Defy The Dark | Edited By Saundra Mitchell | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Defy The Dark | Edited By Saundra Mitchell | Book ReviewDefy The Dark Published by HarperCollins on 2013-06-18
Genres: Adolescence, Love & Romance, Short Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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The seventeen original stories in Defy the Dark, an eerie, mind-bending YA anthology, could only take place in darkness. Open the pages and discover: A creepy guy who stares too long. The secrets of the core of the earth. Dreams of other people’s lives. A girl who goes mad in the darkness. Monsters in Bavaria. A generational spaceship where night doesn’t exist. And other mysteries and oddities. The contributors to the enthralling collection are: Sarah Rees Brennan, Tessa Gratton, Rachel Hawkins, Christine Johnson, Valerie Kemp, Malinda Lo, Myra McEntire, Saundra Mitchell, Sarah Ockler, Jackson Pearce, Aprilynne Pike, Dia Reeves, Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan, Jon Skovron, Courtney Summers, and Kate Espy, winner of the Defy the Dark new author contest.

I kind of love reviewing short story anthologies because to me, they are easy to review. I just pop up the name of each story, summarize it and give a little paragraph of my opinion for each story. That’s not terribly hard and the review basically writes itself. I pulled Defy The Dark edited by Saundra Mitchell off my pile because it was the last ARC I had that was a short story anthology. Friends, this anthology took me a really long time to read. First off, there are a TON of stories in it. Second off, the stories are kind of uneven, as with all anthologies. Some stories are fantastic, some are kind of really BLAH. The premise of this anthology is basically kisses in the dark and it goes from there.

Sleepstalk by Courtney Summers

Man, that Courtney Summers is always a brilliant one. So, Sleepstalk is told in first person from the point of view of a girl who is kind of a psycho. She basically follows this 20 year old guy who sleepwalks. You see, she had a relationship with Jed Miller, but he had to end it because he had a girlfriend and also, his dad is in politics. The girl refuses to end it though. And so, when Jed sleepwalks, she follows him to the river where she had an accident. Y’all, this story is freaky as hell especially because the main character is someone you can empathize with at certain points, even though there is no way in hell that what she is doing is okay. Fricken brain bender, you guys. Perfect story to open the anthology!

Nature by Aprilynne Pike

Nature is a futuristic short story where society is divided up into three parts – Nature are those who birth children, Nurture are those who do the heavy intellectual lifting and Laborers are those who do the labor obviously. Kylie is a real smart girl and she’s scored pretty high on her test to be a Nurture and thus has lived her life like that is what she will be. ONLY! Her wide hips have taken various points off her test and so she is assigned to be a Nature. This story is about how she adjusts and the boy she meets. It was alright. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it.

The Dark Side Of The Moon by Dia Reeves

Dia Reeves’s short story The Dark Side Of The Moon is set in Portero, Texas – the same setting as Slice Of Cherry. If you are unfamiliar with her books, I will simply say it’s a place in East Texas where there are cracks and holes and so, paranormal darker things have slipped through. In this story, a young man named Cado is visiting his girlfriend Patricia in Portero before the two go off to band camp. Patricia’s parents don’t approve of Cado because he is white. So, he has to do something to prove himself and that something is taking the night trolley — which FYI only one person has ever survived, and that person did not come out okay. Scary imagery and one trippy ride abound. Overall, I enjoyed this dark story – it felt pretty fast paced and creative.

Ghost Town by Malinda Lo

Ghost Town by Malinda Lo is about this girl named Ty who has moved to Colorado from San Francisco. She hates Colorado and misses the warm, welcoming environment of San Francisco. The story is set during Halloween. Ty is going out on a ghost hunt with Mackenzie, this girl who she is pretty interested in. Only, Mackenzie is about to pull a mean spirited prank on Ty. Yet, Ty manages to turn the tables on Mackenzie. In all, I enjoyed Lo’s short story. I liked the timeline. I liked that it portrayed lesbians as normal. I liked that it was tightly plotted with no extraneous bullshit. Overall, one of my favorites so far.

