Title: Lovely, Dark and Deep
Author: Amy McNamara
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: October 16, 2012
Challenge: 2013 TBR Challenge
Summary: Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.
Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP, Amy McNamara‘s debut, is one of those books whose title is basically perfect. Because it fits. This book is all of those things: the writing is lovely, the tone is kind of dark, and there’s lots of deep feels going on. It’s a quiet, intense, emotional book about grieving and the changes death makes in the lives of the people who lived, and it’s a sweet love story about the things that can bring a grieving person back from their inconsolable sadness. I loved it, and will be looking forward to more from Amy McNamara for sure.
First and foremost, LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP is about a young girl, Wren, whose life has been turned on its head following the car accident that killed her high school boyfriend but left her alive to come to grips with the aftermath. Wren basically shuts down, puts all of her big plans for college on hold, and runs off to her father’s house in rural Maine to decompress, recharge, and figure out what to do with herself now that she’s been touched so closely by death. Wren–who was known as Mamie back at home, but who goes by her father’s nickname for her for most of this book–cuts herself off from everyone in her life: her best friend, Meredith; her boyfriend Patrick’s family; she even actively avoids her kind of meddlesome mother (her parents are divorced). Amy McNamara creates a character in Wren that I found really empathetic and real. She struggles with feeling selfish over her actions after the accident, and further with her mental and emotional ability to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. Wren is mired in her grief, and alternately cannot get herself out if she wanted to, or doesn’t think she deserves to get out of it. LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP is about Wren and her internal struggles with before and after, and I found it touching and really…lovely (see? I told you. The title just WORKS).
One of the most important aspects of LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP is Wren and her slow ascent out of seclusion. She begins the book living hermit-like at her father’s house, running and riding her bike to get her our of her own head as often as possible. From the first pages, though, we see her encounter someone who is pivotal in the new normal of her life: Cal Owen, a young guy who almost hits her with his truck while Wren is riding her bike. They’re both broken: Wren emotionally and Cal physically–he suffers from MS, a disease that killed his mother. They really come together in a slow, satisfying way, and they rely on each other for so many things, but they don’t cling. I can’t tell you how nice this was. And anytime I encounter a character with MS, I’m always going to root for them a little more. Someone very close to me has MS and is basically an ass-kicker who doesn’t let it take her down, but it’s hard. Cal’s MS is a little worse, and he struggles more with the low points. But I love how Amy McNamara slowly made Wren and Cal important to each other for things they can’t or won’t accept from other people. It’s not high drama, but it’s special.
There is so much to love in LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP by Amy McNamara. She really does an excellent job getting Wren’s emotions across on the page, and I found them to be raw and real. She not perfect, Wren, nor does she handle the death of her ex-boyfriend in the best ways. But you can always understand why, and that makes things more heartbreaking. I loved the setting–the Maine winter in the woods was the perfect, quiet, stark backdrop–the characters, the feelings, everything. I’m still thinking about what Wren and Cal are up to now, how they’re doing. LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP has characters that stay with you, and that’s what makes me a new forever fan of Amy McNamara.