Books,  Reading

Defy the Dark Anthology: A Review

I started reading this last year but finally decided knock it out last month before I got back to writing. Some of the same authors who contributed to GRIM also contributed to this. It’s a YA anthology about things that can only happen in the dark. Potential? Definitely. Good? Let’s just say, I’m writing this review to let me know which stories to skip the next time I pick this up.

In Order of Appearance:

Sleepstalk (Courtney Summer) – Contemporary
– I found the narration a little strange, but once I got into it, I really liked it. The point of view character was very disturbed in a very good way, and the author managed to keep her motives hidden until the very end. ūüôā

Nature (Aprilynne Pike) – Science Fiction/Dystopian
– This isn’t something I would read in novel form, so I was surprised by how much I liked it. I was grounded in the story right away. The plot was really low key and sweet, but I surprisingly didn’t roll my eyes at it.

The Dark Side of the Moon (Dia Reeves) – Um…I think it’s Science Fiction with a touch of Horror
– Totally not the¬†last thing you want to read before going to bed! It was quite creepy. I’m not entirely sure about the genre because it starts off normal enough and then gets really weird, then really creepy, then really otherworldly. But I had a good time reading it.

Ghost Town (Malindo Lo) – Paranormal?
– I didn’t like this very much as I was reading it. The story starts with the ending and¬†then backtracks and explains everything. That in itself is fine, but the first section was too inconsistent to be enjoyable. She was trying too hard, and¬†what little paranormal elements there were felt contrived and came too late.

Eyes in the Dark (Rachel Hawkins) – Contemporary Horror
– This was SO good! Omg! The kind of story I wished I was reading in the dark and ESPECIALLY in the woods before a dying campfire. ^_^ This is exactly the kind of story I was hoping for in this anthology! Tension? Check. Awesomeness? Check. Creepy? Heck Yes! I LOVE Rachel’s writing!! Like so much.

Still Water (Valerie Kemp) – Contemporary with a Supernatural Element
– AH, this was so good, too!! Great concept. Likeable main character. Not creepy at all, but very good. It would make a great novel – I would love to read more! This and “Eyes in the Dark” are my favorites!

I Gave You My Love by the Light of the Moon (Sarah Rees Brennan) – Paranormal
– I just didn’t like this. There was some cliche vampire and werewolf stuff with an MC who was 16 but felt 25 and had the worst name for a teenager ever. It felt very chunky and very long. Made worse by awkward writing, pointless and underdeveloped side characters, lots of big words smattered across the page for no reason, and awkward descriptive passages.

Night Swimming (Beth Revis) –¬†Science Fiction
– I hate not knowing anything about the point of view character. We don’t even get a name, which is very annoying and distracting. I also hated the faux swear words. I don’t care if it’s sci-fi – it was juvenile. Furthermore, I didn’t know what was going on, so I couldn’t care. It just felt¬†way underdeveloped and like it focused on all the wrong things.

The Sunflower Murders (Kate Espey) – Contemporary
– Just when I think I found my least favorite story in the anthology I read this one. This is where the YA voice was starting to get on my nerves. Like, I could not even deal with another stupid-ass, crabby-ass teenager lusting after some other stupid-ass, pointless-ass teenager. It grated on my nerves really bad. And this was really short.¬†Nothing happened. It’s just the main character whining the whole time about what happened some indeterminable amount of time ago. No thanks.

Almost Normal (Carrie Ryan) – Apocalyptic/Sci-fi
– This probably isn’t too fair to the author, but I freaking hate zombies. Like, ugh, zombies. But more than that,¬†I hate hormonal teen crap. There is a time for that, and times when it doesn’t bother me at all, but in this story, it was irritating¬†and nauseating. I didn’t even want to read this. That said, it was really well written, and I probably would have liked it if the zombies were replaced by literally anything else. Totally biased.

There’s Nowhere Else (Jon Skovron) – Contemporary Fantasy
– I wasn’t crazy about the style of this. The¬†guy journaled and recounted¬†what happened since the last time he journaled. It was interesting…until it got super, duper weird. And I mean SUPER. With a mega weird ending that left me not knowing what to think about it at all. Plus, the mom in the story was very unlikeable and strange.

Naughty or Nice (Myra McEntire) – Paranormal
– This was fun. An interesting take on the old Krampus tale. Great descriptions. It wasn’t very realistic – not just the plot, it was also some of the dialogue and character actions – but that’s okay. Fun is fun.

