The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis

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The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Beautiful story about belief, grief and forgiveness with a great many questions and a little bit of magic realism. The writing is top-notch.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1471118916

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Thirteen-year-old James has been lonely and unhappy ever since his mother died. His stepfather drinks and can become violent. James is counting down the days until he becomes eighteen and can get out of a miserable house. But when James finds Webster, a homeless man, in an abandoned house, escape comes more quickly than he'd thought. Webster is horribly injured and believes he is cursed. But James sees behind the darkness that obsesses Webster to a core of a man he trusts and believes in. He is sure they can find a cure. But they don't have much to go on and Webster is convinced that he is being followed. He is.

Chased by both the full moon and gypsy family who also believe in Webster's curse but think they can use it for profit, the two set out on a strange and dangerous road trip...

Oh. Oh, oh, oh. The Dark Inside is a lovely book. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it's beautifully written in smooth, elegant prose. It's precise and clear but it's also lyrical and an absolute delight to read. I felt utterly surrounded by the story as I read and I really felt a sense of loss when I got to the last page. I wanted it to go on forever.

Secondly, it's a wonderful plot, combining the kitchen sink drama of a boy grieving for his mother, a dangerous road trip, and some magic realism tinged with the supernatural. It asks a lot of questions. Who is Webster? Why has he been cursed? Is the gypsy magic real or does it only appear to be real if you believe in it? And can James ever come to terms with the death of his mother, let alone reconcile with his abusive stepfather? All these threads cleverly interweave and it feels as though you are reading several stories at once.

Thirdly, all those questions reveal the book's thematic background, which is about grief, belief and forgiveness. Wallis doesn't supply his readers with easy answers - I think his point is rather to allow them to decide what is true for them. Which is just as it should be. Books allow children to explore difficult questions vicariously, with enjoyment and without danger.

The Dark Inside is a contemporary fairy tale that touches on problems and emotions that affect human beings throughout their lives. It is sometimes frightening, sometimes touching, sometimes exciting and always thought-provoking. And it's just gorgeous. You should read it.

Highly recommended.

There are obvious comparisons with the wonderful Skellig by David Almond and you might also enjoy Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd. We also enjoyed All Sorts of Possible by Rupert Wallis.

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Buy The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis at


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