My Thoughts On: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

Posted October 29, 2012 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 20 Comments

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publish Date: October 16, 2012
352 Pages
Source:  Publisher

Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her. –(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

My Thoughts: I wasn’t sure what to expect when I grabbed Lovely, Dark and Deep out of my pile and decided to read it. The press release told me that Debut Author Amy McNamara is a writer with a special interest/degree in poetry, so I expected some nice language. What I got: some really, really nice language and a story that I loved.

I fell in love with this book within the first few pages.
I am a sucker for someone who writes beautifully.


From the summary, we learn that Wren Wells has suffered a major loss: her boyfriend Patrick. The two were involved in a car accident – he died, she survived. As a result, Wren walked away from everything and pretty much never looked back. She hasn’t yet had closure with Patrick’s death, with his family, with what happened. She hasn’t had closure with the details of the accident, which haven’t been made public. Wren has moved from her big-city life with her mom way up to Maine to live in her father’s secluded home. With her father working odd hours as an artist – and traveling frequently – it is super easy for Wren to lose herself in her grief. Become silent. Let the silence drown her and bury her. For Wren, losing herself this way – running away from everyone – is the only way she can cope with things. Oddly enough, it isn’t actually coping. Basically, Wren is a hot mess and everyone knows it but her.

Then Cal Owen accidentally enters the picture. This annoys Wren in massive ways. How dare Cal come up into her life and threaten her solitary ways, her grieving process, the way she buries herself in silence?! How dare he actually take an interest in her? Call her on the phone? Come by and see her? Make her feel things? After all, Wren doesn’t deserve to feel things after what she’s done to Patrick, right? 

Wren wrestles back and forth with her grief and guilt over Patrick’s death and the new and confusing feelings she has for this guy, Cal. When she finds out that he has a struggle, a secret, an issue of his own – things change a little bit and Wren begins to have not only feelings but an odd interest in him. Out of this interest and these feelings grows the chemistry that is spoken of in the summary. And it is intense and lovely.


There is so much I could say about Lovely, Dark and Deep. Right away, the language and writing style stood out to me. Amy McNamara uses not only full sentences to make her points, but phrases too, which I love for this particular character. Wren Wells is a young girl that has spent a part of her grieving process sort-of selectively mute, choosing to remain quiet and not talk. Wren’s words are sometimes choppy at best, and her thought processes are choppy much of the time. Despite choppy thoughts, the language in this book is easy and flows so well. Since I speak and write much the same way, I very much enjoyed this change in pace from most of the rest of the YA market.

Wren Wells is a tricky character but I find that I fell for her and wanted her to overcome her tragedy in the biggest way. Grief is such a personal thing, and everyone is different in how they handle it. Wren’s grief is thick and obvious and reading it is like trying to get through quicksand at times – at times, it was so sad. But…that is what I loved about this book:  the author’s ability to make me feel what Wren was feeling. When she was down, I knew it. When she was confused, I knew it. When she was feeling hopeful, I was feeling hopeful too and I was cheering for her. In the beginning of the book, Wren was nearly hopeless and in what seems to be some of the deepest stages of mourning. But over the course of the book, Wren has some character growth and progression. By the end – while not fully recovered – Wren’s progress is remarkable, and this is positive and hopeful and left me wondering about her even after I closed the book.

Cal Owen is a different young man, and his story is so very interesting. The summary states that he is dealing with his own problems, and these are revealed to us a little at the time. By the time I realized the full extent of his issues, I had fallen for Cal as a character and was invested in his chunk of the story as much as I was in Wren’s. Cal approached things and handled things so differently than Wren, which sometimes caused some tension, but it made the story so life-like and real. Real people are just that way, you guys!

I love the way Wren and Cal complemented each other and were written with that great chemistry. These were two characters that kept me, the reader, at arm’s length at times when they were acting individually, but eventually there was hope to be found in the way they resolved their stories. I enjoyed them so much together because there was so much hope there, when they were together. I only wished this book was a little longer so I could know a little more from this resolution, particularly from Cal’s story. 

