Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Between #1) by April Genevieve Tucholke
You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.
Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?
Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery… who makes you want to kiss back.
Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.
This book is… it’s certainly something else. It kinda sticks to the ribs, in a way. I’ve read many a book in my time that I’ve gone into expecting to hate and then – lo and behold – I loved it, or, conversely, I expected to love it then ended up hatin’ it. I’m not sure which category Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea falls into.
There’s a certain ambivalence I began to feel at the thought of this book and its snobbish narrator, Violet White. She’s a 17-year-old girl livin’ alone with her brother in some southeastern state in an empty mansion by the sea, alone because Freddie (their grandmother) has died and their artist parents are off doin’ artsy things in Europe.
That is, until a boy named River West shows up, wanting to rent out their guestroom, and the whole town kinda simmers in a pot of slow and countless delusions leading to death for quite a few.
In a lot of ways, I’m enamored with this book. It’s certainly atmospheric and definitely kinda creepy (sorta), but it’s just so much of the same. There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a YA PNR. The only thing that I think sets it apart is the moral ambiguity of its characters – and not just the love interest, as is usually the case.
Violet, herself, is pretty open to the idea that real evil exists, as per Freddie’s warnings that you don’t fuck with God and the Devil, apparently, and that she must be good because she’s always been good, but maybe she really isn’t after all.
Although I’m kinda loath to admit it, I liked the writing – at least, more so than what’s come standard with other YA PNR novels – and, ugh, the darkness. There’s darkness all throughout this book. I wanted to chew it up and swallow, ingest it.
Note: This book kept me up at night. Not because it’s scary (it’s not), but because I couldn’t find a comfortable spot to stop and so I’d just keep reading… and reading… and reading… ’til about 0330.
Also note: Though I finished this book in only two days, it’s very slow and almost meandering. Half of why I’m not sure how I feel about it.
And, it’s labeled “gothic” and “horror,” but those aren’t things I’d exactly apply to this novel.
All in all, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is different enough that it captured me in ways that most books don’t, and if you think you’ll be even a little interested, I’d encourage you to pick it up and give it a chance. You may find yourself steeped in shadows well into the night, just like me.