The Other Side of Dark
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The Other Side of Dark

3.6 15
by Sarah Smith
     
 

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The Other Side of Dark is an intricate mystery that will leave you breathless.” Holly Black, bestselling author of Tithe

There is too much death in Katie Mullen’s life—her mother, her father and now the ghosts. They come to Katie from the other side of dark. People who have died—recently, not so recently, in accidents, as suicide, as

Overview

The Other Side of Dark is an intricate mystery that will leave you breathless.” Holly Black, bestselling author of Tithe

There is too much death in Katie Mullen’s life—her mother, her father and now the ghosts. They come to Katie from the other side of dark. People who have died—recently, not so recently, in accidents, as suicide, as tragic pages from the past. When someone dies, their secrets die too. But if a ghost comes back, these secrets can speak again…. And that’s what Law Walker wants, a passage to the past, the key to a secret that will change everything. So what if his dad doesn’t want him dating a white girl? So what if people think Katie is crazy? Together they’re about to uncover a piece of Boston history that is so shocking it was buried centuries ago, and now, nothing will ever seem the same. Get ready to see people—dead and alive—for who they really are.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
What good is being able to see and speak to the dead if it doesn't help solve a mystery surrounding them? Fifteen-year-old Katie Mullens can interact with ghosts, including that of her father, though not of her more recently deceased mother. Law Walker is the mixed-race son of activists--an academic father who's a prominent advocate for slavery reparations ("Even in pajamas, standing at the top of the stairs and saying, ‘Susan, I have lost my toothbrush,' his voice quivers with the weight of four hundred years of injustice") and a mother struggling to save a historic Boston building. Forging a friendship as outsiders--their classmates have written off Katie as crazy, and Law is a self-described geek trying to escape his domineering father's shadow--Katie and Law dive into a thickening tangle involving slavery, a treasure, and an old cabal that has modern-day repercussions for living and dead alike. Alternating between the teenagers' distinct and searching first-person narratives, and combining real history with quests for identity both personal and national, adult author Smith's YA debut is much more than just a ghost story. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

The Other Side of Dark.

Smith, Sarah (Author)

Nov 2010. 320 p. Atheneum, hardcover, $16.99. (9781442402805).

Crazy Katie sees and draws ghosts of real people who were killed in horrid circumstances. Law Walker,
the son of a black Harvard professor and white landscape architect, dreams of becoming an architectural historian. His father believes in reparations; his mother, historical preservation. All the characters collide in the planned demolition of Pinebank, a historic house central to Frederick Law Olmstead’s Emerald Necklace park system in Boston. As Law begins to realize that Katie’s visions hold the key to saving Pinebank, he falls for her, despite her oddities. Well-known adult author Smith, who confesses to have loved ghost stories since childhood, has written an intricate YA debut that weaves complicated racial issues into a romantic, mysterious novel based on a controversial event in recent Boston history. Both adult and teenage characters are likable and authentically complex. Katie’s visions of slavery and Law’s father’s address to the Boston City Council make for challenging reading that will prompt readers to reconsider the burden of history we all carry, regardless of race or origin.

— Frances Bradburn, BOOKLIST, October 15, 2010

The Other Side of Dark
Sarah Smith, S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4424-0280-5
What good is being able to see and speak to the dead if it doesn't help solve a mystery surrounding them? Fifteen-year-old Katie Mullens can interact with ghosts, including that of her father, though not of her more recently deceased mother. Law Walker is the mixed-race son of activists—an academic father who's a prominent advocate for slavery reparations ("Even in pajamas, standing at the top of the stairs and saying, ‘Susan, I have lost my toothbrush,' his voice quivers with the weight of four hundred years of injustice") and a mother struggling to save a historic Boston building. Forging a friendship as outsiders—their classmates have written off Katie as crazy, and Law is a self-described geek trying to escape his domineering father's shadow—Katie and Law dive into a thickening tangle involving slavery, a treasure, and an old cabal that has modern-day repercussions for living and dead alike. Alternating between the teenagers' distinct and searching first-person narratives, and combining real history with quests for identity both personal and national, adult author Smith's YA debut is much more than just a ghost story. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)
Publishers Weekly, 10/18/2010

