Dark Song by Gail Giles; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Dark Song

Author: Gail Giles

Published: September 7th, 2010

Number of Pages: 304

Rating: 1/5

Review Sent to Little Brown*:

Though slightly riveting and bordering on the side of tragic, Dark Song failed to capture my heart or nourish my mind. Doubtless, many readers will enjoy it for its intriguing surface qualities and surplus of drama, but I can’t honestly say the book will leave any sort of mark. This story is dark and made me feel dark. So, while I found the premise interesting and the prose pleasant, I was rather disappointed.


I hate rating things 1/5. I really do. It breaks my little bookish heart to say that I didn’t like a book. However, when I find enough factors of a book that give me discomfort or something similar, I have to.

Then again, I believe that Gail Giles did  precisely what she set out to do with this book, and she did it well. I have nothing to complain about concerning the prose or pace. The book is done well. Whether or not you enjoy Dark Song depends solely on what you hope to get out of the reading experience in general. I hope to find people to love within the pages, things that bring out my feelings so that I can slather my heart all over the page, and I don’t mind being taught something – or simply feeling happy as the result of the pretty little words tucked within the book covers.

So, before you read this review, I think it’s important you ask yourself: What do you want from a book?

Ames has the perfect family. The perfect home. Everything seems to play out just as it should, and it’s clear that her family is quite accustomed to their style of living. It’s when one thing goes wrong that their lives seem to fall apart. Her father loses his job.

With the aid of one wild snowball effect, Ames and her family find themselves at the bottom of a figurative pit. Ames isn’t the same person she was before, not even close. And then there’s Marc, the only person who seems to appreciate the Ames she is deep down, who fights for her and defends her against her family. Marc with the gun collection – the great liar (who also scares the heck out of me…).

As Marc pulls her closer to him and farther from her family, Ames finds herself in one heck of a predicament. To me, it was as though she was under some sort of wacky and terrifying spell. The book made it seem as though this was a sudden change of personality, but I thought there were a few hints of Ame’s possibilities – the her she could have been. The dark and dangerous one.

Honestly, I found fault with pretty much all the characters, excepting Chrissy, Ames’s little sister. It’s hard to respect people that can so easily lose touch with their family and crash and burn, when all they really had to do was crash. Not to mention the secrets revealed about many characters as the story developed that made you dislike them even more. I think they all could have used a few gallons of maturity.

Here’s the problem: Reading about a group of wildly unpleasant people that don’t seem to be fixing themselves but spiraling downward isn’t all that enjoyable. Even if you don’t care for them particularly, it always hurts to watch people ruin themselves.

Not to mention that there were a few sexual scenes that disturbed me greatly, and it was after the first one that I began to feel as though this book really, really wasn’t for me. The story seemed to lack any uplifting qualities, things that make me happy or feel as though I’m collecting stories that will keep me company for years. I love that feeling I get when I look at something and memories that aren’t mine are brought to mind, memories of characters’ I’ve read about. It struck me: I didn’t want these memories.

I also thought that things seemed a bit exaggerated. A perfect family to a terrible one. An expansive and wonderful living situation to a pit. The helpful and loving daughter to the dark and hateful one. I don’t know many people that have lived opposite extremes as these people do.

This review is morbidly negative, isn’t it? There are a few things I want to say to the book’s credit.

People are going to enjoy this book. It’s slightly haunting and very tragic, but it’s also fascinating. Sort of in the way an optical illusion is. You’re mesmerized by the craziness of what’s happening in the story. It carries itself well – meaning it flowed neatly from one chapter to another. It’s also full of surprises that I’m sure will shock and disturb readers.

Essentially, I can imagine many people being intrigued by this novel, but I didn’t reap any rewards from it. It made me feel dark myself, and I don’t like feeling that way at all. For that reason, I didn’t enjoy the book.

As I said, it comes right down to one question all readers should ask themselves: What do I want to get from a book?

Click here and here for more positive reviews.

*Thanks for the ARC!

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