Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #20: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #20: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue SeaBetween the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Series: Between #1
Published by Dial BFYR on August 15, 2013
Genres: Gothic, Horror, Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 360
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.

Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?

Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery... who makes you want to kiss back.

Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.

Recommended by: Ashleigh Paige of Birth of a New Witch

First Sentence: “‘You stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand.'”

Sometimes I’m that guy. You know, the one who reads a book that trusted friends, ones I usually agree with, were super impressed by and ends up unenthused. The blurb for Devil (since I can’t be bothered to type all of that out over and over) did give me pause, what with the focus on River coming to town. The whole thing suggests instalove, but early reviews were promising and an ARC arrived, so damn the blurb and full speed ahead! Well, turns out I should have listened to my first instincts, because both the romance and a plot twist bothered me. Be warned that this review contains spoilers, since that was the only way I could explain why I feel the way I do.

In no way do I think Devil is a bad book, and there was even a brief time where I thought a 3.5 rating was coming for it. Tucholke excels especially at the horror aspects. Pretty much everything that happens ranges from eerie to mindfuck to terrifying. The concept and execution of River’s deal was done incredibly well. Tucholke also manages to pull off so many surprises, which upped the intensity. If you’re really into horror, then I think Devil will probably be worth your time.

The other aspect that I really enjoyed was the atmosphere. As with most gothic novels, there’s a sort of place out of time feel to it. Though set in the modern world, Violet’s little town and her house seem caught in the past. The most popular town activity is watching old movies. Violet listens to her grandmother’s music and wears her grandmother’s clothing, as a way of connecting. Violet’s been so alone since her grandmother Freddie died, unable to connect with her brother, who she loves but who also irritates her with the way he treats girls. Tucholke sets the scene well, with the spooky giant house, the sleepy town disconnected in some way from modernity, and the slower pace of life. Tucholke’s writing fits the narrative well, though it isn’t a style that especially speaks to me.

The characters all felt pretty flat to me too, though that could be due to Vi’s impaired mental state. The only one I really connected to was Neely, who was for me the most likable in a flawed and strange bunch. The portrayal of Sunshine upset me especially, as she never actually DOES anything, except hook up with Luke, Violet’s brother, even though she knows he’s seeing another girl too. Sunshine gets called a ‘whore,’ beat up, terrified and all sorts of things, but the reader never gets a sense that there’s anything more than that to her. She’s shown as entirely vacuous and vain, living solely to hook up with any willing guy. All of the characters seem pretty similarly one note, but Sunshine was the most distressing.

One of the aspects I didn’t care for, as it so often is, is the romance between River and Violet. Now, as the blurb suggests, Violet’s instalove for him does have a reason behind it, so, though painful, that’s legit. He can mess with her mind somehow and create these feelings in her, which speaks strongly to abusive relationships and could send a powerful message. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a real sense of the change he wrought in her, since the book opens pretty much with his arrival, so I never really got a sense of Violet as a person, because I knew her so briefly before her every thought became suspect. I can see where Tucholke put in clues to the brainwashing effect, like how Vi’s initial analysis of River’s appearance differed greatly once her mind started clouding, but it wasn’t quite enough to help me differentiate regular Vi from River’s Vi.

For a while there, though, once Vi realized what was going on, everything was great, in the sense that it was creepy and everyone knew that their relationship was unhealthy. I was totally on board with that. However, the kiss of death for the romance came when, mind clear, Violet still wants River. Girl, NO. She knows that he lied to her, that he messed with her mind, and that he nearly compelled her to have sex with him, but she still thinks she might be in love with him? THAT I am not okay with. At all. I mean, maybe it’s going to be yet another twist of her mind being tampered with, but that would be a bit much.

During the point where I thought I was going to give Devil 3.5 stars, Vi was skeptical of River and trying to fight his affect on her. She also was learning just how much of a creep he was. River has killed people. Tons of them. I thought that was awesome, and I was looking forward to her taking him out. Well, turns out that River’s innocent, at least of some of it. SURPRISE TWIST! An insane half-brother with similar powers has been stalking River and framing him for evil deeds in Vi’s town! No. So much no to this. It’s overly convenient for one thing and it comes across as a way to excuse River for the things he’s done, which is, frankly, bullshit. Though some parts of Devil were fantastic, I just could not enjoy it personally. To me, River does not belong as a love interest but a villain, and everything felt forced in such a way as to not put him in that role.

As I said, early review of Devil have been really positive and there were things I liked, but, as a whole, I really do not see the appeal. Whatever made this magic for others was not there for me.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I wish people would spread a Faustian rumor about me.’ I leaned over and knocked Sunshine’s hand out of Luke’s hair. ‘A Faustian myth,’ I repeated. ‘It’s so much more interesting than just being that nouveau-poor blond girl who lives in a big house with nobody but her jackass brother with pecs bigger than his brain. Sunshine, if I ever disappear, please tell people that I ran after the Devil, trying to get my soul back.'”

Up Next:

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Cold Steel by Kate Elliott, the final book in the Spiritwalker trilogy. Nafiza of Bibliophilic Monologues suggested I get my butt in gear and finish this series, and I’m thrilled to do so, because it has one of my favorite ships ever. Cat and Vai foreverrrrrrr.

Want to tell me what to read? Check this post.

