October 17, 2019

Robin Wasserman: "The Waking Dark"

Title: The Waking Dark [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Robin Wasserman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Sci-Fi
Year: 2013
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Strong writing and handling of multiple characters. Well-crafted exploration of the hidden violence lying behind people's facade.
Cons: Dark and gloomy. The premise is quite far-fetched.
WARNING! Very mature content, with lots of violence, attempted rape, and even a child smothered on page.
Will appeal to: Those who don't mind dark books. Those who like survival stories and (sometimes deeply) flawed characters.

Blurb: They called it the killing day. Twelve people murdered, in the space of a few hours, their killers also all dead by their own hand...except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander, Kansas - something dark and hungry. As the town begins a descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. 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. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Robin Wasserman’s Cold Awakening is one of my favourite series ever, and heck, the woman can write - so I was fully prepared to love The Waking Dark, especially since the premise was screaming AWESOME! at me. The fact is, this is hands down the darkest, gloomiest book I’ve ever read…plus, there are other things that dampened my enthusiasm a bit. Hence the 3.5-star rating (originally a 3-star one, but upon rereading, I found myself liking the book more…).
(Also, not all reviews need to be broken into three sections, and that's all right).


The only possible reason why TWD has been labeled as YA is the main characters' age range (13-17). In fact, this book is, essentially, a journey in the depths of humanity's dark side and latent violence, where - even taking into account the external factor that apparently brought out the worst in everyone - no one is truly innocent. Because the potential was there all along, and only needed to be tapped into. OK, I'm sounding cryptic as heck, so let's put it this way: the whole town of Oleander goes mad. It starts with a few individual, but in the end all the residents (with only the odd exception, that will get explained - or sort of) enter a spiral of full-blown violence. Much later, we'll learn that there's a reason for this...but is there? Can you really blame an external factor, or was it just the kick in the butt those people needed to let their worst instincts take over? It's an interesting question, especially nowadays, with more and more countries electing aggressive right-wing governments that are paving the way for violence and intolerance. What would you do if you felt like your worst deeds could go unpunished? Would your conscience hold up? In TWD, there's a more peculiar reason for the surge of violence (one that I didn't entirely buy), but the result is the same. Give people a push in the right (I mean wrong) direction, leave them to their own devices, and they will destroy centuries of civilisation with a single blow. "Scary" doesn't even start to define it. [...]


The worst - but at the same time, best - thing about TWD is that not even the handful of teens who band together to survive the madness and maybe save the town are innocent. One of them killed a child. One of them wants revenge. One of them can't seem to escape from her family's criminal legacy. And so on. All of them are trapped in their own sins and fears and darkness. All of them are ultimately fascinated by the pressure on the trigger - metaphorical and not. That's why it's not easy to truly connect with any of them (I mean...we are all sinners somehow...but that's a whole different level of darkness, though maybe we COULD be like them if we were in their shoes...except we aren't. And we probably entertain the thought that we would never be like them - to stay sane). Also, as I said, when the truth about Oleander's beyond-crazy situation emerges, it's a bit hard to buy into. I'm all for traveling through time and space in a phone box that's bigger on the inside, but this was...like sci-fi and paranormal had a baby together. Then there's the fact that, even with those who make it out alive in the end (spoiler: not many), this book doesn't actually end on a happy note. Hope is still scarce and elusive and sort of a luxury commodity. I don't need my ending tied with a pretty ribbon or anything of the sort, but a bit of sunshine ahead wouldn't hurt, you know? I'm not saying that I don't believe in a better future for the survivors, but it's not an easy feat after all they've been through...and have done. Anyway, if you're into horror thrillers, and twisted characters with little redemption, and explorations of the human darkness, this book is for you 🙂.

For more Thriller/Mystery books click here.

I don't know why, both in my old mini-review and this full one, I used the Ember cover.
I have the Atom paperback, and this is the cover I have...(more effective, if you ask me).


  1. Waaaayyyy to dark for me, and it doesn't end on a happy note. I would have thrown it out the window, but I am glad you seemed to mostly enjoy it. I have no problem with far fetched premise, but you know I like my stuff on the fluffy side.

    1. Oh, poor book. LOL. I'm sorry, this month is all for dark and creepy books at Offbeat YA! 😉 Not that I ever review what you would call "fluffy" ones LOL - but I'm going all out for October! Thank you for reading anyway!


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