Children's Literature - Dana Benge
It has been a year since Katie Mullens's mother died in a tragic accident. Since then, Katie's talent for drawing has taken a dark turn. Now she draws horrible, bloody pictures and talks to dead people. Everyone is convinced Katie is crazy; especially her friend, Law Walker, whose Ivy League parents do not approve of his spending so much time with her because she is crazy, she is from the wrong side of town, and she is white. But Katie's ability to talk to ghosts has led her to uncover secrets kept since the Civil War that threaten the historic home Law and his mother are fighting to preserve. When she begins to share these secrets with Law, and joins his mother's campaign to save the old house, her drawings become more bizarre than ever, and Katie is convinced that she is haunted by more dead people than just George, the young boy with Down Syndrome, and her dad. But these dead people seem to want something from her; something that it may cost Katie her life to give them. The book is based in part on actual events told to the author, and deals with issues of the Civil War, teenage interracial dating, and graphic depictions of conditions aboard slave ships and slave life on plantations. The book contains some graphic language, and one scene of teenage sexuality. The book has a very realistic feel despite its gothic elements due in part to Smith's sensitive, but not overly emotional treatment of teenage interracial relationships. Reviewer: Dana Benge
VOYA - Vikki Terrile
Katie has seen ghosts since her mother died; lately she has been compelled to draw what she sees. It is her drawings that get the attention of Law, a boy who had a crush on Katie years ago but was too afraid to do anything about it. The son of the country's leading scholar on reparations, Law wants to be an architectural historian, despite his father's objections. When Law realizes what Katie is seeing and that together they may be able to save an old house, haunted as much by secrets as ghosts, Law must decide if he is brave enough to stand up to his father, and Katie must decide if she is brave enough to let go of the past. There is a lot going on in Smith's debut novel for teens. Told by Katie and Law in alternating chapters, it is part ghost story, part mystery, part history lesson, part family drama, part romance. Smith raises difficult and thought-provoking questions about race and the lingering evils of slavery through Law's biracial experience and the history of the house he is fighting to save. The visions Katie sees of the tortured men, women, and children, bought and sold like cattle and treated like they were even less than that, are horrifying and brutal. While some of the power of these scenes is lost in the bulky story and occasionally awkward writing, readers will still learn a great deal about the darkest side of our shared history through this novel and will likely be left wanting to know more. Reviewer: Vikki Terrile
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Law Walker and Katie Mullens couldn't be more different. He's the son of a wealthy African-American historian and a white architectural historian. She's a talented artist from a poor family who, after the death of her mother, begins to draw what she sees: ghosts and the horrific ways they died. Katie and Law are drawn together by Pinesbank, an estate that Law's father wants destroyed because of its ties to the slave trade, his mother wants restored because of its place in Boston history, and that Katie knows is important because of her new friendship with the ghost of a boy who lived there. While the premise may seem like that of many other supernatural romances, there is a depth to this title that others are lacking. Law is torn between his mother, whose passion for architecture he shares, and his strident father, who has built his career on working toward reparations and expects his son to follow in his footsteps. Katie is trying to hang on through her grief. Details of her visions and conversations with the dead will haunt readers, even as they're thinking about how race shapes actions and relationships, and how the past can change the present. Recommended for fans of paranormal romance and historical fiction alike.—Karen E. Brooks-Reese, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA
Kirkus Reviews

With both biological parents dead and a loner reputation, 15-year-old Katie's life is complicated enough even before she begins communicating with the dead. Law Walker, meanwhile, walks between his parents' political passions: His African-American father wants to destroy a slave trader's historic house (the now-demolished Pinebank, in Boston), while his Caucasian mother seeks to preserve it. When Katie and Law cross paths in front of Pinebank, they begin working together to solve the house's mysteries. The narrative is unashamedly didactic; what with Law's conflicted racial identity, the reparations debate and a random-feeling scene in which Katie psychically names deceased African slaves, the author's hand dominates the tale. Propelled forward by force rather than genuine character development, the plot is bloated and unwieldy. An historical note with information on Pinebank, the family that owned it and its designer would have been enormously helpful to readers in parsing this narrative, especially due to its reimagined ending of the Pinebank facility. Smith's attempt to use the historic home's story to explore identify conflicts creates a sadly jumbled mess. (Paranormal. YA)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442402805
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
11/02/2010
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 11.80(h) x 3.15(d)
Lexile:
650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

KATIE

THE MAN IS HANGING FROM THE STAIRS AGAIN, which means it’s going to be another bad day.

I slide past him without looking in his direction. He’s just a shadow hanging off the stair rail, la la la, he doesn’t exist, nothing to worry about.

Instead I’m thinking about Mom.

Maybe she’ll come back today. Maybe this afternoon, when I’m home alone because Phil doesn’t get home until six, maybe I’ll finally hallucinate a knock at the door, and it’ll be her, finally, her—

Part of me just says I want to see my mom. I want to talk to her, I want to hug her, I want—

Mom never liked me to read ghost stories, which is kind of ironic, but I read “The Monkey’s Paw” in school. It’s about a kid who dies in an accident, and his parents make a wish to get him back, and then late at night they hear this dragging, moaning thing knocking at the door? The thing is, Mom died in an accident too. Some guy hit her with his car. I can’t look at her clothes or smell her perfume; I made Phil pack them away. She had a pair of red flip-flops I used to borrow all the time. When Phil gave them to me, I screamed and made him take them back.

