Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus
Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: October 6, 2015
Target Audience: ages 14 and up (Young Adult)
Full Disclosure: I received an ARC from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.
Paris! What a perfect setting for a novel with a perfect title. Summer Barnes has a new-found reputation for being a bit on the wild side, but the prim and proper world of wealth she comes from (including her absentee mother) wants her to straighten herself out. Since a hefty inheritance is hanging in the balance, Summer decides to get on board with the plan to finally graduate high school and go to college.
Her second try at senior year lands her at an international school in Paris where she can start over. Although passing school is on her to-do list, she’s also quite focused on finding a boyfriend — because she quite literally wants a hand to hold in life. The symbolism may be obvious at times, but it feels genuine and gives us an honest glimpse into a troubled teen’s heart and mind.
When Summer befriends (hello love triangle) two very different boys — the predictable good boy vs. bad boy — she is tempted by different aspects of both and unsure of which path to follow. You won’t be disappointed with her tumultuous personal journey — it will pull at your heartstrings and help you understand the complicated emotions (and the resulting decisions) that arise from loss, substance abuse, and self-loathing.
Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is a thought-provoking coming-of-age story with some dark corners and unpredictable twists and turns. The suicide prevention resources and discussion questions in the back of the book are a wonderful addition to a YA novel which touches upon so many important issues and will hopefully help to shed a light for many.
Jacobus’ short chapters with tight dialogue keep the story moving and compelled me to read the entire novel in just two days. I admire her ability to weave complex topics like alcoholism, suicide, depression, and issues with body image into the novel in a way that felt natural. Summer is a smart, layered protagonist, seemingly aware of her own flaws and wary about her place in the world — and I wholeheartedly rooted for her along the way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (blurb below from St. Martin’s Press)
Ann Jacobus has lived in Texas, Arkansas, a castle in Austria, Bahrain, Prague, and in the City of Light itself—Paris. There, she spent many happy hours writing in corner cafes, navigating the dark labyrinthine Métro, and hunting for mysteries in museums, monuments, and flea markets. She is currently based in San Francisco, CA, and volunteers weekly at a suicide hotline. For more information, visit her website: annjacobus.com.