why Becky couldn’t find anything about him around his campus?
Instead of doing anymore pondering Sam does what so many other heroines should do to avoid frustrating misunderstandings: She straight up asks him what’s his deal.
Lee claims that he doesn’t go to the campus Becky stalked, but that the art school has another one. He then states that ‘Stuart Weaver’ is his father, who’s left him his credit card. These seem like reasonable answers. Then she sees stacks of mail all addressed to different people. He’s new to the apartment, she thinks. He’s still getting previous residents mail by mistake. But still.
He then makes her dinner, saying he’ll keep prawns out of it, as she knows she’s allergic. She stiffens:
“‘Hang on. How did you know I’m allergic to prawns? I don’t remember ever—‘
He cut me off ‘ That day at the restaurant, I distinctly remember you telling the waiter no seafood.’
No, you didn’t. He ordered for you. Lee then sets up to draw Sam, mentioning that he googled her, and read about the kidnapping. He then emotionally manipulates her by asking why Elliot was taken, and she wasn’t. She starts shouting at him about her guilt; that she was still alive, and that he sacrificed himself for her. And she knows she wouldn’t have down the same for Elliot, because “The truth is, I’m a coward. I hate myself.”
Lee hands Sam a tissue, then she has that generic harlequin romance novel longing of having his ‘arms around he’. Here it comes, comfort sex from the guy that made you cry in the first place. However—-
“He stayed at a distance, as if he didn’t quite know what to do with me.”
That sound about right.
She runs into the bathroom to clean herself up, and sees hair dye in the cabinet. She then notices his contact case, and opens them, because that’s what second dates are all about. The contacts are colored brown. She then has one of those critical thinking moments I’ve been so starved for, and I reached out to it with trembling hands:
“Wearing colored contacts wasn’t unusual. But wearing colored contacts together with all of Lee’s other idiosyncrasies— his reluctance to take off his hat in public, his refusal to give out his phone number, dying his hair——“
OK, if you haven’t figured out by now that Lee is Elliot, and something horrible happened to him, then I’m sorry I just spoiled it for you.
Lee admits he got Sam upset on purpose, to capture her ‘true essence.’ When Lee drops her off at home, she has this refreshing inner decision:
“He was unreliable, rude, and emphatically not good for me. Worst of all, he was a tease, and I hated teases. No more mind games——-I was going to take control of my life again.”
However, this is a romance, so we all know that’s not going to happen.
In the mean time, Sam has a lecture about irony in literature class; with the teacher telling the students he hoped they experienced it in real life. Also, Sam’s mother starts dating a man named Greg who seems perfect. A little too perfect. He buys Sam’s mother a expensive candle stick holder of Venus de Milo. He even sits at the end of Sam’s bed and has the ‘I’m not trying to replace your Dad’ speech. Very well said. A little too well.
Anyway, Sam runs into Lee again when she’s at a club with Becky. After sexy-dancing with Becky to make Sam jealous, she runs off and gets groped by some stranger. Sam punches him in the face, and when he’s about to retaliate Sexy McKindofadick saves the day, and runs off with Sam to his apartment. Angry, she demands that he take out his contacts: he has blue eyes. Sam confronts him on what she’s probably known all along: That’s he’s Elliot. He then starts humming the theme to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (See! I did have a reason for the picture above.)
However, he’s still shady about where he’s been, and at first refuses to see his parents, and only relents after much begging. After an emotional reunion with his parents,
Lee Elliot tells them that he’s going to continue to live the life he’s been living.
Anyway, after Sam gets home and settled, there’s a knock at the door. It’s Greg, everyone! Sam invites him in to wait for her mother. But tonight Greg’s being a bit creepy, calling her a pretty girl and stroking her face. He then wants to know what her boyfriend’s told her. She truthfully answers that Lee hasn’t said anything. Greg then turns into some creature with yellow eyes, a protruding and upturned snout, bright green fur, claws, and white horns. Ohhhhh so it’s a werewolf book!
Elliot appears from a cloud of mist, then beats the shit out of Greg, where they seriously ruin every piece of furniture in Sam’s house: Sofa, TV, walls, glass table. Yes, this is what I’m worrying about. Do we really think Elliot’s going to lose?
He doesn’t. Elliot impales Greg onto the Venus de Milo candle holder.
“Greg had been slain by the Venus de Milo: the goddess of love. The same Venus he had used to worm his way into my mother’s heart.
Oh, the irony.“
Ah, a tie-in from before!
Greg wasn’t a werewolf, he was a Gresvelt, which is pretty much a gypsy werewolf. The Grusome Twosome that kidnapped Elliot had been rouge Gresvelt: they used child Elliot to lure passing cars to stop, so they could devour the passengers. Apparently the Gresvelt’s have a culture and laws, and these two were breaking them by consuming humans. They were eventually killed by Gresvelt hunters, and Elliot was taken to the Gresvelt’s secret city. Here, he was given a choice: die, or become one of them. He choice the latter. They had allowed him to leave the city, for a limited time. He had only wanted to see Sam that day in the library, but then Becky came up, and he had to invent ‘Lee’.
The novel ends with Elliot essentially kidnapping Sam to take her back to the land of the Gresvelt, since now that she knows his secret, it’s not safe for her to be anywhere else.
This novel was fun, because the heroine was a realistic character. She didn’t fawn or pine, she thought and considered. She wouldn’t allow herself to be manipulated by others. There were lighthearted moments of teenage drama and stupidity which only added to the likability of the characters, and kept the attention of a book snob such as myself. For once, I was screaming “Just kiss already!!!” instead of rolling my eyes at the protagonist generous sex life. As with “School for Vampire”, I’ll probably give this novel’s sequels a read.