Between Light and Dark
by Rian McMurtry

"Death is his domain, and he can kill with a thought, almost, and if he lost control it wouldn’t be pretty."

On the surface, Lucas Valley High School appears to be your normal high school environment, albeit one that is progressive with two females, Danielle and Angela, on the junior varsity football team. Behind the scenes, however, what appears to be a narrative revolving around sports and the shattering of gender norms takes a turn for the electrifying and paranormal. High school students and childhood friends Alex Menendez and Seth Dupree, along with Angela "Ange" Fujiwara, are involved in a harrowing bus crash that forges an inseparable link between the three. The dark sense of foreboding begins with Angela regaining consciousness just as Seth's hands are under her shirt.

From the start, it is clear that McMurtry's novel focuses on inclusiveness, whether it is girls playing on the all-boys football team or the cast of multiethnic characters. The author has a strong and pronounced understanding of high school culture. Catering primarily to a teen and young adult audience, McMurtry develops in Angela a character who is steadfast in her belief that Seth behaved inappropriately with her and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. In light of the "Me Too" movement and "Time's Up," this unyielding desire to have justice be served, regardless of how she may be perceived among her peers and friend circle, is refreshing. It is a subtle reminder that certain boundaries must not be crossed under any circumstance.

Following the bus crash, Angela finds herself at the center of repeated, unexplained attacks on her life. Eerily, there is a sense that someone is always watching her. Every attack is foiled by Alex or one of his friends. Though Angela escapes unscathed, not everyone at Lucas Valley is as lucky. The grisly shower scene featuring headless bodies and eyeless sockets is strongly reminiscent of Stephen King's Carrie. McMurtry's strength is creating tense, action-packed, and high-leverage situations both on the football field and off.

The phrase, "death is my domain," foreshadows a grim sequence of events as the plot unravels. Throughout, the author plants leads, such as the news article about wild boar being found dead, and pays them off in a timely manner. At its core, this story is about Seth and Angela's inexplicable connection. Though he is ordered to stay fifty feet away from Angela, Seth appears everywhere, including as a volunteer at Angela's grandmother's hospital. His premonitions, particularly when her grandmother will pass, don't do him any favors in terms of getting in Angela's good graces.

For the better part of the novel, the characters endure utter chaos, making for an engaging read. But this also impels audiences to think about the secretive nature of high school students. The irony, of course, is McMurtry's juxtaposition of these characters trying to engage in normal high school activities like school dances and parties while death is lurking around every corner. From a genre perspective, McMurtry's plot sets into motion a collision course of paranormal young adult fiction with a dark, urban fantasy bent. The story is fully equipped with shapeshifting sharks, terraforming humans determined to prevent climate change, and altered beings turned assassins. McMurtry's novel tests the boundaries of genre and plot, resulting in an entertaining and action-filled read.

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