Eyes In The Dark by Rachel Hawkins

What I learned from Eyes In The Dark by Rachel Hawkins is do not cheat on your boyfriend, monsters will eat you. Basically Sam is a girl who works at Shop N’ Save. She has a boyfriend. However, her childhood crush comes back into her life one night and so instead of riding home with her best friend, she rides home with him. He decides to go to a covered bridge that is closed because a couple mysteriously disappeared from there. She begs him to go home, he ignores her. Regrets happen. Also, kissing. Also, getting eaten by monsters. This story really captured fear kind of well. Like, I was nervous the whole time. I liked it.

Stillwater by Valerie Kemp

Stillwater by Valerie Kemp is exactly how I think a Southern Gothic short story should be written. I can feel the heat and humidity in the story. I can feel the atmosphere in the words. There’s a certain southern charm to the story. Essentially Stillwater is about a boy named Pruitt who is descended from one of two brothers who were feuding back in the Civil War era. Anyways, Pruitt has a crush on this girl named Delilah who is descended from the other brother and a slave. They are seventh cousins. The two notice there is something very strange about the town of Stillwater, population 319. They decide to investigate it — but realize that they can’t go to sleep or else. In all, this was really good. I loved the writing style, I would read more by Kemp.

I Gave You My Love By The Light Of The Moon by Sarah Rees Brennan

I am surprised that I am not in love with Sarah Rees Brennan’s short story. I mean, I like her writing and she makes me laugh and I usually love her short stories. This one however just didn’t do it for me. It opens at a coffee shop where Berthe is with her best friends, having the worst cramps ever and notices a creepy boy staring at her. She goes outside, pukes on the boy’s shoes and finds out she has been turned into a werewolf. Stephen, the boy, is a vampire. The two navigate their paranormal status and this is an interesting story, just not my favorite, ya know?

Night Swimming by Beth Revis

Beth Revis’s short story takes place in the same universe as her Across The Universe series, onboard the spaceship Godspeed. This story is about an unnamed main character who lives on an area of the ship called the Ward where all the other creatives aka crazies live. One day Elder is sent to live on the Ward. The story is about how the main character falls for this girl named Kayleigh, who is vivacious and who takes him night swimming. She is unraveling a plot. The story ends on an intense note. Overall, this is okay but I kind of want to see what Revis can do outside of the ATUverse.

Almost Normal by Carrie Ryan

Almost Normal by Carrie Ryan is about a boy named Connor who is celebrating one last night of freedom at the amusement park with his best friends and girlfriend, Sarah. That is, until the zombies come. Naturally, this short story is eerie and gets my heart beating fast, because as many of you well know, zombies scare me. We get a feel for the end of days as people in Connor’s town prepare for the Dead to come in about three days. Connor thought he had more time, until they begin to hear the screams while on the roller coaster. Only, those are screams of people having a blast on some rides. Friends, I LOVED this short story. It actually scared me and also, the writing was good. I liked Ryan’s imagery. If you do read Defy The Dark make sure you read this story and don’t skip it.

There’s Nowhere Else by Jon Skovron

This is the first time I’ve read something by Jon Skovron and I actually really liked it! There’s Nowhere Else is about a boy named Sebastian who has a strange ability. When he sleeps, he jumps into the bodies and lives of different people and is able to possess them. He’s happier asleep than he is awake because as it turns out, his life is not quite perfect. In fact, his life is pretty darn hard. He lives with his mother who lives with her boyfriend, an abusive man named Bill. One day, Sebastian ends up possessing Bill’s body in a dream and has a relatively tough choice to make. The story takes kind of a weird turn. There’s also no romance. However, I really liked the pacing and how it was written. Thumbs up.

Naughty Or Nice by Myra McEntire

KRAMPUS! That’s right, Myra McEntire’s short story Naughty Or Nice wins the prize for the most unexpected story in this anthology. Straight up, I was not expecting Christmas and Krampus and omg this needs to be sold on it’s own as one of those Kindle Short Stories before Christmas. The gist is that Bex and her best friend Henry go on a trip with the school to Bavaria before Christmas. Bex and Henry have always been attracted to each other but totally deny it. So, when the two discover that Krampus is real they are forced to confront their feelings. AND BASICALLY THIS IS THE BEST SHORT STORY. OMG. Shut it down.

