Black is a haunting and addictive novel, written by Fleur Ferris.
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 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?
Risk was definitely one of my favourite reads for 2015 and when I heard that Fleur Ferris would be releasing another novel this year, I was unbelievably excited. But in and amongst my feelings of excitement and anticipation, there was also that gnawing fear that her second book couldn’t possibly live up to the unreachably high standards that Risk had set. However, as soon as I had a copy of Black in my hands and started on the first chapter, I knew Fleur had done what I had thought was impossible. She stole my heart once again and led me on a journey with twists and turns that left me breathless.
I had been warned that Fleur’s latest book headed in a different direction to that of Risk’s, but I had absolutely no idea what that meant. What kind of themes would she be writing about? Where would this novel be set? Would it leave me with the same long-lasting impressions that Risk did? I was full of questions, but looking back on it, I don’t even think I read the synopsis on Goodreads of her latest book before nagging both Fleur and Penguin Teen Australia on Twitter, politely demanding to be sent a copy. And I think that says a lot. Not only was I an impatient fangirl who would probably sell her soul to get a copy of Black, I knew that no matter what this book was about, I was going to fall in love with it anyway. It was inevitable.
While on the surface it might seem that Risk is more of a powerful and courageous novel in the way that it addresses cyber safety and the way we too often endanger ourselves online without even realising most of the time, providing us with a frighteningly realistic scenario of the tragedies that occur because of one mistake, the deeper messages of Black cannot be undermined. Yes, Black is a story about cults and murder and haunted houses. But it’s also so much more than that. It shows us the effect that rumours can have on a teenager struggling to fit in. It shows us the impact of lies and deceit and how these things can pull apart a town and destroy lives. It shows us the importance of friendship and having people that stand, unwavering, next to us. Most importantly, it shows us that we all have the capability of overcoming prejudice and standing as one against the fear and finger-pointing that threatens to tear our communities apart.
One of the things I loved most about this novel was the suspense aspect of it. And boy, did that make up a lot of the novel. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, begging for answers, and every time Fleur revealed something, ten more questions would immediately jump into my mind. Black is a novel that you can’t help but speed-read, flipping pages faster than the speed of light and desperately trying to figure out how everything would tie up. I couldn’t help but gasp intermittently, whispering an angry ‘no’, a horrified ‘how could you?!’ or a shocked ‘oh my gosh’ to the unresponsive pages of the novel. I image that would have been slightly annoying for the passengers in the car I was travelling with as I read for the entire two-hour journey. Not even the threat of carsickness would stop me from finishing Black. I just couldn’t put it down.
There’s a darkness about this book that it makes it both alluring and frightening, and like the blackest of nights, cloaked by an inky sky, you don’t really know what’s going to be looming out there until you take a step into it and let your eyes slowly adjust. The incorporation of the urban legend and the fear that everyone has of old, deserted houses, even though some of us have pushed that fear right down and refuse to admit it, really made my blood run cold. I think that we never really grow out of the horror stories that all of us heard as children and the ones that we told around a campfire or at a sleepover on windy winter nights, torches beneath our chins. The pure unease that we get from those undying tales is what we are again subjected to in Black, and that was absolutely thrilling. I still have goosebumps.
Another strength of this novel was the way the setting was written. There’s something about small towns that fills me with a sense of either worry or comradeship, as towns like this one can either be a prison or a refuge. Even though I’ve spent all my life living in suburbia, I felt as though I really got to know the atmosphere of this town and the way it operates. Everyone knew everyone, and there were also those genuine touches that really allowed the town and its people to feel vibrant and alive. And the scenes in the forest were the most haunting and terrifying pages I’ve read in a long time. There’s something about the woods that always gives me the creeps, and along with all the other aspects of Black, Fleur wrote about it impeccably, transporting us to the darkest corner of the forest where the wind was icy, any sound make our hearts skip a beat, and where we knew it was so remote that even if we screamed, no one would be able to hear us.
Getting to know these new characters was definitely a highlight for me. Black (or Ebony) was such a strong character who was fearless and feisty, but was also so caring and wanted nothing but to put an end to the whispers of the townspeople who were ruining her life. While I first felt a little wary of her because I wasn’t sure who to trust, I ended up forging a deep connection and in parts, my heart just broke for her. The inclusion of the A’s — a group of girls who stood up for Black — was also a lovely addition, as it allowed us to see that girls don’t have to be backstabbing or spiteful and that we can all learn to be accepting of one another and show love and loyalty, not hate and jealousy.
And then there was Aiden and Ed — two boys who ran towards Black even when everyone seemed to be running away. Even though I’m not normally a fan of love triangles, I felt that this one was especially well-written and it was by no means just used as a plot device. It was lovely to see how each of them made an impact on Black’s life and I loved them both to pieces.
Black is a thrilling novel about rumours, haunted houses and enduring friendship, and it’s one I definitely encourage you all to read. It’s the perfect book to curl up with on the couch on a cold winter night with the wind howling outside. But lock your doors, because this fast-paced thriller will reinstate your fear in ghost stories and make you question what monsters lurk in your neighbourhood.
Have you had the chance to pick up Black yet? Have you read Risk? What are your thoughts on love triangles? Have you read many novels set in a similar setting? Are you a fan of thrillers or ghost stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!