Score: 4.50 / 5 - Reviewer Top Pick at Night Owl Reviews
Ever since her father was killed in Afghanistan, life has been pretty sucky for 16-year-old Flannery Birch, or "Fee," as everyone calls her. Her mother moved them into her grandmother's house in a whole 'nother state, she struggles to be accepted by the kids at her new school and, what's worse, she refuses to eat. She uses her grief as an excuse to disappear pound by pound. Then she meets Faron and everything changes. Something about him is familiar but she can't remember what it is. After she overhears a suspicious conversation Faron gets into with strange men, red flags go up. Just what is it about Faron that is so different yet so familiar? Why does he act the way he does around the caves? He may claim to be on the cave rescue team, but Fee knows it's something more - and when she finds out, the story takes a huge turn towards danger and suspense.
The novel, Dividing Dark , by Melissa Swaim is for the teen market yet this reviewer, well into her 30s, found this book to be such an engaging and adventurous story. Reading this story proved to be an introduction to caving, something I know nothing about. It was interesting reading not only about geological features of caves but also the equipment required. When Faron warned that a trail would require a lot of concentration, I could only nod my head with certainty, as I have only been through one cave and those trails in and around a cave can be hard to navigate if you're not careful. I had to laugh when Fee asked her adventurous friends, "Wouldn't you rather collect stamps or something?" I admired her bravery to put herself through these experiences just to get over her fears, but at some point she starts to crack and her frustrations are obvious. The fear of the dangerous activities involved in caving just grow larger and larger for her - yet she presses on. As much as she tries to do what her friends do to fit in, she pulls the stops at skydiving: "Fee was so not doing that."
Fee has a rebellious side to her. She takes her cell phone to school even though they're prohibited and she agrees to trespass on private property. Caves and tunnels not open to the public are off limits, but because she wants to be accepted by her friends so badly and wants to know what's in the forbidden tunnels, she goes along with their plans to explore them.
She is attracted to the darkness, probably why she feels such a strong attraction to Faron. "I like the darkness," he tells her. Thus his obsession with caves. His room even has a black light, not regular light. Fee herself feels drawn to the dark: "Darkness called to her, ready to reveal itself." In some way, it seems as though this is the sort of life meant for her. Even as Faron keeps locking her out and insisting she'll hate the part of himself that he keeps secret, she in turn keeps telling him "I am in this" as if she started on a path leading to some mysterious destination and she refuses to turn back no matter what she sees. It's the same thing with her determination to conquer her fears about caving: Once she starts on that part, there's no turning back. At the same time, this strange secret of Faron's is becoming a part of her life more and more, even if she does not yet realize it: "Entities sought her from the darkness as if the door could never fully close once open."
The thing I admired most about Fee is her courage. She stays true and devoted to the one she falls in love with. It's very inspiring and refreshing to see this coming from a young character. Teenagers usually break up over stupid reasons and run away from commitments if things get too scary or uncomfortable. So this kind of determination to stay with the one she chooses was a very pleasant reading experience.
Dividing Dark is a story where two worlds come clashing together, in darkness and light. The story is a fun, interesting read that transcends our wildest imaginations and shows just how balance can be restored amid chaos.