Romancing the Dark in the City of Light
by Ann Jacobus
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: St Martins Press
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
Summer Barnes just moved to Paris to repeat her senior year of high school. After being kicked out of four boarding schools, she has to get on the right track or she risks losing her hefty inheritance. Summer is convinced that meeting the right guy will solve everything. She meets two. Moony, a classmate, is recovering against all odds from a serious car accident, and he encourages Summer to embrace life despite how hard it can be to make it through even one day. But when Summer meets Kurt, a hot, mysterious older man who she just can’t shake, he leads her through the creepy underbelly of the city-and way out of her depth.
When Summer’s behavior manage to alienate everyone, even Moony, she’s forced to decide if a life so difficult is worth living. With an ending that’ll surprise even the most seasoned reader, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unputdownable and utterly compelling novel.
The Eiffel Tower is doing its sparkler thing across the river while the searchlight on top sweeps the entire dark city, over and over. Looking for what? Lost souls. It’s the saddest thing she’s ever seen.
All the glistening lights in Paris couldn’t drive away main character Summer’s dark thoughts. After a string of trouble and expulsions, Summer is sent to Paris, where her mother lives, to finish her senior year of high school and get back on the right track. There’s a ticking clock, too–Summer’s grandparents had a fortune thanks to the family poultry business, but Summer only gets the funds left for her if she can graduate college by the time she’s twenty-two, a deadline that doesn’t leave much room for error.
When I received a physical copy of this book, I read the back cover, which is full of blurbs and advanced praised for the book. One blurb in particular caught my eye. A perfect pick for fans of I’ll Give You the Sun it read. Oh no, I thought, now I’ll be expecting this book to remind me of what is quite possibly my favorite book. How could it ever compare?
But now I can say that something about that blurb is strangely apt. I can’t say I love this book as much as I love I’ll Give You the Sun, and the plots are different, but there are similarities in the writing and in the atmosphere. . . and most importantly, in the hope. If you only read the summary for Romancing the Dark in the City of Light, you might expect a romance-heavy, love-triangle book. . . but that’s not what there is at all. Are there two men who catch Summer’s attention? Sure. But it’s not really about them. It’s about what they each mean to Summer: one who allows her hope, and one that gives her despair.
Generally, Paris as a setting in a novel is meant to be evocative, provoking thoughts of love and beauty. In this book, it stands in stark contrast to Summer’s troubles. It might be thin, but Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is not a light book. It is, at heart, a story about mental illness. Summer struggles with depression and alcoholism throughout the book, and is at times suicidal. It’s hard to read, and Summer is a hard character to read about. Her apathy and general disdain makes it difficult to tough the narrative out sometimes, but in the end it’s worth it. There’s a great tension in this book about navigating how relationships can impact mental health, though not cure them. From the very beginning, I fully believed in Summer’s character and her progression, even when at times it was more of a regression.
The writing style is very beautiful, even when describing Summer’s trauma(which is part of why I think the comparison to I’ll Give You the Sun worked so well for me). It’s literary and descriptive, which really made the contrast between the setting of a shining Paris and Summer’s depression even more stark. Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is one of those books where I reached for my post-its early because I knew there were going to be lines and passages I wanted to mark.
Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is a quiet, heavy book that could be easily overlooked–but it shouldn’t be.
A heavy story that portrays the reality of depression while also offering hope. The setting really works in this book’s favor. While I don’t have the same attachment to this book as I do to my all-time favorites, this is still definitely within the top handful of 2015 contemporaries I’ve read. 4/5 cupcakes.