Title: Dark Heart Forever
Author: Lee Monroe
Series: Dark Heart Forever Book 1
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Summary (from Goodreads)
Jane Jonas is nearing her 16th birthday and troubled by unsettling recurring dreams where the same mysterious boy her age comes to her, telling Jane that they are each other’s destiny. Her mother is increasingly anxious about Jane’s disruptive sleepwalking episodes, but for Jane her dream world and reality are about to collide …When she develops a friendship with an enigmatic stranger in town, the blond, uber-cool Evan, it’s exciting, it’s new, and Jane wants him more than she’s ever wanted anybody – until her mystery dream boy gets in the way. Now Jane is caught between two worlds: one familiar, but tinged with romance and excitement; the other dark and dangerous, where angels, werewolves, and an irresistible stranger are trying to seduce her …
What’s Good About It
Oh, I really wanted to like this. A British YA Paranormal series! There are so few of them out there. With all the big names in YA setting their series in the States, the familiar territory of little old Britain was such a lure.
And there were some things to like. The story, while fairly standard for the genre – tormented ‘I don’t think I’m anything special’ girl suddenly finds herself being chased by two hot boys, how can she ever choose between them? – was at least good enough to keep pages turning.
Some of the characters were good – good enough to cancel out Jane who was at best drippy, and the reason for both boys being so instantly in love with her was at least given, which it often isn’t beyond ‘I feel I’ve known you all my life’ in YA.
Overall, as a light, fluffy read it was okay. Not really memorable, but not so turgid it becomes a chore to read. The sort of thing you might read on a plane if you had nothing better to occupy your time with and think it a welcome distraction.
What’s Not So Good
For someone who’s lived in England all their life, Monroe makes a bit of a hash of representing it accurately. I don’t know if it’s deliberate on the part of the author/publisher to Americanise things, but so many little details didn’t ring true.
For one, Jane learns to drive with Evan, one of her suitors. Now, the story makes a big deal about her turning sixteen. Erm. In England you are allowed to drive on your own land whatever age you like (I had a friend who lived on a huge farm and learned to drive in primary school) but you can’t go on roads until you’re seventeen. Now, I imagine there are a number of kids out there who have driven underage, but that’s not how it’s presented in the story – Jane’s parents are in on it and think it’s a great idea.
Also, you have to be 21 and have held your licence for three years to escort a learner driver. Now, Evan’s age is never explicitly given, but as he often drinks beer I would assume he is at least eighteen. But 21? I think Jane’s parents might have a bit to say about their young and impressionable daughter dating a 21-year-old.
Then there’s the whole ‘home-schooled’ thing. You do get kids who are homeschooled in England, of course, but it’s not as common or as easy to do as Monroe makes out. And why couldn’t Jane go to some other school? Surely she’s not that remote that there is nowhere else for her to learn.
Now, I often take issue with the whole ‘I was bullied, boo hoo’ background. I know it’s a set up for the awe of being fancied by a hot guy, but surely we don’t need the whole tragedy. It just makes the characters seem wet and pathetic. And there’s the whole ‘I can’t have self esteem unless I’ve got a hot boyfriend’ can of worms that you really don’t want to open. Again, Monroe does at least give a viable reason for it, but I just don’t think it was necessary. Everyone gets bullied at school. Everyone. Even the popular kids have problems, because guess what – being a teenager is hard. You don’t need to bleat on about a character being bullied to create empathy. I’m ready to empathise with teenagers because I remember how horribly hard it was.
And let’s face it – awkward, insecure teenage girls don’t need to be severely bullied to feel awe that any guy fancies them, let alone a hot one.
Jane also accepts Luca’s world a little too easily.
‘Hey, I’m from a mythical plane of existence!’
NO! Okay is not the answer. It’s either ‘Yeah, whatever, weirdo.’ or ‘What the HELL? I want to go home. How is this possible. Get away from me!’ which, after much talking down and general acts of goodwill, might eventually settle at ‘Okay.’
There’s a real trend among YA Paranormal stories to churn out something with a blurb that says ‘Love triangle’ and ‘supernatural beings’ and watch it hit the bestseller list. Much like the Drake Chronicles, this book rushes past all the things that make it interesting (the dream world where Luca lives, the mythology of the paranormal stuff) and skips straight to the fairly run of the mill, boring love triangle.
It should be said that, as a reader, I like romance, but only if it comes second to a plot, and Dark Heart Forever does try to give a plot. It’s just not that great.
NOTE: Not relating to the quality of the writing at all, but in my copy of this book, page 134 was missed out, page 132 being printed twice instead. If you are going to buy this, I would go to a bookshop rather than order off Amazon or another online retailer so you can check the same problem isn’t in the copy you are getting. It’s not totally detrimental to the story, but I don’t like to spend money on something that’s not of the best quality.