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Lovely, Dark and Deep by A. McNamara

McNamara, Amy. Lovely, Dark and Deep. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012. Print.

Lovely, Dark and Deep is Brooklyn-based poet and photographer Amy McNamara’s debut novel.  The title, well-chosen and from the last stanza of Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

captures the main character’s mindset perfectly as she distances herself, both physically and emotionally, from her friends and family after a tragic car accident.

Wren Wells, whom her mom still calls by her original name, Mamie, has moved in with her sculptor father, to an isolated house by the sea in rural Maine.  Dealing with immense guilt and grief after surviving the crash that claimed the life of her high school boyfriend Patrick, Wren spends her days yearning to be left alone.  Her father, a famous artist out of touch with his daughter’s life, is at a loss for how to help, and her well-meaning and understandably worried mother asks frequently about when Wren will go to college.  Wren’s friends from her seemingly previous life struggle to understand the changes she is going through and in the process feel alienated.

To pass the never-ending days, Wren runs - a lot. She runs to get away and be alone with her thoughts. And during this time, Wren meets Cal, who is hiding away from his own troubles. The chemistry between them, and the glimpses of joy she feels while with Cal is unnerving to Wren, who believes that she should feel guilty forever about Patrick, who was not given a second chance. Wren needs to make a choice – move on and try again or be lost forever.

The character of Wren is not endearing to the reader; she is self-absorbed and manic, and selfish to the point of frustration. Her actions and of those around her often seem unauthentic. The plot line is slow, yet McNamara’s beautiful prose makes it bearable. Wren is, however, a young, depressed girl coping with deep grief and the story may resonate with young women who have experienced similar situations.

Recommended with reservations: 2 stars out of 4
Reviewer: Debbie Feisst

Debbie is a Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Education Library at the University of Alberta.  When not renovating, she enjoys travel, fitness and young adult fiction.