Book Review: Dark Days of the Supernatural – Amy Plum’s ‘Die For Me’

“Die For Me” is the debut book by author Amy Plum and part of HarperTeen’s summer Dark Days of the Supernatural series. The story follows 16-year-old Kate Mercier who is uplifted from New York to leave her past, including memories of her recently deceased parents, behind for a new life with her grandparents in Paris. Although she has her sister, Georgia, for support, she finds the loss unbearable, spending most days indoors until getting the nerve to leave the dark shadows of her bedroom and sit alone in cafes, losing herself in classic literature while her sibling takes on a different therapy treatment, attempting to forget the loss by frequenting various Paris nightclubs.

One day, while lost in Edith Wharton’s “In The Age of Innocence,” Kate catches a young man watching her and an instant spark ignites. He is breathtaking, with longish black hair, olive skin and sea blue eyes complete with thick black lashes. Swoon-worthy. Kate soon learns his name is Vincent and the dance of romance begins, a romance not only hindered by Kate’s fear of loving and losing again but also Vincent’s mysterious, supernatural fate as a revenant — an undead being whose condition forces him to sacrifice his life for others forevermore. The drama is further complicated with a centuries-old battle between good and evil.

Should Kate risk everything for love?

The opening of the story, with Kate clinging to the past when her parents were still alive, creates a character forcing sympathy. Her parents died a week before Christmas and she describes herself as being too “shell-shocked” to put up a fight when her older sister decides the two of them will uproot to Paris. So sad. So instantly I like her, at least feel sorry for her, and form a bond. You can’t dislike a character whose parents just died! My bond deepened pages later upon learning she wears a size 10 shoe … as a fellow victim of larger feet, I couldn’t help but smile.

The reader is soon introduced to Vincent and his description, when Kate first locks eyes on him, is detailed enough to give an idea but leaves the reader open to imagination with terms like “young and beautiful” and “strikingly handsome.”

Although the book is criticized for Kate falling quickly in love with Vincent, I wasn’t so put out by it because, to me, it’s typical of teenage emotions. Kate’s first dates with Vincent are awkward, she spends countless hours thinking of him but is not sure of her feelings. She’s impulsive, rational and emotional. Typical teenage girl behavior if you ask me, especially when Vincent buys a beautiful necklace for a friend with Kate’s help. She quickly becomes jealous, figuring Vincent has a gorgeous girlfriend to match his gorgeousness. When Kate learns about the supernatural qualities of Vincent’s existence, her response is authentic. She doesn’t jump headfirst into the Twilight Zone but ponders various solutions to the dark magic before her eyes.

I also enjoyed the setting. As you read Kate and Vincent’s love story, you also get a view at the loveliness of Paris as they visit restaurants, museums, cafes and other sites. As a small-town American, everything seems more interesting when it’s taking place in Europe.

Although it may seem slow at the beginning and rushed at the end, I enjoyed the buildup to learn more about Vincent and his supernatural fate. Kate doesn’t know what’s going on and neither do I. The plot continues to thicken and become curiouser and curiouser, as I sit back and enjoy the ride … this is because when Kate happens upon some chance information about Vincent’s secret early in the book, it seemed too easy for a coincidence. I found myself thinking, well … maybe it’s fate and she was supposed to find it or maybe the author is just lazy. That’s when I decided reading is about fun and I’m going to go with it and this book, enjoy it for what it is — a fun, summer read. With most books it takes many pages to get into the story, get used to the author’s quirks, and finally get in the groove.

Although a fun read, the book also has negative aspects.

“Die For Me” reeked of the Twilight series with Kate’s introverted personality, unusual teenage sophistication and scholarly love for classic literature. Also stinking of Twilight-ness is her choice between a normal life and love, the quick path into obsessive, lost-without-each-other longing, Vincent’s impossible beauty and strength and his coven of revenants, their attempt at staying away from each other makes them both depressed and mentally unwell, Vincent is old fashioned and respectful towards the “main event.” Hmm … only thing missing was Kate wanting to become a revenant. Looks like Amy Plum should have also thanked Stephanie Meyer for inspiration in the Acknowledgements at the end of the book. However, don’t all books come from an author’s inspiration from other works?

A side note: In her Acknowledgements, as well as jokingly referenced in the story, Plum refers to the revenants as zombies and her book as a zombie love story. Huh. Zombies creep me out so I haven’t sat through many zombie films but, thanks to a fascination by the main man in my life, I am well versed in zombie.

Yes, the most celebrated zombie in literature and film is a dead person reanimated, not simply the Voodoo legend of a hypnotized person. These zombies are typically flesh-eating and are brought back to life after a pandemic disease.

So, revenants were once alive, died, and brought back to life with no real explanation. OK. Also, zombies serve the dead and revenants serve whoever brought them back to life by feeling a deep need to save people from death so, perhaps, that’s similar. However, that’s where the comparison ends.

Zombies are without consciousness and self-awareness. They respond to stimuli, i.e. brains, but definitely aren’t as human-like as the revenants, which resemble some sort of angel, being brought back to life to serve God. Revenants are gorgeous, strong and athletic, eat regular food and are mentally their former selves.

Another negative aspect is the story is ripe with cliches, including Kate feeling she knew Vincent as they gazed upon each other for the first time and “the world around” them froze when their “eyes first met.”

However, for all the cliches and ridiculous metaphors — especially the barf-worthy kind like “the warmth inside me transformed into a flow of lava” — Plum made up for these literary no-nos with the deep, insightful turmoil Kate undergoes, including her comment to Vincent, “If I were to end up loving you, I couldn’t live like that. In constant agony. Knowing that you were going to be resurrected, or whatever it is that you do afterward, wouldn’t be enough to make up for having to live through your death time and time again. You can’t ask me to do it. I can’t do it.” This, in addition to her inner turmoil (“And now I felt myself perched at the rim of the same black abyss I had finally managed to crawl out of a few months earlier. I felt the overwhelming temptation to lean forward, just an inch, and let myself fall headlong into its comforting darkness. The thought of letting my mind leave my body behind was tempting. I wouldn’t even need to be around to clean up the mess.”) helped me forget about the cliches and occasional cheesiness and focus on the best part of this story, Kate’s struggle with loss and love.

So, if you are looking for a fun summer book, read “Die For Me” by Amy Plum. Check out www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer to keep your summer reading supernatural!

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