I assume the secondary characters were placed to move Wren and Cal along in their story and they did this well. They added to the story, but only some of them really stand out to me. There are some changes that have to be made by the people that surround Wren so that Wren can come out of her deep grieving cycle or depression, and it takes like Cal and one or two others to help her along with this. Ultimately, this book is one that could absolutely be true to the lives of each of us – these could be people we know. I think it is profoundly written without unnecessary dialogue, with an ease of language, with descriptive phrases. I absolutely loved this book and had a hard time putting it down to do things I needed to do in my life, like eat. And drive. Simply stated, I want more books written this beautifully on my shelves. 

I recommend Lovely, Dark and Deep to fans of YA contemporary with romance and beautiful, poetic language. Additionally, people who have had a hard time grieving the loss of someone may find some comfort in this book, even though I do not think this is an extremely heavy-issues book. It is just purely lovely and a wonderful debut.

Lovely, Dark and Deep will appeal to fans of:

Beautiful, Poetic Language
Romance: Slowly developing, No triangle
Great Setting – Wooded, Secluded Maine
YA Contemporary with Issues: Grief

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing!


Is Lovely, Dark and Deep on your TBR? 

What are some of your favorite
 “beautiful language” books?


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


20 responses to “My Thoughts On: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

  1. Yay! So glad you liked this, Asheley. I've been looking forward to its release. 🙂 I love books set in New England, seems to be a trend to place them there, especially Maine – and I am 100% okay with that! This completely sounds like my kind of book. I really appreciate YA books that don't scrimp on the beautiful language as well.

    The first book that comes to mind for beautiful language is Daughter of Smoke and Bone…and since your recommendation was a big factor in ME reading it, I don't suppose that's helpful. 😉 Not YA of course, but have you read The Night Circus? I feel like you have… Sorry, that's all I have for "recommendations" that I can think of! Lovely review, as always. 🙂

    • This book definitely felt cold and blustery, like a New England winter, which is the setting. And I loved the poetic language and appreciated that this author incorporated her poetic background into this book. I loved the short phrases she used all throughout the book because it felt like I was reading my own type of communication, except her language was much more eloquent than mine is. I'm not sure that makes any sense at all.

      One thing I forgot to mention (and I hate when I do that!) is that this main character actually reads poetry in this book, particularly by the poet Philip Larkin. I didn't know anything about him so after I finished the book I looked his poetry up and found that I liked some of it. It is melancholic and a little dark at times, and I thought it was perfect for this character and what she was going through.

      I barely know anyone who can write as beautifully as Laini Taylor – such a gorgeous way with words. I love that you mentioned it! And The Night Circus, YES, one of my all-time favorite books AND audiobooks. So beautiful, I agree!

  2. Oh goodness. We share a love of books with beautiful language. LOVE LOVE. This makes me want to pick up this book asap – well actually the gorgeous title does that. And love that it is set in the woods of Maine, which seems perfect for a book about grief. I'm also amazed when an author can make me feel along with the characters, that also makes me want to pick up this story. And I want to know what's going on with Cal.

    I love the way Beth Kephart writes. She's another author who uses beautiful language. Though I've only read Small Damages by her.

    I know they're different, but this reminds me a bit of The Sky is Everywhere, just in the sense that they are both grief books where characters are struggling to get past something that happened before the book begins. And The Sky is Everywhere also is written beautifully and utilizes poems throughout to describe the main character's grief. I think you should read it!

    • This author tied her setting in PERFECTLY with the grief and issues her characters are experiencing. Had her characters been living in the Southern US, the story would have been great, sure, but it wouldn't have had the same FEEL to it. It was absolutely enhanced by Maine in wintertime – AND Wren is a runner. She runs through the snowy, secluded forests, which is (most likely?) where the Lovely, Dark and Deep phrase comes from? "The woods are lovely, dark and deep…"

      I FELT. Wren broke my heart at times, but I hoped for her too, which was great. And Cal was such a great addition to this book. I had no problems visualizing either of them as real people, in their settings, going about the actions this author wrote about. I just loved it.

