Young Adult Book Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

Young Adult Book Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

Posted by: Lisa Parkin February 28, 2013 3 Comments

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I opened The Sweetest Dark, but it wasn’t the dark and atmospheric novel set in the English countryside. I’m a new and hardcore fan of Shana Abe – that’s for sure!

Young Adult Book Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

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Title & Author: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

Genre: YA – Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Release Date: April 9, 2013

Series: The Sweetest Dark #1

Publisher: Bantam

How I Got the Book: ARC via NetGalley


“With every fiber of my being, I yearned to be normal. To glide through my days at Iverson without incident. But I’d have to face the fact that my life was about to unfold in a very, very different way than I’d ever envisioned. Normal would become forever out of reach.”

Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.

England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.

Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.

Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.”

What’s in a Name

Although I’m still loving all the dystopias out there, it was really refreshing to read The Sweetest Dark because it was set in England during World War II. I haven’t read a ton of historical fiction books in YA, so I enjoyed the change-up.

Not only is The Sweetest Dark a historical fiction novel, but it’s also a historical fantasy. There’s something off about Lora, and she knows it and she knows everyone else knows it. She’s been in a mental/correctional institution in London since she was a little girl. She’s been hearing beautiful songs in her head and felt the pull to leap out of her bedroom window.

The thing is – Lora just caught the biggest break of her life. She got a charity spot at a prestigious school for girls. But what awaits her there is something she never could have expected.

The Sweetest Dark is a magical book. Along with the very gloomy and foreboding setting, I absolutely loved Lora. She is stubborn and damaged and fierce. I knew right away that she was going to be trouble.

The novel is so interesting because it also deals with more serious issues and doesn’t necessarily read like a YA book. Lora deals with class and status snobbery and bullying – not to mention hiding the weird things that happen to her that are happening more and more since she’s arrived at her new school.

Abe’s writing is filled with so much emotion. I really connected with Lora and her life and also with Jesse, the groundskeeper who understands and likes Lora right away.

For example:

Those nights, in the sweetest dark, we shared our dreams. That’s your answer. I was stitched into yours, and you were stitched into mine, and that was real, I promise you.



The Sweetest Dark is a book to fall in love with. You’ll want to fight off the mean girls for Lora and tell Jesse to stop being so elusive. The Sweetest Dark will keep you thinking about it days after you’ve finished the last page.