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The Gathering Dark

The Gathering Dark

5.0 1
by Christine Johnson

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A mysterious teen boy knows the secrets of Keira’s dangerous hallucinations in this gripping romantic fantasy from the author of Claire de Lune.

Keira’s hallucinating. First it’s a door hovering above the road; then it’s a tree in her living room. But with her parents fighting and her best friend not speaking to her, Keira


A mysterious teen boy knows the secrets of Keira’s dangerous hallucinations in this gripping romantic fantasy from the author of Claire de Lune.

Keira’s hallucinating. First it’s a door hovering above the road; then it’s a tree in her living room. But with her parents fighting and her best friend not speaking to her, Keira can’t tell anyone about her breakdown.

Until she meets Walker. They have an electric connection, and somehow he can see the same shadowy images plaguing Keira.

But trusting Walker may be more dangerous than Keira could have ever imagined. The more she confides in him, the more intense—and frightening—her visions become. Because Walker is not what he appears to be. And neither are her visions.

Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Johnson is adept at maintaining an air of menace and suspense while infusing sexual tension into the mix."
"[The Gathering Dark] is an interesting amalgam: a lusty romance made more so by its self-imposed, repressed desire, a nod to astrophysics and the theory of dark matter, and a suspenseful adventure into another world, all grounded in references to classical piano repertoire."
From the Publisher
"A tale of young love and teenage angst. Perfect escape reading."

"Johnson is adept at maintaining an air of menace and suspense while infusing sexual tension into the mix."

"[The Gathering Dark] is an interesting amalgam: a lusty romance made more so by its self-imposed, repressed desire, a nod to astrophysics and the theory of dark matter, and a suspenseful adventure into another world, all grounded in references to classical piano repertoire."

VOYA - Lynne Farrell Stover
Keira Brannon is a musical prodigy. She would rather play her piano than do anything else. That is, until she meets handsome and charming Walker Andover, a new employee at Take Note, her favorite place to shop. Keira may be a beautiful, talented, only child with a fully endowed college fund, but her life is hardly perfect. Her argumentative parents spend most of their time avoiding each other; her best friend’s life centers around dating a loser; and an aggressive classmate’s unwanted attention is disturbing and dangerous. Life is so complicated that Keira has no one to confide in when she begins hallucinating. She soon discovers the bizarre images invading her life are actually indications of a precarious parallel world, and that she and Walker are not who they appear to be. Traveling through the Darkside’s menacing terrain, our brave young couple learns they are key participants in an experiment gone awry. Barely escaping with their lives, they return home to face the possibility of being “grounded for life” for telling a falsehood. Obviously, this story is to be continued. First and foremost, this is a tale of young love and teenage angst. The plot is predictable, the forbidden love theme is trendy, and the characters’ dialogue is often repetitive and forced. The characters are relatable, however, and the physics described in the story’s threatening Darkside is interesting and consistent. Keira and Walker’s extraordinary adventures may be perfect escape reading for a young high school girl while babysitting or traveling on the bus with the marching band. Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
Dark matter is imagined as an alternate universe, existing in an uneasy symbiosis with reality in this intriguing but overlong paranormal romance. Keira, a talented pianist, dreams of escaping her small Maine town and her perpetually arguing parents. Her relentless focus on music leaves little time for other pursuits, including boys, so she is as much apprehensive as electrified when she meets the charismatic Walker. She's also horrified when, soon after their encounter, she begins seeing strange things--first just an unusual piece of fruit on the kitchen counter that disappears when she tries to touch it, but soon, they are larger and more elaborate visions that eventually cannot be ignored. Keira's smart, witty third-person voice provides balance for the somewhat goofy premise, and she's a refreshingly strong character, even as she's inexorably drawn to Walker. (She exclaims at one point, "But I don't like being the kind of girl who needs a guy to save her.") However, it's obvious from the onset that there is some kind of otherworldly force pulling them toward each other, and the question of exactly why drags on too long. Still, the conclusion is a satisfying one that cleverly works in her musical ability, and readers with a penchant for the genre will enjoy both the tortured romance and its eventual resolution. (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Nothing is going to distract high school student Keira from practicing her piano. After all, it is her talent that is going to get her out of her dead-end hometown and into Julliard. So when handsome Walker starts to work at the music store Keira frequents, she tries to keep her distance. When she begins to experience hallucinations, she is afraid that she might be going crazy. Then she begins to unravel the truth. Her hallucinations are really portals into a parallel universe called Darkside. She realizes that her musical ability has life-and-death implications and that Walker is not who he seems to be. The plot is complex, but nimbly handled. The backstories of Keira's quarreling parents, her alienated BFF, and her long-dead uncle are interspersed with the tormented reality of Darkside. Thrown into the mix is the gentle development of romance between Keira and Walker. Descriptive passages are imaginative and evocative. Keira's hallucinations-Walker's moving tattoo, the solitary door in the middle of the road, dark trees growing in the living room-come across as believable but unnerving disturbances in an otherwise normal life. The dialogue rings true, particularly the easy, relaxed conversations between Keira and her best friend. The only downside is that the rising action takes a long time to unfold. Keira does not discover that the hallucinations are real until more than halfway into the story. Still, the slow beginning gives way to a crackerjack middle and end. There are hints of a sequel.—Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Library, NC

