I received a free advanced copy of this novel in exchange for the review.
It has been a long time since I have be unable to finish a book (not including library books), but this one has broken my streak. I could not finish it.
Nine Candles of Deepest Black follows 16-year-old Paige and her friends as they seek to gain their deepest desires by way of Witchcraft that they do not entirely understand. The YA horror novel has an interesting premise, but fails to live up the hype its own synopsis.
Paige is pale with long, black hair and purple eyes. Major scares mainly involve tropes that were popular in late 90s to early 2000s horror films – including spiders crawling out of people. The humour primarily involves nods to outdated references to pop culture that are several years old when the book seemingly takes place within the last year or two based on the cell phone technology they have. The characters are tacky stereotypes of several kinds of high school girls yet they are all “the outcasts” – even the rich, blonde one who is referred to at one point as a Barbie doll. Even the way the girls speak feels dated and unnatural.
However, my biggest problem with the novel, and the reason I could not bring myself to go further than the half-way point, is the sexual implications.
Several times throughout the first few chapters, author Matthew S. Cox keeps referring to the girls’ breasts – a word that no teenage anything thinks of when referring to boobs outside of a medical context. Along with that, there is a scene where Paige is having a “nightmare” while in the shower and is attacked by sentient branches while entirely naked. Most people in this age bracket might not see the similarities to the scene in the Evil Dead films (both the 1983 and 2013 versions) when the lead girl is sexual assaulted by the trees, but I caught it and it made me feel more than a little uncomfortable. The most upsetting, however, was when the girls of the novel go to a frat party and one of them – despite being warned by the clairvoyant Paige – is roofied and then sexually assaulted. The party had no point to the story outside of giving Paige another reason to have a vision of something terrible coming in the near future, and given that all of the girls are 18-years-old at the most, I found it an entirely inappropriate scene to include in a YA-horror novel. Rape is not a plot point. Ever.
On top of all of this, Paige’s mother is borderline abusive until twelve or thirteen chapters in. Typically behaviour is meant to add more “backstory” or “motivation” to the character experiencing the abuse, but – much like the party scene – does not seem suitable or even approached in the appropriate manner. Yes, Paige’s mother is grieving the death of her other daughter, but that is not an excuse for her behaviour.
The bottom line on this one is that there is a lot in it that feels very irrelevant to the plot.
I can usually get through a book when I have an obligation to fulfill, but I was just too uncomfortable to push through to the end of this one.
Author: Matthew S. Cox
Published: September 15th, 2016
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Synopsis: Almost a year after tragedy shattered her family, sixteen-year-old Paige Thomas can’t break free from her guilt. Her mother ignores her, doting on her annoying little sister, while her father is a barely-functioning shell. He hopes a move to the quiet little town of Shadesboro, PA will help them heal, but Paige doesn’t believe in happiness anymore. On her first day at school, a chance encounter with a bullied eighth grader reawakens a gift Paige had forgotten, and ingratiates her into a pack of local outcasts. For weeks, they’ve been trying to cast a ritual to fulfill their innermost desires, but all they’ve done is waste time. After witnessing Paige touch the Ouija board and trigger a paranormal event, the girls are convinced another try with their new fifth member will finally work. Once the darkness is unleashed, it’s not long before they learn it will give them exactly what they asked for―whether they want it or not.