Maybe the guy will still be hanging from the banister when I get back from school, and this’ll be the day when he stops just hanging there and turns his purple face slooowly and starts pulling himself up the rope

I’d rather see him than Mom. I want to see her. I don’t. I don’t know what I want.

I should introduce myself, like in a meeting of Ghost Seers Anonymous. Hi, I’m Katie, and I never see ghosts. None of the things I see are real. Nobody actually hung himself from the staircase in our two-family. I know this because I asked.

What I see are hallucinations. Hallucinations happen to lots of people, but mostly not to fifteen-year-old girls. Something bad has to happen to you.

What happened to me is Mom died.

A year ago today.

I could hang out with Phil, and we’ll talk about how it’s a year today, or we won’t, and it’ll be really awkward. Or I could sit in the school art room and draw and have Ms. Rosen, the art teacher, worry about what I might have to draw and tell me I have talent, but don’t I want to draw something else?

Ms. Rosen is the worst, because she tries to understand and sympathize even though she doesn’t know a thing about me. She always wants to see what I draw, because she was a friend of Mom’s and she used to admire my work back when I drew fluffy little kitties and princess outfits. I don’t want to be sympathized with. I would rather be laughed at by half the school than understood by Ms. Rosen.

So where am I going to spend my time after school today when I don’t want to be home alone?

Mom and I used to go to the park at Jamaica Pond. Back before everything happened. Back before there were any ghosts but Dad. Before.

Everything’s all right in parks. Parks are sunny. Parks are full of swings and benches and green grass.

Nobody dies in parks.

When I get to the park after school it’s sort of misty-foggy and chill, a northern light, with the trees making black blotches in the background. I chain my bike and sit cross-legged on a park bench with my sketchbook balanced on my knees. I lean back and let my mind and eyes blur: white space of the paper, pale gray water and field, black pine trees. I want to make something all pale smudginess, not an edge, not a line, something that will make people feel chilly and foggy and sad, like they’re missing the person they love most. A picture about how Mom’s not here. Not about her dying.

I uncross my eyes and look.

I’m not alone here. Out in the field a boy is playing with a dog, like they’re both tired and cold and damp and thinking about going home. The boy is throwing a ball clumsily and running after it like someone told him he had to do it some more before he could go inside, and the dog is bored, sniffing at the bushes at the edge of the field, ignoring the ball and the boy. They both look lonely. I smudge them both into my drawing, using them to show the cold, the boy blowing on his hands, his shoulders squared against the damp, and the big white bulldog with one ear cocked toward the boy, sulking and muttering, I don’t see you, you’re not the boss of me.

“Bullet? Bullet! You bad dog!”

I was wrong about the dog belonging to the kid. The bulldog scrabbles stiff-legged toward a woman with a leash and whoofs up at her adoringly, and the two of them head away toward the baseball field. The boy looks after Bullet the dog, wishing for a dog so hard I can almost hear it, though the dog didn’t even pay much attention to him.

Then, looking for something else to do, he sees me and shambles across the field toward me, kicking his ball.

He’s older than I thought, a teenager maybe. As he comes closer I see his round face and thick eyelids. Mom used to work with Down syndrome kids. It makes my heart all pucker up, scared but happy, like he’s a message from Mom. I smile at him and he smiles back, friendly but timid, like people usually pay attention to him only to make fun.

He’s wearing the weirdest assortment of clothes, short wide pants and a thick jacket that looks made out of a blanket. No parka, no gloves. He doesn’t look cold, but I can almost hear Mom talking, like to one of her kids’ moms: Are you keeping him warm?

Maybe I can just remember her today without wanting to burst into tears or scream.

“I’m George,” he says.

“Hello, George. I’m Katie.”

“Hello!” he says, grinning. “Katie.” He looks at my sketchbook. “That’s me. George.” He hunkers down with his hands on his knees, looking at himself. He’s nearsighted; he squints.

He has a nice face, kind of elflike: nice and a little unreal.

“Do you live around here, George?”

“Yes, I do!” George is an exclamation-point kind of kid.

“Do you like dogs?”

“Dogs don’t play with me,” George says. “Do you like drawing?”

“I do. I like it a lot. Can I draw you some more?”

He smiles all over at the thought of pleasing me, which is so nice of him. George is a good person to be with today.

