The Darkhouse by Barbara Radecki
Published by Dancing Cat Books
The Darkhouse is the first book by Canadian voice actress Barbara Radecki. The Darkhouse is a well-described, well-written and intense book about a teenager named Gemma, as she goes on a mission to uncover the truth about her family.
Gemma, the protagonist, is a 16-year-old girl that lives a lonely life on a small island in New Brunswick with her dad and no kids her age. When a woman comes to the island that Gemma suspects she might be her mother, it inspires her to try to figure out who her real mother is. As she searches for the truth about the woman, she discovers dark secrets and she begins a mission to reunite with her true family.
The book starts slowly as Gemma describes the island and the other characters that inhabit it. She talks about how lonely she is and how none of the other islanders are kids. The book is full of themes about families and small communities. Her fellow islanders are like the family members that she doesn’t have; Peg is like her aunt, while Scotty is as a big brother and Aidie is her imaginary friend to keep her company. Her dad, Jonah, isn’t really around much as he works all day in his science lab.
Once the rising action starts the intensity of the book begins to increase and the story starts to develop. The inciting incident is like a bomb going off–everything in the book changes: there was suddenly suspense and a threat of danger and I wanted to keep reading. When her dad gets stuck on the mainland, she investigates her dad’s lab only to find out he has another top-secret lab that no one knows about. She finds out the truth about everything and sends herself on a dangerous mission to be where she belongs. While reading I would find myself clinging to my seat just wondering if Gemma would get caught and whether my own family has any dark secrets.
This book is meant for teenagers. It consist of fairly simple language but deals with some complex concepts. The book also deals with kidnapping so it may not be suitable for younger kids. Teenagers might be able relate to Gemma because of her age and her teenage thoughts about what she will do for a living in the future.
The book uses very descriptive language and it is easy to imagine the scenario the protagonist is in. When I was reading about Gemma repelling down a rock cliff, I found it particularly easy to imagine the senorio Gemma was in and how she felt:
“Then I see the mistake I’ve already made. I freeze, squatting against the rock, to assess the situation. When I looped the rope through the rappel device, I put it on backwards, threading the rope through the smooth side instead of side with teeth. Now, if I lose my hold, nothing will stop me from free falling.”
I could also really get the feeling of the small island she lives on. The author does a good job of evoking the boredom and loneliness of her life without any kids her age.
When reading this book it reminded me in some ways of Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. Both books are about a teenager who uncovers a mystery. Although the mysteries in each book are completely different the protagonists are similar in age and both solve a mystery. In both books the kids spend most of their time by themselves and don’t really ask for help from older or more skilled people. They would rather do it by themselves. This reminds me of a lot of teenagers I know that do not want to go to anyone for help and instead want to figure everything out on their own which usually ends up worse then if they told someone.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The beginning was slow but before long I really got into the book and wanted to read more.This book was well-written and I especially enjoyed all of the detailed descriptions. For the author’s first book I was really impressed. I could definitely relate to this book as I am around the same age as the protagonist. After reading this book I would definitely recommend it to others and will be sure to read Barbara Radecki’s next book if or when it comes out.
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