Author: Robin Wasserman
Publish Date: September 10th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand . . . except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn't even know why she killed—or whether she'll do it again.The Waking Dark. I misread this title the first time I saw it for, The Waking Dead. I believed this to be about zombies, and even though I’ve enjoyed any zombie fiction I’ve come across, this didn’t catch my eye at first. About 2 times a month, I’ll receive an email about the Random Buzzers updates and who is “visiting” the website that week/month. This particular email happened to be Robin Wasserman for her upcoming release, The Waking Dark. She’s also the author of The Book of Blood and Shadow which is on my five mile long TBR list. One of the great things about Random Buzzers is that they have sample chapters from books that they are promoting, and this happened to be the one time I chose to click the link and download the sample. It was the first few chapters and it was scary. “They called it the Killing Day” because every character we’re introduced to in those first chapters end up dead, with the exception of 6 characters that comprise the list of general narrators in the story. Daniel Ghent, Jules Prevette, Jeremiah West, and Ellie King all witness scenes of homicide and suicide, but Gracie Tuck witnesses Cassandra Porter murder her little brother, attempt suicide, and live not knowing why it happened. Cassandra Porter, Cass, is the remaining murderer of the Killing Day and she has no answers for any who seek them.
Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander's, Kansas—something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. Jule, the outsider at war with the world; West, the golden boy at war with himself; Daniel, desperate for a different life; Cass, who's not sure she deserves a life at all; and Ellie, who believes in sacrifice, fate, and in evil. Ellie, who always goes too far. They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town—and in themselves.
The narrative was slow at times, but I enjoyed it. Fast moving plots and action scenes are exciting and help move the plot forward, but sometimes I like being invited into the story before the plot unfolds and the answers are revealed. Besides the fact that the story opens with the scenes of each of the murder/suicides, it takes a while for things to heat back up. We’re introduced more deeply to the town of Oleander, Kansas and its rich history of their past troubles and their current issues. We get to see where and how each of the main characters directly affected by the Killing Day live and their everyday struggles moving on after a year has passed.
One of my favorite aspects of this story was what it brought out in the characters, our main protagonists, the villains, and even a bunch of random yet connected characters. Each character was constantly subjected to their own conscious and how it affects who they are and the choices they make. As the plot thickened, as most plots tend to do, the characters got more involved in the doubt of their own character, not trusting themselves, blaming others, going outside the expectations of morally sound people and testing the limits of their own wants and needs. Most reviews or quotes from other authors about this book say this is a scary and bone chilling story, to which I can agree with. But what you can’t know until you sit down with this book and fall into the town of Oleander is how deeply you’ll become rooted in their minds and their actions and feel how the repercussions that never seem to surface are just on the brink of insanity. With cause, you have effect. The Killing Day produced a healthy dose of fear and confusion into the hearts of Oleander’s townspeople and the tornado that over takes the safety of their families a year later began to whittle away the fear that had built up and replaced it with hunger and a dangerous sense of moral freedom. As their town is quarantined due to the tornado ripping up the corpses of the dead and contaminating the town, the people inside go stir crazy and as you would expect, act out in any way they can. We see an overthrow of their small town order system, the increase in religion as a beacon of hope, and the corruption of physical and emotional barricades.
I almost can’t believe this book is considered YA, if not for the main characters all being teenagers and how it effects the driving plot. This story is mature for YA and I think it’s definitely a cross over to adult. I’ve read adult fiction that has children or younger adults as the main characters, but the plot was a lot different than the typical YA novel. This is one of the aspects of literature/fiction I find fascinating because based on certain guidelines, this is YA because the main characters are teenagers and in the midst of the horror around them, they are still dealing with internal and external desires and problems teenagers face.
Every character has their redeeming quality and every character has their flaws. Even Baz, the linebacker to Jeremiah West’s quarterback, as evil as a declared sociopath who has come to terms with it, had a silver lining that was surprising and showed itself during a rare moment (although it’s entirely possible I’m the only one who sees it because I’m weird). I would love to talk about each character individually because they were all developed, but in such a way that they fit into a puzzle together that was needed to survive their surroundings, that I can now only see them as a team. Most chapters/scenes, the characters were on their own or grouped with one other, and the interactions between them were simple, sweet, aggravating, funny, and realistic. These teenagers doubt themselves at every corner, worrying that they might turn at any moment and commit an act they are trying so hard to repress. They are afraid of themselves and what they are capable of doing. Characters are usually afraid of something in every story, and when the ultimately unnerving person they are afraid of turns out to be themselves, that realization is what helps the story become bone chilling for me. This book is a thriller through and through. Robin Wasserman is putting us through the paces and showing us just how scary we as humans are capable of being.
Needless to say, her previous novel, The Book of Blood and Shadow, has moved its way to the top spot on my TBR list.
This book has very graphic and descriptive violence scenes and with it, are a few kissing scenes that are sweet and some more on the sour side. This book deals with very mature issues such as religion, sense of morality, drug use, parental abuse, and I would suggest it for older teens and up.