Friday, 11 April 2014

LGBT April: A Kiss in the Dark, Cat Clarke




Pages: 370
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: 3rd April 2014
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Title by this Author: Entangled, Torn, Undone

When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant.

Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy – everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend.

Alex can’t help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little na├»ve…

But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.

Okay, so A Kiss in the Dark has pushed me into doing something I never do: write a spoiler-filled review. It would be impossible to talk about without giving things away, so count this as your warning that if you haven’t read A Kiss in the Dark, spoilers lay ahead...

With every one of Cat’s books I go in with expectations of a broken heart, a mind-blowingly good story, relatable and realistic characters and usual some disbelief/rage/desperation. A Kiss in the Dark delivered on all fronts.

The summary of the novel promises a huge revelation of a secret and those typically come out near the end of the novel, but Alex’s secret was dropped around a chapter or so in. It became the grounding of the novel. Alex is actually a girl. I had my suspicions that it may be along those lines as I had seen it on LGBT reading lists and so on. I did wonder why it wasn’t in the blurb is it was revealed so early on, however.

Alex’s unwitting deception of Kate made me nervous and I felt a major sense of doom as their relationship progressed and the lies built up. Although Alex was wrong in what she was doing, I felt like I understood why and I was sympathetic towards her. She was desperate and scared and happy and in love and she didn’t want to put that at risk; she knew exactly what the reaction would be if she told the truth. Even with the constant reminders of Alex’s attempts to hide her sex, I kept forgetting that she was a girl. Then I realised why: because in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really matter. They were in love and the relationship they had was sweet, endearing and so, so perfect. Love is love. Cat Clarke delivered blow after blow with this underlying thought, but without me really realising.

A Kiss in the Dark is written in an unusual format, but it really, really works. It starts with ‘Before’ and continues onto ‘After’, and with the change in timeline comes a change in narrator. I really didn’t expect to hear from Kate, but I think it was essential to the story. If Kate had done what she had (which ENRAGED me, by the way) and I was reading from Alex’s perspective, I think that anger would have blinded me throughout the rest of the novel. Instead I began to understand Kate’s decision. In a way. She was scared, desperate, hurt and betrayed. There was no thought in at first, just a way out of her feelings. It lead Cat Clarke into exploring society’s view of LGBT teens, cyber bullying and everything surrounding sexual assault.

Cat’s writing, characters, crazy-involving plots and tendency towards emotionally traumatising her readers captured my heart once again. A Kiss in the Dark is powerful, touching and eye-opening. Absolutely gorgeous.

Thanks to Quercus for the review copy.

Sophie

4 comments:

  1. I'm not at all surprised that you went down the spoiler route. The secret is revealed at the end of the first chapter or so, WHYYYY does it remain vague in the product description? It was actually painful to write a non-spoiler review of this book. And I love it so much it deserves to be one of those books people shout about...

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  2. Thanks for spoiling this, Sophie! I've been wondering about what the secret was. Now I'm more interested in reading A Kiss in the Dark than I previously was. Slightly worried though. There are professionals who promote LGBTQ novels who were concerned with Undone and Falling because of how the LGBTQ characters were treated in those novels, the outcome for them, and this sounds like it might be another one with an iffy ending. Just don't want it to be another book where there's a crappy ending for the gay character. I'll have my fingers crossed, but considering your review, my hopes aren't too high :(

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  3. Part of the power of this book, for me, was that the emphasis was on people - not labels. If you go into it with an open mind then you'll get the most out of it. I fell in love with Alex and Kate - even though they both did bad things - and most of all with the powerful message of hope that Cat Clarke delivers. I didn't mind that the blurb was vague - I hope people do read it expecting a conventional romance, it deserves a very wide readership.

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  4. Great review - though from the comments it looks like I'm not the only one a little frustrated by the blurb potentially limiting the broad, big conversation this book demands and deserves. I loved it, and I hope it gets read and interpreted on its own terms. I see lots of talk online about how at last we're seeing more of the L and the G of LGBTQ in YA, and how we desperately need more representation of the rest. For me this is the first time I've encountered a genuine 'Questioning' narrative, for that as an identity to be given real attention and status, and I was thrilled to find that handled which such sensitivity and care - within a truly hook-y, engaging, moving chunk of UKYA romance. Important, thought-provoking book.

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