Confession time: this is my first Sarah Singleton book. Every school librarian has failed to read at least one YA author with a good reputation (hey, we can only read so much you know!). Singleton is certainly highly thought of among my school library peers, with a prolific output and a Booktrust Teenage prize under her belt, for 2005's Century. She's predominantly known for dark fantasy works, though a cursory glance at her body of work suggests she dabbles in other genres too.
Dark Storm has strong supernatural elements running through it, but at heart it's a love story. It follows Ellie, grieving from the loss of her mother over a year ago, and angry with her father for falling for a woman not a patch on the woman he loved before. Staying with her grandparents for the summer, she joins a theatre group in a bid to make friends of her own age. It's through the play the group is rehearsing that she also meets Harry, who she falls deeply in love with. Trouble is, Harry is actually dead: he's a ghostly spirit with a dark, complicated background of his own. Ellie can't even touch him. Could they possibly have a future together?
It might seem a bit Twilight-esque, but to compare Dark Storm to Meyer's all conquering trilogy does Singleton a disservice. Her book is deftly plotted and beautifully written. The problem is, it's too beautifully written. Singleton's knows how to weave purple prose, but her lovely descriptions are allowed to meander and eddy on for too long. Just as momentum is being built by Ellie uncovering a layer of intrigue when investigating Harry's story, things are slowed right down by adjective leaden, paragraph long descriptions of the colour of the sky on the horizon, or the front garden of someone's house. This is frustrating and suspense draning, so why hasn't an editor reined in her lovingly constructed but, in terms of plot and character development, irrelevant descriptive prose?
Bit of a shame really, as talented writers like Singleton do need to be read more by teens saturated with truckloads of terribly written post-Twilight nonsense. Dark Storm is far from being a bad read: Singleton captures the vivid intensity of adolescent love very well, particularly in the shape of unrequited love triangles. The trouble is, this is too long and not what you'd call a page turner, and Singleton overeggs Ellie's introspection to a repetitive, tedious degree. Beautifully written, yes, but a difficult book to recommend to teenagers living in a world of instant gratification distractions.