Shadowed (Christine Johnson) – Historical/Paranormal (Medieval)
– Ugh! This was such a great premise! It was so unique and terrifying. And then the story just ended, and I was sad to find myself a little confused and very unhappy. The set up had so much potential.¬†It’s endings like this that make me hate short stories. If it was longer, it would have been incredible.

Now Bid Time Return (Saundra Mitchell – Editor of the Anthology) – Paranormal?/Sci-Fi?
– (sigh) This story didn’t make any sense to me. I hated how I had to suffer through endless details of EVERY BORING BLASTED INCH of what some random dude looked like, who I couldn’t care about, because he was only in two SHORT scenes. I hated the ending. And by this point in the anthology, I’m not only tired of boring-azz love interests, I’m tired as hell of unresolved endings.¬†Just because you only have a few pages, doesn’t mean you can’t resolve the story. This was super long, in a bad way, and a very poor use of space. And really, does NO ONE on earth know how to write a YA without a damn love interest in it?

The Moth and the Spider (Sarah Ockler) – Contemporary
– I didn’t go into this with an open mind. But right after I pleaded for story without a love interest, this was delivered into my hands. It was very low-key and¬†solemn and a little off-beat. It took me a few pages to start liking it, but I liked it by the end, mostly because it was¬†free of hormonal angst, because it wasn’t actually all that great.

Where the Light Is (Jackson Pearce) – Paranormal-ish
– This got off to a very boring, tell-y, and pretentious start. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but it was interesting. Too sappy for my taste, but well done if you like sweet, hopeful stories with weird faery creatures in them.

This Was Ophelia (Tessa Gratton) – Historical
– Okay, best opening line to a story! And then…well,¬†honestly, at this point, I just wanted to be done reading this anthology. I don’t like more than half of the stories, and I didn’t like this twist on Hamlet.¬†I was disappointed to discover she wasn’t actually mad. REALLY disappointed. She was only considered mad because she was rejecting the societal norms of the 1920s.¬†I get it. I appreciate that the girl wanted to be different, but something about it just didn’t gel. I wasn’t buying it. But at least the ending was resolved.

So, I finally got to knock this thing off my to-do list and move on – I started it a year and a half ago. Three stars for the stories I loved. I tried, but I couldn’t rate it any higher. It shouldn’t have taken me so long to read this. It’s less than 500 pages. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for some of these stories. I don’t know what kind of mood I would need to be in. I know I’m done with YA for the year though.


  • Sunflower Michelle

    This one seems uneven in terms of quality–seemed to drag for you. I don’t understand the YA appeal. I didn’t like being a teenager, I didn’t like other teenagers, so I don’t particularly want to read about them.

    • Krystal Jane

      Definitely uneven. I didn’t like being a teenager either. In fact, outside of L.J Smith, I didn’t read anything in the YA category for almost 10 years. I can read it, obviously, but I’ve recently come to realize that I have a really really low tolerance for it. Harry Potter and beta reading aside, I can count the number of YA books that I’ve finished since I started reading it again, 6 & 2 anthologies, including the Hunger Games Trilogy. ūüėź

  • Tonja Drecker

    Considering I’m a chicken, that’s not a book I’d be grabbing. Anthologies are mixed bags, but I think that’s the allure of them–something for different tastes. As to YA, I read a lot of it (Lol! Mostly due to my review blog ūüėČ ) The teens weren’t my favorite years either (a pain!) and I think that’s why I steer as clear of contemporary as I possibly can or any drama that deal with high school. (but then, I’m not a huge contemporary fan for any age group). A lot of the books I read could have the MCs replaced with someone in their 20s and it wouldn’t change much (like the authors purposefully set the story as YA just to hit the big market). The whole ‘love at first sight’ and ‘throw myself over a cliff for the guy right away’ that YA often has does run on the nerves, though. As do airheads who don’t think. And that whole friend drama…*rolls eyes*…seriously, not ALL teens are like that.
    Now, you got a bit of a rant that had nothing to do with your post :0)

    • Krystal Jane

      LOL! I think the rant & this post are strangely related. ^_^ Three of my favorite books in the world are YA, but they don’t have the typical bout of teen drama in them. And they’re definitely not contemporary! That is my absolute least favorite thing to read. Lol!

      Funny enough, I read a fair amount of middle grade. Those are always fun.

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