Thursday, 1 September 2011
Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes
I'm reviewing Dark Summer, but I could equally have recommended Frozen In Time or Wishful Thinking, her other standalones. Or indeed, her series fiction. They're all great reads.
Dark Summer is the story of Eddie who is forced to spend the summer with seriously annoying, self-serving relatives. His mother is ill and until she's better, he can't go home. His only ally at his aunt's house is Great-Uncle Wilf, who is also long-suffering at her hands.
It is all set to be the worst summer of Eddie's life, until a day out at Wookey Hole caves changes everything.
Eddie meets a girl who is perfectly at ease in the darkness, who appears and disappears at will and seems very interested in Eddie's home life and in Uncle Wilf in particular.
As I live in the West Country it was great to see a local attraction get such a starring role. But I would have enjoyed the descriptions of the caves anyway. Caves have always been gateways in stories: to faery realms, to hades, to chaos and confusion. Sparkes makes full use of the claustrophobic and panic-indusing nature of darkness. I had cause to remember a visit to a cave system in Australia, where I crawled through a very small fissure in order to reach the next cave. For one moment, I felt the crush of the bedrock above me on the small of my back and the insanity of what I was doing was suddenly laid bare. A proper horror moment. Well, this book took me back there. I found myself reading with sweaty palms more than once.
Eddie's discoveries below ground, with the mysterious Gwerren are mirrored by discoveries above ground about just how dastardly his aunt has been. It is a very clever structure and both stories dovetail into very satisfactory and complimentary conclusions.
Dark Summer is a book I would heartily recommend to children who are confident readers, especially those with a taste for mystery and adventure.
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