Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
Review by Alice Wybrew
Set some years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Darkness Becomes Her follows the story of adoptee Ari on the hunt to find her birth parents. Having always known she was different, Ari discovers that she’s just one of a long line of women destined to die at 21. Determined not to meet the same end, she ventures into New 2, the centre of what’s left of the destroyed city of New Orleans where she meets a host of unexpected – and unconventional – companions.
To publishers’ ever growing dismay, when most people see a book described as ‘young adult’, they immediately think ‘teenager’. And really, who can blame them? I’m certainly one of the many who fall into that category and, considering almost all YA novels centre around moody, hormonal tweens, it really shouldn’t be a surprise.
Judging from the small number of ‘young adult’ novels I’ve encountered over the past couple of years, two things stand out as consistently prevalent: the attitude of the protagonist and the generic writing style of the authors. The gung-ho teens nearly always take cues from kick-ass demon killer Buffy the Vampire Slayer and no matter who’s scripted the achingly linear narrative there’s rarely a distinguishing literary trait to be found between them.
It all boils down to what new ideas authors can inject into a vastly oversaturated market. Julie Kagawa used Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the foundation for her Iron Fey series while Rachel Vincent attempted a twist on Twilight by introducing banshees and grim reapers to her Soul Screamers novels. It makes sense here then that Kelly Keaton uses Greek mythology.
Initially Ari’s adventure is pretty standard supernatural fare. The poster girl for supernatural teens, she’s got attitude, a distinct lack of trust and family stability, and enough identity issues to give even the most experienced psychiatrist pause. Thankfully though her persona and the journey of personal discovery she takes it on doesn’t grate as much as it could, with Keaton keeping the teeth grinding moments to a minimum.
Mixing the likes of Athena and Medusa with vampires, werewolves and zombies is a nice twist that works surprisingly well. Keaton keeps Ari’s plight at the centre of the narrative and, with almost every type of supernatural being represented, makes the reader work to guess what Ari’s secret is. The use of Greek mythology and some of its more colourful characters is creative and imaginative, giving the novel a fresh and involving feel.
While Ari proves an amiable protagonist her weird and wonderful sidekicks vary in effectiveness – the fang-toothed Violet proving particularly enchanting. The biggest let down however is the revelation that the primary love interest happens to be a vampire. An seemingly unnecessary and uninspired decision, the author does attempt to somewhat make up for it by later complicating this fact and ensuring that the bloodsuckers don’t then completely dominate the novel.
Succinct and punchy, Darkness Becomes Her is a quick, easy read with just enough originality to keep it afloat in an overburdened genre.
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