By Jeffrey Thomas (Bad Moon Books; 2011)
A disappointment from the normally reliable Jeffrey Thomas. I don’t know if Thomas was consciously referencing TWILIGHT in this account of a teenage girl in love with a supernaturally-endowed stud, but LOST IN DARKNESS operates on the same level as that non-classic, as well as most of the other young adult horror novels I’ve read. To be fair, it was apparently written for the YA market, although Bad Moon’s trade paperback edition doesn’t make any note of that fact, suggesting they believed this book would appeal to grown-up readers of Thomas’ other books. If that was indeed the case they gravely miscalculated.
The set-up is promising, and the opening sentence a grabber: “An angel, a vampire and a zombie walked together down the middle of a gloomy, lonely side street.” The angel of trio is the teenaged Dana, out trick-or-treating with two friends. They don’t get very far, unfortunately, before Dana is hit by a car and dies–but only briefly. She returns to life, but brings along three malicious “Shadow Beings” that take the form of twin girls and a deceptively suave guy named Ethan. These freaks thrive on pain and despair, and drain peoples’ life essence to advance their own. Luckily Dana also snags a convivial immortal during her sojourn in the afterworld who appears in our world as a blond stud named Will.
From there the novel settles into a sappy romance between Dana and Will, who has the same properties as Ethan and the twins but chooses to do good. In other words, he’s the Edward of the story and Ethan the Jacob, while Dana is the Bella with whom both guys, unlikely enough, are besotted.
Jeffrey Thomas is too talented a writer to deliver a completely uninteresting book. The juxtaposition between the mundane reality of Dana’s suburban existence and the fantastic is handled with skill, and there’s a great monster unveiled in the final pages (fact: nobody can conjure otherworldly creatures quite like Jeffrey Thomas), as well as some in-jokes for attentive readers (such as a reference to “Elm Street,” significant because Thomas wrote a novel set in the NIGHTMARE ON STREET universe). But all things considered, LOST IN DARKNESS is a bummer.