He sits at the other end of the bench with the trees behind him. I outline him quickly, getting the proportions of his face right, then start on contour. The sun comes out through a hole in the cloud, turning the pines dark green and making blocky shadows. George is hard to draw; as the branches move and the light shifts, his face changes the way people’s do in firelight or dreams, older and younger. The clouds trail like fingers across the sun, the light flickers; and behind George, as if there is someplace the strangeness of the light has to come from, instead of the nice quiet block of dark trees I want for contrast, my pencil began to draw a house.

A house in flames, all on fire, every window shrieking and fire-spiky and ghosting smoke and the roof sagging and beginning to fall.

Stop it! I jam the pencil into the notebook rings and look at the picture that should be for Mom, but now it’s about death. On the paper George is a few years older. And he looks so scared. His face is toward me but already he is turning, twisting away, looking back toward the house. He is going to go back inside the house. He doesn’t want to, but he’s going to. And he is going to die.

I look up from the paper and see George posing for me, oblivious, and behind him I see the house.

It’s right where I’ve drawn it, half-hidden in the trees. I didn’t see it before. Now it’s there. It has tall brick chimneys and pointed roofs that look like pine trees. Maybe it was beautiful once. But it feels as haunted and scary as one of my hallucinations. The windows gape and sag like dead mouths. Loose half bricks and broken roof slates litter the grass around it, as if it is throwing bits of itself away.

Part of the roof is just gone; through burned timbers I can see the sky.

But it hasn’t burned all the way. Not the way it did in my picture.

Not yet.

“That’s my house,” says George, coming up behind me.

Oh, shit. “You live there?” Of course he does. With his clumsy clothes and his nearsighted eyes, my guy George is living in an abandoned house.

So? I practically hear Mom’s voice. What are you going to do about it?

Today I should listen and do something.

“George, do you live by yourself? Who lives there with you?”

“I live with my grandfather. George Perkins is my name. I live at Mr. Perkins’s house on Jamaica Pond.”

Mr. Perkins’s house. Some old homeless guy. I am practically channeling Mom. Do you have electricity, George? Do you have a toilet? Do you have a bed? Does your grandfather smoke in bed?

Because, George, I know how you’re going to die, living in a place like that. I just drew it. You’re going to get out of that house when it burns, but you’re going back in.

“Is your grandfather—Mr. Perkins—is he old?”

George nods his head up and down, awed. “But Grandpapa will always take care of me.”

Yeah. Sure he will. Until the fire. Then you’ll go back in after him, and you’ll die.

“George, would you like to go for a walk with me?”

“Oh, yes!”

The police station is just a couple blocks away, and I bet somebody there would like to know all about Grandpa and George.

“But I must be home before dark.”

The shadows of the trees are stretching way onto the baseball field, but I can tell George he’ll be back before dark and I won’t actually be lying. He’ll be back. In a police car.

“No problem, George. Let me get my bike.”

I do the mother hen thing, shooing George back across the field, and grub in my pocket for my bike key and kneel down to unlock my bike. George rocks back and forth by the bench, looking at my bike as if he’s never seen one before.

And then, then, I get it.

You would think I would have got it right away, being me.

I never draw things that are going to happen to people.

I only draw deaths that have already happened.

Way late, with the lock in my hand, reaching to pick up my sketchbook from the ground, I see George’s feet. I see George’s buttoned leather boots, and all around George’s feet nothing but dead winter grass in the sun—

“George, you don’t have a shadow.”

“Oh,” George says. “I forgot.” And around his feet, like a stain, a shadow begins to spread, and spread, shapeless at first, and then it takes the outline of the shadows on the field.

My dead boy George, the newest of my hallucinations, stands in the middle of the field, in flickering light, with the shape of a giant tree shadowing all the ground around him, and spreading, and spreading. I stand up and back away. George calls out to me and holds out his hands, and I scream and I run and I leave him there.

© 2010 Sarah Smith

Meet the Author

Sarah Smith has a BA and PhD in English Literature from Harvard University. She is the author of a three-novel mystery series set in turn of the century Boston and Paris. This is her YA debut. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. Visit her online at sarahsmith.com.

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The Other Side of Dark 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great book... i luuv the connection between law and katey
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You can't just sell other people's books....
Rowena_Ravenclaw More than 1 year ago
This book is poorly written and full of condescension. The scenario and plot could be engaging, but Ms. Smith can't get past her need to lecture. Some of the passages made me laugh. One example, there is a long discussion about slavery and what reparations are. "You ought to write about that." says Katie. "Everybody [there] knows about that...I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but it's only white people who don't know about that." Law tells her. Really? I've know about reparations since I was a kid. And there's more lecturing and writing like a teacher instead of an author throughout. It ruined it after a while, and I just couldn't look past it to enjoy the story.
ramv More than 1 year ago
samp