      We've talked a little about Beth Kephart – we've each read different Kephart books! I need to get to Small Damages AND The Sky is Everywhere. I do.

  3. I am SO glad to hear this one worked for you! AND that the writing is beautiful. When I first heard about it (That hauntingly beautiful title!) I knew I wanted to give it a try. You know I am a sucker for the pretty writing too!

    I absolutely second Lauren's recommendations: Small Damages and The Sky is Everywhere in terms of drop dead gorgeous writing. And you know, I have to also put Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races AND Lauren Oliver's Delirium in that category too. I have excerpts in all four of my reviews of those books if you ever want to get a taste of the way they use language and turn of phrase in their writing. Lovely review:)

    • Oh, I thought this one was so great! I think you'll like it, not only the language but the emotions the language evokes. I feel like this author NAILED this grieving experience, and I want more people to read this book and enjoy it like I did.

      Why do I always forget about The Scorpio Races? I even own that book. Delirium with beautiful language too? That's awesome. Thanks for reminding me of those. I do need to get to Small Damages and The Sky is Everywhere (I'm afraid of The Sky is Everywhere, you know me).

    • Do not fear the book! Ask Lauren. I bet it's no sadder than this one that you just read. And it's totally worth it to get to the Lennie/ Joe parts:)

      The Robert Frost poem that this book's title comes from is one of my favorite poems of all time:)

    • I should mention that Sky and Small Damages were both recommended to me by Heather. So I am indebted to her for finding them! I"m so glad we share a love of beautiful language. And I think the hype in your head over Sky is much worse than the actual book will be. What exactly are you afraid of? You mentioned people who cried reading it? I didn't cry at all. It's another where the major sadness has already happened, so it's just recovering from that.

    • Someone said they SOBBED once (I can't remember who) but I've never forgotten it. I'm afraid of the sobs because I don't do them slightly or a little bit – it's always an ugly cry with a book. That's all. An unchecked, undignified, unregulated, ugly cry. That's my fear. Ha!

    • YOU WILL NOT CRY! I know Jess @ Gone with the words cried, but she admits to crying at everything she reads. You can read my review, it will give you a good picture of what is to come – though not give away the story.

  4. This sounds utterly SUPERB.

    Seriously, I love books that deal with grieving even though I have been lucky enough to have been spared a lot of death in life. It's something I like reading because I feel like it helps to build empathy.


    I want to read this because it is set in Maine and I feel like the only Maine books I've read are horror stories by Stephen King, whom I love, but it would be nice to read a book that will make me not scared of Maine.

    • The setting is SUPERB. It enhanced the story in great ways, I truly believe. Also, the grieving was done so well in this book – it wasn't too think, like over the top and too much to handle, but it was perfect. The press release said that the author was experiencing a grief when she wrote this, so this was most likely written out of her own grief and possibly incorporated elements of her own emotions. Either way, it was wonderful and I loved the style, with not-quite-prose but non-poetic-stanza. It was somewhere in-between, a lovely poetry, and I could have sailed on those words and phrases. This is one that I think it is best to experience in print, although I'm saying that having NOT listened to an audio recording of it.

      This book makes me WANT to go to Maine and live there in quiet undisturbed solitude forever.

  5. Okay, I already wanted to read this from the lovely description, cover, and rumors of nice writing — but I also LOVE that the boy is named Cal! That is what we are naming my son and I haven't seen it much. Yay!

    • What a great name, Lorren! Cal is such a great character – I liked him a ton and I KNOW based on his story that you will too. I know it. When you get a chance to read this one, I hope you like it as much as I do. 🙂

  6. I can't decide if I want to read this book. It seems so sad, and I don't always care for those books. But at the same time, I want to see what happens to Wren and Call. Seriously, though, her name is Wren Wells. That is kind of a pain to pronounce.

  7. There's definitely something to be said for authors that write beautifully. I think that I'll really like this one already, just based on what you had to say on the writing. It sounds like it could be very emotional though, so I'll have to save it for when I'm feeling up to it.

  8. This review is GORGEOUS, seriously. Really really beautifully written. And of course, I agree with everything you said. Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more reviews of this one popping up soon!

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