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.70(d)
HL670L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Gathering Dark

  • NORMALLY, KEIRA DIDN’T NOTICE the shoppers that trickled through the department store. She just sat, head down, playing the obnoxious, white-lacquered baby grand. But this time was different. The oily-smooth voice cracked her focus like an egg smashing against a windowpane.

    “Keeeeira. Still doing the piano thing, huh?”

    Keira’s fingers hesitated above the keys, breaking the rhythm of the unobtrusive music that Mr. Seever, the store manager, insisted she play. Live music was never going to make the mall in Sherwin, Maine, a classy place, but Keira didn’t care. She was making money with her music. Good money. Even if the music was horrible, it was still a chance to flex her fingers. To work on her concentration.

    Concert pianists have to be able to focus, no matter what else is happening. Come on, Keira. Pay attention.

    Two guys, both sporting gelled hair and over-applied body spray, sidled up next to the piano. They weren’t just a couple of popular guys—they were practically famous in Sherwin. People fawned over Jeremy Reynolds and his friends, teachers and girlfriends and high school peons alike. Except Keira. She didn’t care about their parties or their clothes. They used to treat her like a freak, until one guy in Jeremy’s inner circle, Tommy Hutchinson, started dating Keira’s best friend, Susan Kim.

    Jeremy’s endless attempts to flirt with her were worse than his snide comments. She ended up fending him off whenever he and Tommy came to the store to visit Susan.

    Keira had to shut him down every single time she saw him. It was exhausting. And distracting.

    “You’re way too hot to play such boring music.” Jeremy leaned an elbow on the piano. “You should play something that has more feeling.”

    Lamest come-on of the week. She watched her right hand stretch, her pinkie reaching for the F-sharp key. Something tickled Keira’s nose, breaking through the cloud of Jeremy’s cologne.

    Cigarette smoke.

    Startled, she glanced up. Sure enough, a lit cigarette dangled from Jeremy’s fingers. The smoke curled away from it like a gray ribbon.

    “There’s a party Friday night. You should come with me. I’ll even take you to dinner or something first.”

    Keira didn’t date.

    Especially not a smoker.

    Extra-especially not a smoker who was also a jerk.

    Sometimes when Keira looked at him, she still saw a seventh-grader, standing as far from her as he could at the bus stop. She’d watched him claw his way to the top rung of Sherwin High, in spite of the fact that he came from the wrong side of town.

    Keira’s side of town.

