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After Dark


After Dark

Charlie Harker is used to the easy, breezy, high life --- he spends his school years at one of the most prestigious college preparatory academies in the country (mostly goofing off and breaking the rules after hours) and has spent most of his life living luxuriously off of his mother’s family money and the revenue from his famous father’s books.
But that all changes when his mother reveals that the money is all gone --- all they have left is a small family-owned inn in a nearby resort town that was passed down to them. Therefore, instead of hanging out by the pool, Charlie must spend his summer fixing up the old building. But even this is soon interrupted when a strange, mysterious virus begins to spread in the town. At first it seems all cooked up in the imagination of Miles Van Helsing, Charlie’s newest friend and the resident conspiracy theorist. But when people begin to be consumed by mind-numbing bloodlust and violence, attacking anyone caught roaming around after dark, it’s up to Charlie and Miles to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to the growing madness.
The best part of AFTER DARK was the pace and sense of urgency --- the author did a great job of implanting a strong undercurrent of tension. Unfortunately, some of the other elements didn’t impress me as much. I felt like it straggled the line between a goofy kids book and a serious, more mature thriller, and it didn’t quite achieve the balance.
The best part of AFTER DARK was the pace and sense of urgency --- the author did a great job of implanting a strong undercurrent of tension. 
It also took more than 100 pages for the main plot to start picking up. I completely understand the setup of character and circumstance, but when a book is only 253 pages, I don’t think it should have taken so long. Sections, descriptions and conversations could have been cut and AFTER DARK would not have decreased in any way.
However, once the main plot began rolling along, I became much more invested. I enjoyed coasting along the twists and turns and I liked the cliffhanger ending, especially because it mainly involved one of the characters I cared about most.
Regarding character, I found the spoiled and privileged Charlie difficult to like. And sure, he changed some by the end, but by that time, it was too late for me. I definitely cared about other characters though, specifically Miles and the female characters. Despite sometimes wandering into stereotype territory, Miles was endearing, interesting, believable, relatable and fleshed out. I also really enjoyed Charlie’s mom, Claire. Her story was hidden behind everything else, but she was a woman who, despite experiencing a significant downfall, was determined to take care of herself and her family. She was an admirable character, and I was rooting for her to survive throughout the story.
While I think that, like me, older kids would be frustrated with the childish elements and slow beginning of AFTER DARK, I feel that younger kids might like it; they’d enjoy the sillier moments and enjoy the challenge of the darker, complex ones. Even though AFTER DARK wasn’t for me, I think there are definitely others that will enjoy this oddball of a book.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on August 7, 2015

After Dark
by James Leck

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2015
  • Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult 10+
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press
  • ISBN-10: 1771381108
  • ISBN-13: 9781771381109