Title: After Dark (The 19th Year, #1)
Author: Emi Gayle
Rating: 2 Stars
Release Date: October 31st, 2012
In all honesty, I don’t have much to say about After Dark. When I first heard about this new debut, I was more than a little excited and thrilled to pick it up: a paranormal novel with a protagonist who could shift shape, but only at night? In YA Fiction, shape-shifting hadn’t been explored as widely as everything else, so naturally, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this one. Unfortunately, I have to admit that After Dark is another classic example of a debut novel chock-full of potential that simply went wrong. Not only were its characters obscure and difficult for me to connect to, but the plot dragged on far too much as well and ultimately, I have to throw this book onto my shelf of “2012 Disappointments.” It isn’t the first debut up there and I doubt it’ll be the last this year as well – I’ve simply become too difficult to please.
Mac Thorne is a Changeling. Nope, she’s not a fey child whose life has been swapped with that of a human’s – don’t make the same mistake in assuming that as I did. Instead, she’s a being who can change her shape at will, but only at night. In the dark, she can shift into any paranormal creature she wants; but there’s a catch. When she’s nineteen, she must choose one form and stick to it, representing that race in a council and thereby making them the most powerful race – until the next Changeling comes along and chooses a different race, of course. Yet, ironically enough, Mac barely knows anything about who she is, her race of Changelings, or what her future holds. When she sees Winn, a classmate of hers, with a book about paranormal creatures, she makes it her mission to befriend him. What she doesn’t count on is falling in love. What she doesn’t count on is danger. What she doesn’t count on is a lot more than what she did count on and that just may not be so good...
After Dark starts out by immersing you into the world Emi Gayle has created, straight from Chapter 1, and while that isn’t a bad thing, you are floating around rather clueless for…awhile. Nevertheless, the world-building does kick in, and while I wasn’t a fan of the way it was introduced, it’s there. Thus, while I was rather disconcerted about the world Gayle had imagined, it didn’t bother me too much. What did bother me, however, was Mac. Mac was a character I couldn’t really connect with, no matter how hard I tried. You see, Mac is a human for the entire duration of the day, but she hates humans. Why? I don’t know. I honestly just don’t know. Mac is antisocial because she doesn’t want to talk to humans, she sticks to herself, and she generally doesn’t want friends. But, this entire book is about how Mac makes human friends and falls in love with a human and while I recognized that this was meant to be a moment for character growth, I didn’t understand why Mac hated humans or why she suddenly didn’t hate them.
Furthermore, Mac’s back story seemed too unbelievable. Much like Pia in Origin, who was brought up as a scientist but never felt curious about the world outside her “fence”, Mac never begins to wonder about her unique race or what she is and can do until she sees Winn with a book about paranormal creatures. Thus, from that moment on, Mac’s curiosity is completely insatiable. In fact, she even follows Winn into his house just to see this book because she is so desperate for answers when she didn’t even care for the past eighteen years. While reading this book, all I could feel was that it was so outlined and convenient; the only reason nothing happened before this book was because it needed to happen in this book and overall, that left me feeling more than a little detached from this novel.
Mac aside, I found the plot of After Dark to be disappointing. It isn’t boring or slow, but nothing much really happens in it. If anything, it can easily be condensed into a few short chapters and I’m sure this entire trilogy could be contained as a stand-alone novel if the author really tried. Also, plot-wise, as the romance goes, it was cute, but nothing earth-shattering. Winn was a decent love-interest, one I even liked, but I couldn’t understand why Winn grew to like Mac, especially since all they did was sit in his basement and read a book. Furthermore, there is no way that these two love each other; at least, it definitely didn’t feel that way to me. It wasn’t that the romance in this novel was bad, but it was such a clichéd and typical school-project-romance and unlike Kelly Creagh in Nevermore, Emi Gayle didn’t manage to make it meaningful, deep, or, for that matter, even work.
Overall, After Dark is a good book, but it didn't live up to my expectations or "wow" me in the least. Its MC was confusing and hard to connect with, many of the other characters were present for "comic relief" and weren't very amusing, and overall I think I expected this book to be something different from what it was. I contemplated giving it up more than once, but I did manage to finish the whole novel, even if I skimmed the last 30%. Thus, I'd recommend After Dark to the majority of people whose opinions don't correlate with mine since I tend to be that picky reviewer, but if you tend to feel the need to understand your character well, crave a more well-developed romance, or even want to read this book because the character can change into multiple paranormal creatures (not the standard 2-3 she flits between – seriously, haven’t vampires and faeries been overdone already?), then, I'm sorry to say, look elsewhere.
I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher, J. Taylor Publishing, on behalf of the DAC ARC Tours in exchange for a honest review. Thank You!