Genre: YA Thriller
Ebony ‘Black’ Marshall is cursed. At least, that’s the rumour. Three of her closest friends died in tragic accidents. Not everyone believes Black had something to do with the deaths, but even still, the only real friend she has is Ed, her dad’s assistant at the water plant where Black works after school. Which is why she’s surprised when Aiden, the new kid in town, invites her to the year twelve formal.
Aiden is kind and funny and genuinely into Black, to the point where she starts to believe that maybe—maybe—her luck is turning. But the night of the formal ends with Aiden in intensive care. While Black potentially saves him—if he ever wakes up, that is—plenty of people believe that Aiden is the newest victim of Black’s curse. Soon rumour turns to threat, and Black isn’t merely shunned by the people of Dainsfield but actively hunted.
If she wants to live, Black will have to delve deep into the town’s past and uncover a secret buried almost two decades before.
Black is a thrilling and sinister read about the monsters we become when fear gets the better of us.
Fleur Ferris’ debut novel, Risk, was one of the first books I reviewed here on Lectito. I really enjoyed the book, and Fleur was kind enough to answer my questions in an author interview as well. So when I heard that she had a new novel out, I was uber keen to have a read. And I have to say, I enjoyed Black even more than Risk.
While Risk is a great read, it felt a little ‘safe’. It deals with the disappearance of a Melbourne teenager who vanishes after a date with a guy she meets online, and is narrated from the perspective of her best friend who sets out to help other teens manage their online risk. It prompts important discussions about risk management and victim blaming, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s an issue-based book. My one criticism was that it’s a touch heavy-handed. Black is a much darker story. Pun intended. While it explores what can happen when people follow their beliefs to irrational extremes, Ferris’ approach is more subtle and at no point did I feel I was being Taught A Lesson.
Far from it. Black is dead creepy and packed with drama—it reminded me of the horror novels and films I binged on as a kid. I’d say the target readership is also a little older. In Risk, the main characters are fifteen, whereas Black is almost eighteen, and the thrills are pitched at high schoolers and older. Ferris combines spooky foreshadowing, thrilling chase scenes, a love triangle and a truly horrifying climax with a timely exploration of the way fear divides and dehumanises.
I don’t know if it’s because 2016 is an election year both here and in the US, or if we’re all going crazy, but it seems that the media has an increasingly strong ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ approach, and we’re all falling over ourselves to jump onboard. The political has become extraordinarily personal. It feels like someone only needs to do or say something thoughtless or mildly offensive or to simply have the audacity to voice an alternate point of view for us to cry ‘witch’. As a society, we’re becoming scarily rigid, self-righteous and closed-minded about our beliefs and allowing our fear to get the better of us. We may be living in an age of terror, but that’s no excuse. I enjoyed Black for its characters, plot and ‘clean’ writing, but most of all I appreciated the way Ferris shows how easily fear twists coincidence into sinister Design and how quick we are to see the worst in people, especially when we believe we’re acting out of love and goodness.
I’d highly recommend Black and can’t wait to see what Ferris comes up with next.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Australia for providing a copy of Black in exchange for an honest review.
Are you interested in writing YA? I’ve teamed up with Kill Your Darlings to produce ‘Introduction to Writing Young Adult Fiction’, an online writing workshop designed to equip aspiring YA writers with the skills and support to hone their craft and get to work.
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