Shadowed by Christine Johnson

Okay Shadowed by Christine Johnson was super weird. I just didn’t gel with this short story. It’s about a girl named Esme who lives in a tower in the dark. She can’t go into the light or else her shadow will attack her. You see, she’s under this curse. One day, she sees a knight jousting from her window and waves her blue ribbon at him. She falls for him even though she’s never met him. After her maid sees that she’s got neck bruises, the maid named Margaret decides to let Esme leave the tower to get treatment from Anne. And so, that’s the premise of Shadowed. It’s got an interesting setting and all, but I am kind of meh about it. I just didn’t like this one.

Now Bid Time Return by Saundra Mitchell

Saundra Mitchell’s contribution to Defy The Dark is a short story about time traveling. It runs less paranormal than the other stories in this book. Basically, an American girl named Dacey enters this contest for a trip and wins it. Her parents freak at first but then become cool with it. You see, she goes to Norway where there is this thing called Polar Night, which means that it is dark all day and all night. It’s where you can see the Northern Lights which is quite cool. Dacey basically goes because she is hoping night all the time will cure her insomnia. As she stays in this house, she finds that she is not alone but there is a mysterious and strange boy there. There’s also an undeniable attraction between the two. In all, I liked Now Bid Time Return. I thought it was well written with an interesting concept.

The Moth And The Spider by Sarah Ockler

Normally I really like Sarah Ockler’s writing and her books. Unfortunately, The Moth And The Spider was a dud for me. It wasn’t so much the writing, that wasn’t terrible. It was just that I didn’t gel with or really click with this story. The main character Cali is home from the mental ward. There’s nothing dangerous in her room. She’s attempted suicide but it didn’t work and the psychologist said it was a cry for attention and not a real attempt. So, anyways. Cali is busy writing her suicide note after she’s managed to hide her pills under her tongue and she’s socked away enough pills to overdose. Then her phone rings 12 times and she’s got a wrong number. A girl from a juvenile detention center in Maine is trying to reach her mother and only has Cali’s number. From there Cali is still attempting to write her note when the phone rings again. Oh, and there’s some symbolism about gypsy moths that only live for a week and spiders who eat moths. Eh. I don’t know. This story was just, meh, for me.

Where The Light Is by Jackson Pearce

Jackson Pearce’s short story has a pretty unique setting. It’s set in coal country, in a town called Middleview where there’s a mine. The main character, Will, is a teenage boy who does not want to be a miner. However, that’s his fate, to be a miner. If he was to leave town for college or the army, he would disappoint his father’s memory. Y’all, his dad was this major hero who saved a few miners during a cave-in. One day while working, Will hears a knocking in the seam. He discovers a girl there, Ennor, who is actually half-human, half-fey. They form a deep friendship and bond. Where The Light Is is all about how Will leaves his mining fate behind. I actually enjoyed Pearce’s short story.

This Was Ophelia by Tessa Gratton

Finishing the anthology of Defy The Dark is This Was Ophelia by Tessa Gratton, a re-imagining of Hamlet from Ophelia’s point of view. Well, actually, it’s just a revision of Ophelia’s part in Hamlet. Ophelia is a girl who likes to go out at night dressed as a man, she feels more freedom when her chest is bound. She loves the possibilities and anonymity at the night clubs she frequents. She is unable to go to the clubs dressed as herself because that might negatively impact her marriage prospects, after all, her parents want her to marry someone wealthy. One night, she comes across Halden King, son of the late mayor King. They fall for each other, he doesn’t realize she is a girl. He goes off to college but manages to send her love letters. Ophelia’s parents find out and are overjoyed because Hal’s family is wealthy and powerful, more elite than her family. So, anyways, they have this dinner and Halden finds out that “O” is really Ophelia. Will their relationship last? Obviously you will have to read This Was Ophelia to find out. Tessa Gratton did a fantastic job with her story and is one of the best, so I am glad that the anthology ends on a rather high note.

Other reviews of Defy The Dark:

Vailia’s Page Turner – “Not a bad little collection of stories.
Proud Book Nerd – “While I was mildly disappointed in Defy the Dark, when I look back through my notes I realize that I actually did like most of it.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Okay, I am not an anthology fan, but I now NEED this, because COURTNEY SUMMERS. Like, how is her name not in giant print on the cover so that I would buy this. Okay, I do not have time to comment on all the things, but basically if you had not reviewed this, I never would have put it on my tbr, so good work, ma’am.