Description from Goodreads:
You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.
Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?
Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery... who makes you want to kiss back.
Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.
It has been over 24h since I finished reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, and still can't stop thinking about it. But the thing is that I'm not sure if it's because I really liked it, or because I disliked it. There were somethings that made a huge impression on me while some others made me cringe. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is one of those books you embrace and which become one of your favourite novels, or one of those which make a scowl at the whole gothic genre. For me, both of these things happened.
I simply fell in love with the beautiful prose Tucholke wrote. She has a very soft and pleasant style with lots of imaginary and little dialogue. In some sense, her writing style reminded me a bit of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, and let me tell you, I'm a huge fan of his writing. Tulchoke seems to capture really easily the atmosphere and personalities of the characters without really saying them out loud, but instead with subtle hints and depictions of relationships, habits, and reactions we get the impressions she wants to convey. I really, really liked her writing style. I'm not sure if I can emphasise that enough. She also made a lot of references to old black-and-white movies and with these allusions she created a very sophisticated (and maybe a bit hipster) mood that fitted perfectly the sleepy, coastal small town setting.
But then, some of the author's choices plot wise were not really to my liking. For example, there is insta-love. And I don't think there are lots of things that I hate more than instant love between the characters. Even though River obviously is secretive (and not in a good way), has violent tendencies, and can be extremely selfish, Violet goes to sleep next to him without even knowing him more than 24 hours? If I was in Violet's position, I would never go and sleep with a stranger on a same couch. I do understand that Violet is very enamoured by River and that she is curious about him, so she is very willing to lots of things to be near him. But I just wished that she would have been more hesitant about giving herself away emotionally.
That being said, I really liked Violet's character if the her instant infatuation with River isn't counted. At first, I thought that she was a huge snob, but she is a lot more than just that: she is perceptive, smart, shy yet straight-forward, very humane and kind, but also a bit of weirdo which suited me just fine. She became more and more likeable as the story progressed, just like the story line itself. Even though I just mentioned how I hated the fact that there was insta-love between Violet and River, I was so relieved when Violet learnt more about River and his abilities, and her reaction became what it should have been in the first place: she did become very hesitant, suspicious, and untrusting of River which was the reaction I was hoping to get from her. However, it didn't last very long the attraction overwhelmed reason.
So I did like Violet a lot, but I didn't really like River that much. He was just a bit too slimy for liking with his "black linen pants - the kind I thought only stubble-jawed Spanish men wore in European movies set by the sea". Oh, no. When this description is one the very first of the love interest, you just cannot get rid of this image from your head for the rest of the book. Even though River was very phlegmatic and charming, I just kept picturing his linen pants. I know, it's only one detail, but this one detail determined the first impression that I got from him: slimy, overly confident, and not to be trusted (this impression did slowly change, but it was my own conscious effort that made it happen).
The last thing that I want to talk about is the plot. The beginning of the story was somehow wearisome, without exactly being boring. The first half of the book felt a bit unfocused to me, so it was difficult to concentrate and understand everything that was going on. For instance, there was this one cemetery scene that felt really separate from the rest of the book, and it just was very confusing and difficult to read. However, the second half of the book was very intriguing, and the ending was just phenomenal. It was so scary and bone chilling that I could read the whole book again just to read the climax again. The ending was so hauntingly and brilliantly written that thanks to it, I see the whole book in a completely different light.
I think you can see from the long review that I had quite a lot to say about Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, and I think I will gather even more opinions during the next few days while going over the events, characters, and the setting. I'm so in love with the writing and some of the characters like Violet, but then some other characters like River and the (slut)shaming of Sunshine, plus the beginning of the plot just made frustrated, and to be honest, a bit annoyed. I can't give this book any stars because I'm not still sure how I feel about this book. But what can give, is my opinion of it: I'm definitely not indifferent towards it.