When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant. Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy – everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend. Alex can’t help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive… But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives. Passionate, moving and gripping, A Kiss in the Dark will make you feel first love all over again.
That’s a bold claim from Quercus but I fell head over heels for A Kiss in the Dark after just a few pages. It’s the first book I’ve read by Cat Clarke, although I’d heard great things, especially about Torn, and I saw Cat chatting with Tanya Byrne and fashion blogger Bip Ling about writing for teens at Latitude a couple of years ago. Based on that discussion, I thought I knew roughly what to expect: something witty, well-written and with a plot line that really packed a punch. Cat Clarke delivers all these three and more.
It’s hard to go into detail about the plot of A Kiss in the Dark because telling you any more than the blurb would risk revealing a huge spoiler. Just a few pages into the story, there’s a twist so big I thought I was back on The Swarm at Thorpe Park. It just shows what a great writer Clarke is, that I didn’t see it coming – although admittedly you don’t have a lot of time to guess – but also that, despite such an early reveal, tension wasn’t lost throughout the rest of the narrative. In fact, Clarke uses the fact that the secret is revealed to us, but not to one of the main characters, to build up dramatic irony that increases throughout the whole first half of the book.
There are, of course, two people in the relationship and they’re given equal space in the book as narrators. We spend the first half with Alex then, when the Big Secret becomes public, at the midpoint of the novel, we swap and follow Kate’s train of thought. Clarke seems to me to be a master (mistress?) when it comes to creating characters. Alex seems a bit of an outcast but sensitive and sympathetic for the reader, yet all this is achieved with just the right amount of description and personal detail – there’s no deluge of information. We see Alex’s relationship with big brother Jamie and family happening in front of us – there’s no need to tell when we’re shown so effectively how they work as a unit, supporting each other as best they can, even if they don’t really understand what’s going on with Alex. But then, that’s pretty standard for the family of a teenager.
Kate is well-drawn too; I was really pleased to hear from her directly as a narrator in the second half of the book, having only seen her through Alex’s eyes up to that point. Actually, I was curious: would Kate be as perfect as she’d seemed from Alex’s point of view? I was pleased to find she’s not a perfect girl after all, but also feels totally real and fully rounded, full of emotion and contradictions. What I really loved was that, as well as creating such a recognisable, ‘typical’ girl, Clarke also surprised and even shocked me with some of the things she does.
Over all, A Kiss in the Dark is a fantastic read. I’d highly recommend it to teens, and adults too, who’re looking for a novel that will grip them and surprise them with great characters and a compelling plotline.
A Kiss in the Dark is out now from Quercus, at £6.99 Thanks to Quercus for providing a review copy.