Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a young adult Gothic / horror novel written by April Genevieve Tucholke and published on August 15, 2013 by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Books.
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?
Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
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Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.
- Violet White: teenage girl, protagonist and narrator
- River Redding: teenage boy with a mysterious past
- Luke White: Violet’s brother, artist
- Sunshine Black: Violet’s best friend
- Neely Redding: River’s brother
- Freddie White: Violet’s dead grandmother
- Brodie Redding: Neely and River’s half little brother and antagonist
- Jack: a young boy who lives in echo and is distantly related to the whites due to an affair that Freddie had
The critical reception for the book has been very positive. The book received starred reviews from School Library Journal, VOYA, and Booklist. The School Library Journal reviewer wrote “Tucholke’s gothic tone, plot, and setting, complete with a deteriorating estate full of dark family secrets, is reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier or YA fare such asKami Garcia’s and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures.” Booklist said of the book, “Tucholke paints this moody, gothic romance with a languid brush. Moments of horror nestle against warm, dreamy kisses.” Publishers Weekly wrote of the novel, “Tucholke luxuriates in the details of small-town life, including her characters’ gourmand tendencies and their quick-witted interactions, in a chilling supernatural exploration of free will and reality’s fluidity.”
“Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” was nominated by YALSA for a Teens Top Ten award for books published in 2013. The book was also a 2015 Kentucky Blue Grass Award Nominee, an Honorable Mention in the Westchester Fiction Awards, and a runner up in the 2013 YABC Choice Awards’ Best Teen Horror/Thriller category.
“Looking for dark and eerie read…? Look no further than April Genevieve Tucholke’s YA debut,Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.”
*“A stunning debut with complex characters, an atmospheric setting, and a distinct voice… Tucholke has real talent.”
—VOYA, starred review
You stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand…
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
A gothic thriller romance with shades of Stephen King and F. Scott Fitzgerald, set against a creepy summertime backdrop—a must-read for fans of Beautiful Creatures, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and Anna Dressed in Blood.
Free Listening to Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by
From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-With their beloved grandmother, Freddie, deceased and their artistic, absentee parents blowing the family money abroad, 17-year-old twins Violet and Luke are as neglected as Citizen Kane, their formerly grand and now dilapidated home on a seaside cliff. Antagonistic Luke and sultry neighbor Sunshine are Violet’s only company until she rents the guesthouse to enigmatic River West. His crooked smile, discerning palate, and penchant for lying leave Violet both enamored and distrustful. He is cavalier with the mind-manipulating supernatural power he is unable, and somewhat reluctant, to control. In a small town with its fair share of lurid tales, River’s appearance brings with it devil sightings, missing children, and disturbing deaths. Tucholke’s gothic tone, plot, and setting, complete with a deteriorating estate full of dark family secrets, is reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier or YA fare such as Kami Garcia’s and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures (Little, Brown, 2009). Violet’s narration is frank and perceptive, livened with humor and an almost poetically descriptive lilt. She is a combination of naive and mature, having grown up in relative seclusion with limited supervision. Violet and River’s attraction is palpable, but their romance is tainted by his shifty morals and shady charm. Swearing and sexual situations are non-gratuitous. Adults are easily appeased and generally turn a blind eye. Give this one to fans of creepy mysteries, particularly tales that don’t skimp on the violence. They’ll appreciate the conclusion’s heart-pounding, bile-rising standoff.-Danielle Serra, Cliffside Park Public Library, NJα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
REVIEW: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Violet White comes from old money. Her family is rich — or used to be, anyway. Their glory days are certainly behind them. Their family estate in the seaside town of Echo is falling apart. Since their parents are conveniently, and irresponsibly, absent, Violet is looking for ways to earn money. One way involves renting out the guesthouse behind their estate. She has no idea if anyone will take up the offer, but then River West shows up on her doorstep.
A bit of an odd duck, Violet has never before shown interest in boys. River changes that. She’s tempted by him in a way she’s never been and falls in love for the very first time. Except River’s mysterious past comes back to bite them with terrible consequences. And Violet will have to face an awful possibility: River just might be the epitome of evil.
I love the idea of gothic horror, but I often struggle with it. I didn’t encounter that struggle here. I fell into this novel and didn’t want to come up for air. From the family estate in its fading decadence to the White family’s numerous buried secrets, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was filled with creeping dread. For me, that is the epitome of horror. It’s not gore or violence. It’s the dread, the anticipation of the axe falling.
I liked Violet a lot. She was such an eccentric girl and I can only imagine how she was viewed by her high school classmates. But I adored how much she loved her grandmother, and how Freddie’s voice constantly came through in the narrative, even though she was already dead.
It made up for the fact that Violet’s parents suffer from the ever-common Absent Parent trope. Maybe it’s because I’m a child of immigrants but I can’t understand how parents could just up and randomly go to Europe on some kind of artist vacation with no firm ending, leaving their twin children behind to fend for themselves. Is this a rich person thing? Is this what it’s like to be so rich that mundane things like paying for food and electricity don’t even occur to you? Someone needs to explain this to me.
While I usually roll my eyes at the mysterious bad boy trope, it worked for me here. Violet inadvertently isolates herself. Unlike her twin, Luke, she doesn’t play any sports. She’s not part of any clubs. She wears her grandmother’s old-fashioned clothes. She thinks other people treat her differently because she comes from the White family and acts like it, which only perpetuates the cycle. So when River shows up on her doorstep, asking to rent the guesthouse and acting like she’s not strange or aloof at all, I can see why she’d find that attractive.
But River has a supernatural ability that has terrible connotations within the context of a relationship. Are Violet’s feelings for River genuine? I think so. Have they been manipulated? I believe so as well. And that’s what makes me pause. Because the romance takes on non-consensual aspects, and that’s uncomfortable to say the least.
In its defense, the narrative does not shy away from this. It treats the manipulation as the awful thing it is. Violet is furious when she finds out. I actually thought her struggle between knowing that manipulation was awful and succumbing because being with River felt so good was authentic for a teenager on the verge of adulthood. I think most people can empathize with this conflict. At some point in our lives, we’ve encountered a situation where we know doing something is wrong or is bad for us (or both) but we do it anyway and screw the consequences.
But because of all this, I couldn’t support the relationship between Violet and River. I don’t trust River not to influence Violet to get his way. It goes beyond my apathy towards bad boys. Psychically manipulating someone to make them stop fighting with you, even to the point of altering their memories, is awful. That’s not a healthy basis for a relationship. I know there’s a sequel forthcoming and I can say that River will have to work hard to make me believe a relationship between him and Violet would not be toxic.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is the first YA gothic I’ve truly enjoyed. I think it’s because the novel partly reminds me of old school Stephen King, and I love old school Stephen King. I’m still reserving judgment on the Violet and River romance. I think it’s toxic, but River has shown that he’s trying to change — even if he keeps failing in spectacular ways. I guess the sequel will tell us whether he wins the battle against himself. And even though there is a sequel, this novel ends in a good place. There’s no cliffhanger and in fact, I think readers can consider it one of those satisfying open-ended conclusions.