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The Waking Dark Hardcover – September 10, 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up-This contemporary thriller opens on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon in a small town in Kansas, when five people with no connection to one another inexplicably commit murders and then kill, or attempt to kill, themselves. This becomes known as "the killing day," and no one has an explanation for it. The dark story is told from the perspectives of five teenagers, each of whom suffers in a different way due to the crimes, but it's nearly a year before their linked lives truly converge. After a devastating tornado, the entire town is quarantined and the adults are descending into violent madness. The five teens seem to be the only ones who realize something terrible is happening; they struggle both to stay alive and unravel what's really going on and who is responsible. While the number of protagonists can be confusing at times, their alternating stories are all compelling. Great dialogue and intriguing subplots add to the action-packed story, which will have readers frantically flipping pages. Wasserman sustains a truly spooky mood throughout, and the suspense doesn't let up until the final pages.-Sunnie Lovelace, Wallingford Public Library, CTα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It’s Lord of the Flies on steroids! One strange day 12 people are murdered, all by relatives, friends, or neighbors—the most unlikely of suspects. No one, including 18-year-old Cass, who murdered the toddler she was babysitting, knows why. Soon after, a terrible tornado ravages the town and removes all semblances of law and order. Anarchy rules; far too many adults and role models revert to their basest instincts. An unlikely band of teens reluctantly joins forces to plot escape: Jule, part of the meth-dealing Prevette clan; West, golden boy (but gay) football jock; sweet, unassuming Daniel; Ellie King, self-prescribed evangelist dubbed saint by the deacon during the strange times; Cass; and Gracie, the sister of the murdered toddler. This is a horror story worthy of Stephen King. Wasserman’s tightly woven plot arouses our darkest fears—a government (or private industry) experimenting on its citizens, contemporary witch hunts that remind us of our Puritan heritage, and natural disasters that destroy basic infrastructure including communication systems. Her characters are antiheroes, seeking to hold themselves in check and fearing that they, or anyone around them, can suddenly become the monster they are trying to escape. It’s a violent, edgy, well-written, and foreboding novel, so realistic that readers can only hope it’s simply fiction. Grades 9-12. --Frances Bradburn

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition first Printing edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375868771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375868771
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robin Wasserman is the author of the novel GIRLS ON FIRE. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and several short story anthologies. A recent MacDowell Colony fellow, she is also the New York Times bestselling author of more than ten novels for young adults and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
4.5 Stars

'The Waking Dark' is an fantastically intense young adult mystery/thriller novel that tells the story of the small town of Oleander, Kansas. Everything is predictable, boring - normal - in Oleander. That is, until what they refer to as The Killing Day. The day when 12 people were murdered in a matter of hours. Not long after The Killing Day, a strong storm hits the town and leaves it broken and upside down. Soon the roads leading out of town are blocked off by soldiers with guns, barbed wire fences and they have no access to the outside world at all. Stranger yet are the people of Oleander. The once quiet and peaceful citizens are turning on one another and committing crimes nobody thought possible in their small town. Just what is happening to Oleander and the people inside it? Why won't the soldiers answer their questions or let them leave? A group of teens - Daniel, West, Jule, Cass, and Ellie - band together to try to find out the truth of what's happening and to find a way out. Although they have known each other since they were little, it is soon evident that everyone has secrets. Will they be able to stop whatever is happening in Oleander before it's too late? Will they find a way out to get help? Or will they suffer the same fate as everyone else and lose themselves to the darkness enveloping the town?

I am a huge fan of mysteries and thriller/suspense novels, so I was immediately intrigued when I read the description of this book. It gave a great idea of what it would be about without revealing too much. I have to admit that I was definitely not disappointed and the book far exceeded any expectations I may have had. The plot was really unique and captivating - there's so many strange things happening to different characters at the same time.
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Format: Hardcover
There is a proper way to prepare for reading The Waking Dark. You should wait until it's half-past eleven and the sky is as dark as you've ever seen it. The rain should be pummeling against your windows, threatening to shatter the glass. The faint sound of thunder should be whispering in the distance. All but one light, just enough for you to read, should be turned off. Your furniture should be casting odd shadows onto the walls, ones that look like they may be moving. A cup of tea should be by your side. And finally, you should be curled into a ball on the comfiest chair in your house. You should be relaxed, expecting an enjoyable, calming story. In no way should you be afraid. Not yet.

It's hard for me to describe my emotions while reading The Waking Dark without revealing anything crucial to the plot. And trust me, everything in this book is crucial to the plot. It is so well thought out and put together; it left me breathless. The cyclical pattern of human nature is so enthralling that you don't even mind the violence.

I can't say the characters were good people. I can't say that I'd want to be their friend or that I have a literary crush on any of them. But, damn, they may have been some of the best characters that I have ever gotten to read. It's hard to separate the heroes from the villains, but that is an intentional aspect. It's the same in life. Telling the good people from the bad people has never been as easy as comic books would like to pretend.

The best part of this book though is the writing. All of the details that Wasserman goes into mesh brilliantly together, forming scenes of horror that could rival any movie you'd watch on Halloween. But just as great as all the details were the ones left unsaid.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very dark and intense read. At times I didn't want to look, but I had to keep turning the pages because I didn't dare look away! That was mostly due to the gore because, truth be told, I didn’t find this read as scary as it was hyped up to be. I read a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz in my younger years, so perhaps I have some immunity to that particular aspect. There were things that were unsettling to read in this story; and while my teen doesn’t scare easily, I still can’t put this one in her hands due to the language and sexual situations. I definitely think this is more in the older YA category. The author’s writing is solid with well fleshed-out characters. The multiple POV’s were handled nicely, but I can’t help but wonder if the reason I never connected with any one character in particular was because there were so many. All in all a good read that, while not blown away, I certainly wasn’t about to stop reading until I reached the end.
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Format: Kindle Edition
When I first saw reviews of The Waking Dark popping up, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. Horror is (perhaps obviously) one of my favourite genres, and I like them dark, spooky and intense.

The Waking Dark jumps straight into the story - jumping through the stories of the teens on the 'killing day' as they witness people they know murder each other in a variety of ways - from the more predictable through to more 'unique' methods. Each scene is intense and are used to introduce the characters and their personalities as they react in different ways to the chaos around them.

Wasserman's writing style is unique, and works very well - there are long run-on sentences and the language is very descriptive, but rather than slowing down the story, it actually makes the reading more frantic and addictive and builds the tension perfectly. The plot itself is very Stephen King-esque although I felt that the characterisation of Wasserman is actually slightly stronger as they are all unique and easily discernible from each other, which is something I often struggle with when there is a larger cast of key characters.

True 'horror' in Young Adult literature is something I haven't been able to find very often - to be honest I usually find them to be quite watered-down and a little too happy-ending-ish. But The Waking Dark isn't a book for the faint hearted - there is a lot of violence, but it's chilling rather than just shock-value.

The only thing that didn't really work for me was the ending - although I liked the resolution it felt a little too neat and I had some questions that weren't completely answered enough for me personally.
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