22 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #20: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

  1. Faye M. says:

    Oh, dear. I was looking forward to this one, but that spoiler thing you mentioned is indeed kind of… heartbreaking. I really don’t like it when I encounter stuff like that where it’s beyond ridiculous already. Someone did all these bad things and you still want him without a second thought?! Yeah, not buying it…

    Needless to say, I’m torn now whether to read this book. Hahaha. Great review as always!

    The Social Potato Reviews

    • Christina says:

      That’s how I felt about it, but I know others were able to see something more in it, so I wouldn’t completely give up hope. But yeah, I couldn’t get past that myself. It was one thing when she was being compelled, but he was gone and her mind was clear and she’s all “I think I might love him” and I can’t.

  2. Wow, I was wanting to read this one, but I’m glad you included the spoilers in your review because that definitely would have killed the novel for me, too. Maybe I’ll change my mind if in future books she doesn’t get with him, but I dunno. Shame, this sounds like it could have been really good and unusual for a YA paranormal.

  3. GillyB says:

    I’m nervous to read this now. I wonder if I’ll be a Jessie or a Christina. The things you said bothered you sound like they would bother me to. I’ll be reading this in about two weeks, so. WE’LL SEE.

  4. So, I skipped the spoiler which means I don’t entirely get why this dropped from a 3.5 to a 1 star.

    I will say that I am like the only blogger who was not in love with the cover for Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, but then it ended up growing on me. AND THEN I ended up jealous of everyone with an ARC. Alas.

    The atmosphere sounds totally legit, but honestly I am not sure how I feel about the mind control stuff and the whole flat character thing.

    • Christina says:

      Ah, right. The spoiler is crucial to that, but I fully respect your decision to skip it.

      I felt the same. It did grow on me a bit, but it’s still not full blown love.

      Anyway, yeah. I would be curious to see what you thought, because I don’t know why I felt that way if everyone else was love love loving it.

  5. Soma Rostam says:

    I was so happy about this book and so looking forward to it
    I am kinda disappointed right now
    But i might still give this book a shot sometime
    Your reader,

  6. Princess Ash says:


    And being me I couldn’t resist the spoiler section and read through it ALL. And I can so see where this would fall EXTREMELY FLAT for me. Honestly, I think it would’ve been even cooler if he HAD been a villain, so much more interesting.

    This sucks. I was really excited for this book… OH, WELL.

    • Christina says:

      If you loved that quote, then you should probably still try. For those who loved the writing/atmosphere, that seems to have been enough.

      Really wish he’d been the villain. That would have been awesome.

  7. fakesteph says:

    I really appreciated your take on this. I totally read your spoilers even though I haven’t read the book yet, and I think I would probably have a lot of the same issues!

  8. Wow! A ONE? shoot. I requested this book on NG but didn’t get it. I thought it sounded really good. I wish I could read your review to see the spoilers and reasons why you didn’t like it. I’m still undecided about the book, so I don’t want to spoil any chance of me reading it. Could you tell me is it heavy on the romance aspects, because I don’t really like books when that’s sort of the main focus. I mostly like romance to be in the background, if any.

    • Christina says:

      It made me mad, thus a one. The quality of the writing alone would be higher, but I decided it deserved a rage rating. Totally understand not wanting to spoil yourself. This is why I clearly demarcated them. The romance is fairly heavy, but it’s part of the plot, so I don’t think it was overwhelming exactly.

  9. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed after reading your review 🙁 I had been greatly looking forward to Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea but after reading about the issues that you had with the novel, I’m beginning to wonder if it really is the right book for me.

    While I’m intrigued by the horror aspect of the novel as I’m a big fan of the genre, character depth and development is always the most important consideration for me when reading, and I was saddened to hear how flat the ones in this story apparently are. I also immediately balked at the slut-shaming and stereotypical portrayal of Sunshine as the vacuous sidekick and ‘slut’ (Ugh.)

    It’s a shame that Tucholke didn’t take the relationship between Violet and River one step further, as like you’ve touched upon in your review, it sounds like there is a great amount of untapped potential in terms of a critical examination of the abusive nature of their relationship and the imbalance of power between them. That could have proven to be a very intelligent and thought-provoking topic, particularly given the shameful 50 Shades of Grey glorification in society we’re subjected to on an almost daily basis.

    • Christina says:

      Sorry about that. You might still want to try it, as I know others were still impressed with it and able to get past that stuff (or not even notice it). I wish that had been me.

      Yeah, Sunshine’s character was seriously upsetting. I kept expecting there to be some sort of resolution that made all of the things okay, but nope.

      I was really shocked when it ended where it did, because I don’t understand how others weren’t upset by their relationship dynamics, but I can only read from my own head. I really can’t condone romanticizing a relationship like this. It may be that Tucholke takes the story elsewhere later on, and I hope so, but I can only rate and review based on this book alone.

  10. Ouch! Definitely not reading this one too! :))) I abhor instalove, even if I love Gothic romances.

  11. Bookworm1858 says:

    I did not realize this book had so much horror-that is something I don’t usually like but I think I will still give this book a try because I cannot resist the cover. I didn’t read the spoilers but once I have read the book, I’ll try to come back to discuss.

  12. Micheline D says:

    Aw, it sucks being the odd one out but hey, we can’t all like the same things! It does give you that weird feeling though like: how can I be the only one annoyed by this?! Anyways, I was really excited about this one initially but the ‘insta-love’ aspect is turning me off more and more, so I’ll be holding off on this one – possibly indefinitely. I just can never get past it and this one sounds like a doozy O.O Thanks for another helpful review!

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