Rating: 2.75 stars
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Robert Gorham has been alone a long time and if you were to ask him why, he’d say he likes it that way. But he’d be lying. The truth is that Robert is lonely and has been since, in a moment of childish frustration, he wanted his parents to leave him alone and they did — by getting into their car and driving away. They never returned. Because whenever Robert wants something, he simply has to think it and it happens. His unique power has keep him in cash and cars and utterly isolated from the world around him. At least, until he meets the Unusuals.
A small group of friends, each with powers that set them apart from humanity, embrace Robert as one of their own. But it’s a rocky friendship as Robert can’t and sometimes won’t control his power, which means he can never be completely sure of his place, even among his friends. When a menacing threat suddenly escalates to murder, Robert finds himself at a crossroads. If he embraces his talent, he will lose his friends and what’s left of his morality. But if he’s strong enough to control his power, he might be able to finally save himself.
A Neon Darkness is the second in The Bright Sessions series and I’m not sure I think it can be read independently from the first book. There is an interesting story here, but it’s also a fairly predictable one. Along with pacing issues and characters that that didn’t fully resonate, I found myself struggling with A Neon Darkness.
Robert is a compelling character and his story grabbed my attention, but failed to keep it. I didn’t feel the character was allowed any real growth or change throughout the book. The same could be said for the secondary characters as well. Given the amount of trauma each of them experienced, I would have expected these characters to be deeper and more defined. I just wanted to know more about them and their histories. Beyond Robert, it was hard to fully connect with any of the secondary characters. They read as stiff and not fully a part of their own world. They did have some depth, but there just needed to be more overall.
The pacing is problematic in A Neon Darkness. It took me a long time to finish this one and more than once I nearly set the book aside for good. The story tends to meander and there isn’t much substance to it until the last third. I can usually tolerate a wandering plot, but this one just wasn’t compelling enough to hold my attention for long.
A Neon Darkness had an interesting premise, but I never felt fully invested in either the characters, their plight, or the overall story line. The book lacked substance to the plot development and struggled to communicate its purpose. Now the book is part of a wider Bright Sessions universe, which includes another book and a podcast that started in 2015. Having previous exposure to those entries might improve A Neon Darkness, but as a standalone it failed to deliver.