    Jeremy’d lived one street behind and three doors south of Keira’s house his whole life. He wasn’t rich, but now he was powerful. He knew the right people. Screw silver spoons—the rest of Jeremy’s friends had been born with sets of Mustang keys in their mouths.

    Keira glanced around for Tommy, who had headed over to the nearby perfume counter to say hi to Susan. He caught her watching him and held her gaze, his face breaking into an encouraging smile when he saw Jeremy leaning in close.

    Keira frowned back at Tommy, but Tommy’s gaze had drifted over to Jeremy.

    She watched Jeremy put the cigarette to his lips and take a deliberate drag. Jeremy exhaled a halo of smoke so foul and thick that Keira choked on it, coughing hard enough that she instinctively jerked her fingers off the keyboard and covered her mouth.

    With the smell of cigarettes permeating the cosmetics section and the sudden pause in the music, Keira knew Mr. Seever was bound to appear any second. Her fear of losing her job swelled, eclipsing her fear of pissing everyone off.

    “You can’t smoke in here! You’ll get me fired!” she growled. She was already on thin ice after a fur-jacketed old woman demanded Keira play some Johnny Mercer, then complained to the manager when Keira had said she didn’t know any of his songs. Don’t make me regret hiring you, Mr. Seever’d warned.

    Behind the perfume counter, she could see Susan watching with a worried frown. Susan was the one who’d gotten her the job in the first place. It was supposed to be fun, working right next to each other.

    Because this is such a super good time we’re having. Right.

    Jeremy clutched his cigarette protectively. “Don’t be like that. We’re just playing around, right?” He fake pouted. It was distinctly un-sexy.

    “Jeremy!” Susan said, exasperated. She turned to Tommy. “Can you . . . please?”

    Tommy rubbed a hand across his head, messing up his hair. He looked so torn that Keira could practically hear him ripping at the seams. “Come on, Keira,” he wheedled. “Lighten up, okay? There’s no one around, or anything.”

    Susan crossed her arms and made an irritated noise. Tommy’s cheeks went blotchy.

    “Please,” Keira said to Jeremy, trying not to beg. “I’ll get in trouble.”

    Tommy stepped closer. “Maybe we should get out of here, Jer. I need to get some food, anyway.”

    “I think we should stay. It’s not like I’m gonna set the scarves on fire or anything.”

    The guys leaned in on either side of Keira. She felt trapped.

    “Seriously, man, I gotta get something to eat or I’m gonna starve.” Tommy reached over Keira and pushed Jeremy’s shoulder playfully.

    “Watch the jacket, man!” Jeremy grabbed Tommy’s wrist, looking genuinely angry.

    Keira stood up, completely abandoning the piano. All she wanted was to get away from the two guys. Before she could get around them, Tommy stepped to the side to slip out of Jeremy’s grip and tripped over the legs of the piano bench. His fall pulled Jeremy into Keira, knocking her against the piano. The glowing cherry of his cigarette pressed against the arm of her shirt.

    By the time he’d righted himself and pulled the cigarette away, it had burned through her cotton shirt. With her heart tapping out a panicked staccato, Keira looked at the skin beneath it. There was a small, circular indentation in her arm, where the smoldering tobacco had pressed against her skin, but there was no burn. No blister. Nothing.

    How can that be?

    The guys backed away from the piano.

    “You pushed me into her!”

    “What? You were the one holding on to me!”

    “You grabbed me first! And anyway, she’s not hurt!” Jeremy looked at Keira. “You’re not hurt, right? I mean, you’re not crying or anything.”

    “I’m fine. Could you leave now?” The words were sharp as pins, and Jeremy’s eyes narrowed.

    “Keira! Are you okay?” Susan shouldered her way between the two guys. “Just get out of here!” She spat the words at Jeremy as she brushed past.

    “Sorry, Keira. I’ll make it up to you, okay?” Jeremy glanced over his shoulder apologetically as he and Tommy scrambled for the exit.

