Title: The Dark Beneath the Ice
Author: Amelinda Bèrubè
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Genre(s) and Subject(s):
YA Paranormal, Mental Health, LGBTQIAP+
Page Count: 336 (hardcover)
Marianne’s life is turning upside down. It all started when she decided to quit dancing, and now it’s come to a boil, with her parents divorced and her mother voluntarily hospitalized. To make matters worse, strange things are happening around her. She’s doing things that she doesn’t remember doing and having recurrent nightmares of herself drowning. Now she needs to figure out what it is that’s haunting her and put an end to it before it gets her first.
This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The story has been called a paranormal Black Swan and I do kind of understand the comparison–both main characters are dancers who start doubting their sanity. But whereas the movie has a frenetic obsessive feel, The Dark Beneath the Ice has a more lonely, laid-back quality to it. It’s a story about Marianne’s insecurities, and other mental health issues, more so than dancing and the pursuit of perfection.
The author does a great job portraying all the little demons that crowd our minds–the voices that tell us we’re not talented enough, interesting enough, good enough. You get scenes that range from awkward and secondhand embarrassment-inducing (Is there an award for the most realistically awkward phone conversations? Because this book has them in spades) to wonderfully poignant ones that tug at your heartstrings. And there are some that really hit close to home–like the “Oh god, does this person really want to be my friend or are they just taking pity on me? It has to be the latter, no one likes me” train of thought that Marianne often falls prey to. Her struggles may not be as overtly dark as Nina’s in The Black Swan, but they’re common ones that many people face and Bèrubè shows them in such a heartfelt way.
“Sometimes I think I’m just not a very good person. You know? Sometimes it’s like any minute someone’s going to read my mind and find out how awful I am inside. Do you ever worry about that?”
All the time, I didn’t say. I’ve never stopped.
We also get a slow-burn romantic subplot between the MC and a girl named Rhiannon (“Ron”), which I thought was very sweet. It’s your “Goth girl with a I’m-tough-shit-but-pry-me-open-and-you’ll-find-a-soft-center attitude gets together with a shy, introverted girl” trope, and I ate it up like a sundae.
My biggest problem with the story was, surprisingly, the paranormal aspect. I went in expecting chills and scares and didn’t find much of either. And I think a large part of that was due to the sheer number of the “ghost” scenes. The first 1/4 of the book is saturated with these hazy hallucinatory sequences that I found myself getting bored of after a while. There were moments here and there where I thought, “Okay that’s nicely creepy” but, for the most part, I just couldn’t get invested in the ghostly happenings.
To sum up: I loved seeing the story weave together mental health elements with the speculative elements; plot-wise, I was left feeling somewhat disappointed.
Copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review