Black by Fleur Ferris
Published July 22, 2016 by Penguin Random House
Source: purchased, and later received an unsolicited copy from the publisher
Rating: 2 stars
From the blurb: Ebony Marshall is in her final year of high school. Five months, two weeks and four days . . . She can't wait to leave the town where she's known only as ‘Black'. Because of her name, of course. But for another reason, too. Everyone says Black Marshall is cursed. Three of her best friends have died in tragic accidents. After Oscar, the whispers started. Now she's used to being on her own. It's easier that way. But when her date for the formal ends up in intensive care, something in quiet little Dainsfield starts to stir. Old secrets are revealed and terrifying new dangers emerge. If only Black could put all the pieces together, she could work out who her real enemies are. Should she run for her life, or stay and fight?
Ebony 'Black' Marshall is seventeen and lives in the fictional Victorian town of Dainsfield. Her father runs the water plant and she works there after school. She earned her nickname Black not only because of her hair but because over the course of her life three friends have died, Jess, Louis, and Oscar. Now there's a new boy at school and he's interested in her but that makes Ebony worried.
I really enjoyed Fleur Ferris' debut, Risk, so I was excited to pick up her latest book, Black. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this one as much. I think my issues started with the characterisation. Ebony felt a lot younger than seventeen, I probably would have placed her at fourteen from the way she talked and interacted with other characters. The romance also felt like a huge distraction. I'm all for romance in YA as it's realistic to have teens falling in love all over the place, but trying to juggle two love interests really detracted from the thriller aspect.
Ebony also has to catch us up on her life so far and while she lets the reader know that a few of her friends have died, and that the townsfolk turned on her, it didn't really seem that scary or believable. I was expecting her to have been present at each of their deaths and for there to have been unusual circumstances, but they were all unrelated and at different times. I really couldn't fathom adults believing a girl is cursed with so little reason, maybe if this was set in Salem back in the day, but not present day Australia.
The reader is told that Ebony is lonely and that she has no one, but it turns out there are a group of girls at school who stuck by her, and she often hangs out with them, when she's not actively distancing herself from everyone. The new boy, Aiden, is dared to ask her out, and then immediately falls in love with her. She also has Ed, a colleague at the water plant. The fact that she's had multiple friends for years and they haven't died made her fear seem completely unnecessary.
There was a lot of foreshadowing, it almost felt like this book wanted to be a paranormal story. There were a lot of plot holes that even when explained at the end, still made me question the whole story. The dams and the fact that they they supplied the town with water seemed to be important and then nothing came of them. Certain people seemed like suspects but ended up having nothing to do with the cult. Other people seemed so obviously a part of the cult but their involvement took Ebony too long to figure out. Ultimately, there really was no need for her family to stay in a town if they really felt Ebony's life was in danger for seventeen years.
The tagline on the cover was also a bit misleading 'Shut the windows. Lock the doors. You don't know who's coming.' This made it sound like Ebony has lived her life in constant fear of being kidnapped. But Ebony has been oblivious to the secret her parents have been keeping. A secret that turns out to have nothing really to do with her. This brings up my issue with the pacing: at first there's a lot of backstory and a lot of foreshadowing, then it takes Ebony a long time to work things out, and towards the end there's a flurry of action. It was towards the end that I stopped reading properly and began to skim read.
Black, while promising to be a thriller, didn't live up to expectations. But, I would definitely suggest you pick up the author's debut novel, Risk, as it's excellent.
I purchased a copy and read that, but later received an unsolicited copy from the publisher, so thank you to Penguin Random House, I will be passing it onto an AussieYA fan.