    “Did he burn you?” Susan tugged at Keira’s arm, her dark eyes widening when she saw the ruined sleeve. “Oh, my God.”

    “No, it’s okay. It just got . . . ” She was going to say, It just got my shirt, but that wasn’t true. That cigarette had ground against her like an overeager sophomore. Only, it hadn’t burned her. Thinking about it made her hands shake. “I’m fine, I guess.”

    “Jesus. You are so lucky. I wish Tommy would quit hanging out with Jeremy. He’s such an—” Susan’s gaze snapped to the side.

    Keira heard the squeak of leather shoes against the tile floor. With his comb-over flapping like an errant wing, Mr. Seever scurried up to them.

    “What happened? Do you know those boys who just ran out of my store?” he demanded.

    Keira crossed her arms to hide the hole in her shirt, then leaned against the piano for support. The white lacquer might be ugly, but it still made her feel better to be touching it.

    “No. I mean . . . yes, we go to school together, but—”

    Mr. Seever interrupted her. “I told you when you were hired that it would be unacceptable for your friends to come and ‘hang out’ with you while you were working.”

    “They’re not my friends!” Keira protested. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Susan shifting nervously. She looked like she couldn’t decide if she was supposed to say something or shut up.

    Keira shook her head at Susan. There was no reason for her to get in trouble too.

    Apparently, Susan disagreed.

    “They’re my friends, Mr. Seever.”

    Mr. Seever turned and arched an eyebrow at Susan. “There’s no need to try to cover for Keira, Miss Kim. I saw those boys by the piano. I heard the music stop.”

    He pursed his lips. “And all this after we had that unfortunate incident with the customer’s request last week. Having you here is taking up far too much of my attention. Clearly, I should have hired a professional musician for this job.”

    Keira’s insides felt too light beneath her skin. She lifted her chin. “Are you firing me?”

    Mr. Seever sighed. “I’m sorry, but it’s just proving too disruptive to the shoppers.”

    “But it wasn’t her fault!” Susan insisted.

    “Ms. Kim. I appreciate your loyalty to your friend here, but I think you’ll find that—in this situation—it is misplaced. I would hate to have to fire both of you.”

    Keira swallowed her retort—that he had a lot of nerve talking about loyalty after he’d just fired someone who hadn’t done anything wrong. But it wouldn’t do her any good to say it, and she was not going to get Susan fired. Keira bit the inside of her cheek and waited silently until he was finished.

    “Your check for this week is in the office.” Mr. Seever cleared his throat. “It’ll be your last one.” He turned to Susan. “Don’t you have displays to dust?”

    Susan started to say something, then snapped her mouth shut.

    “I’ll call you later,” Keira said to Susan, who scrambled back behind the perfume counter. When she looked back, Mr. Seever had already disappeared into the racks of belts and purses.

    “Sorry, Keira,” Susan whispered.

    Keira shrugged. “No, I’m sorry. You’re the one who’s stuck working for the asshole. And hey, there are other jobs, right?” She forced herself to smile. “In the meantime, I’ll have more time to practice. That’s always a good thing.”

    Susan gave her a knowing look. As in—she knew how badly Keira needed the money.

    Keira’s hands trembled as she waved good-bye and headed for the office. She pulled on her jacket and stuffed the check in her bag, with the twenty-three dollars in cash that represented her current life-savings.

    With a last glance around the office, Keira headed for the parking lot, praying that her car would start.

  • Meet the Author

    Christine Johnson grew up in, moved away from, and finally came home to Indianapolis, Indiana. While she was in the “away” part of that adventure, she lived in Chicago, Illinois, where she attended DePaul University and majored in Political Science. She now lives in an old house in an old neighborhood with her kids and way too many books. Find her on the web at http://www.christinejohnsonbooks.com/ and on Twitter @cjohnsonbooks.

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    The Gathering Dark 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I loved every mimute of it! I want this book always and am hopefully going to Julliard as well! Absolutely spectacular, captivates you instantly!