What They Do in the Dark by Amanda Coe

What they Do in the DarkThis book starts out with the introduction of the main characters: Gemma, Pauline and Lallie. Gemma is a privileged child in a semi-broken home, whose life spirals from fairly normal to very odd in a short period of time. Pauline is from a terrible home, with no consistent parental figures, and lives in abject poverty. She occasionally engages in prostitution for money, but this fact is presented as a nonchalant, everyday occurrence. Lallie is a child movie star, on the brink of stardom in America. Lallie represents the dream life for a pre-adolescent, but her adult chaperons are mostly concerned with living through the vicarious experiences she provides, and she is rather alone. Her movie role is that of a child being molested, somewhat knowingly, by a pedophile.

As most books featuring young adults, the subjects are speaking in their own voice, which is pleasant. Amanda Coe is clearly a good writer, but there were elements within that failed to make this book worth a recommendation.

The story proceeds with some ancillary character details, some of which make sense (such as the scenes involving Lallie, the child star whose movie is shooting in Gemma and Pauline’s hometown). Other characters, like Lallie’s agent, also make sense. But the inclusion of the sexual encounters and drug abuse of the producer, Quentin, is odd and not useful to plot development. Presumably she represents the potential future of these three young girls – “desensitized to violence and sex at a young age, young woman becomes apathetic and addicted.” But it serves no purpose other than to be annoying.

You start to think you know what will happen, but then the ending takes a very dark, unexpected and not too agreeable turn in the last twenty or so pages. I felt the ending was hard to follow and unpleasantly discordant with the rest of the book. The subject of the abuse, Cynthia, is only minimally mentioned throughout the novel, and while Gemma appears to be sympathetic to her, this is lost in the last scene as Gemma and Pauline take bullying to the extreme.  It felt like the author beat around the bush about the action, by using dialogue to convey the horror of what’s going on, to the point that you aren’t sure what’s even happening. I had to re-read it twice – cringing all the while – to feel I followed the action. Then I wanted to scrub my brain with Lysol and forget I read it. I’m still not sure what the theme of this book was supposed to be. “Men are perverts and secret child molesters. But young girls can be too?” It was just plain weird and I would NOT recommend this book, especially to anyone under the age of twenty. Not for younger audiences or anyone looking for happy endings.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Emily Clifton Stump, former SMCM student in Physics
Rating:  Not Recommended

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