My Dearest Darkest offers readers a spine-tingling read following a group of young girls as they discover an entity that can give them whatever they desire. However, the risks begin to rise as they find a connection to a missing person case of years before.
A Little Bumpy
My Dearest Darkest is an entertaining read that deals with identity, sexuality, and discovering inner strengths. However, a few bumps in the storytelling highlight some problems with Cottingham’s characterization.
Finch is a new transfer student to the competitive Ulalume Academy and has been home-schooled for much of her entire life. While Finch’s character development was well done, her introduction failed her. Her parents coddle her as she is a prodigy. But even if that is so, her naïve attitude just comes off as unbelievable.
She first encounters Selena and her friend, and she gasps, quite vocally, about the appearance of alcohol in the girls’ hands. Yes, it is possible her parents kept her sheltered. Still, given the inherent curiosity of young minds, it seems farfetched, especially with social media and technology being as evolved as it is. Even when she is at school, being socially awkward is one thing, but it went beyond that and just made her unbelievable.
Excellent Plot Development
However, Finch’s introduction is the only fault in the storytelling. Her character does grow into herself, and she was clearly designed to be a foil for the outgoing Selena St. Clair. Nevertheless, Cottingham did a great job of building up this horror element of the story.
The opening drive from leaving the school sets up the sinister atmosphere for the storytelling. It tells the reader where the story is expected to go without giving up anything. The opening tension carries on throughout the rest of the story before ultimately getting to that moment that will scare the readers. Honestly, about halfway through the novel, I regretted reading this novel in the middle of the night. But that’s a good feeling because it scared me, and I like a good scare.
When a novel grabs you, you want it to stick with you, and even now, that scene is as fresh as the moment I read it. And honestly, the story only got better from there. That rising tension and sense of unease grabs the reader and pulls them in.
But it was not just the horror elements and gothic atmosphere that drew in the reader. My Dearest Darkest is about girls finding their inner strength at its core. Here you have girls who think they are not pretty enough, smart enough, clever, or brave enough. Girls who also struggle with their sexuality. Selena has to come to terms with not only being bisexual but also with being outed without her consent, while the sheltered Finch has to come to accept herself as gay. Both girls’ struggles open the door for them to love themselves and find love for themselves.
There are a lot of undertones with the characterization and development of the story that adds layers to the plot and gives it excellent substance.
Overall, while Finch’s introduction does leave the reader wanting more, the overall plot of My Dearest Darkest is impressive. It has a marvelous plot that does not lose the focus of the characters. A character-driven story and a plot-driven one, minus a few early bumps, My Dearest Darkest is still a strong debut.
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|Pub Date: March 29, 2022||Page Count: 368pp||Age Range: 14 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-1-7282-3641-4||Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire||List Price: $10.99|