ARC Review: A Neon Darkness // A slow and gripping dark origin story

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Title: A Neon Darkness
Author: Lauren Shippen
Genre/s and tags: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Contemporary, Urban fantasy, LGBTQ+ fiction, POC cast, villain origin story
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication date: September 29, 2020
Content warnings: Manipulation, mild/mentions of dubious consent, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, descriptions of torture (electrocution), murder
Goodreads synopsis: 

The second Bright Sessions novel from creator Lauren Shippen that asks: “What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?”

Los Angeles, 2006. Eighteen-year-old Robert Gorham arrives in L.A. amid the desert heat and the soft buzz of neon. He came alone with one goal: he wants to see the ocean. And Robert always gets what he wants.

At a very young age, Robert discovered he had the unusual ability to make those close to him want whatever he wants. He wanted dessert instead of dinner? His mother served it. He wanted his Frisbee back? His father walked off the roof to bring it to him faster. He wanted to be alone? They both disappeared. Forever.

But things will be different in L.A. He meets a group of strange friends who could help him. Friends who can do things like produce flames without flint, conduct electricity with their hands, and see visions of the past. They call themselves Unusuals and finally, finally, Robert belongs.

When a tall figure, immune to their powers, discovers them, the first family that Robert has ever wanted is at risk of being destroyed. The only way to keep them all together is to get his powers under control.

But control is a sacrifice he might not be willing to make.

A Neon Darkness is the origin story of Damien and the second stand-alone story in the Bright Sessions Novels.


I received an e-arc from TorTeen via NetGalley in exchange for honest review. Thank you Tor Teen!

The second book in The Bright Sessions is here! Now this may be a second novel in the series, but it can stand alone on its own. Now, I’ve had the pleasure of reading the first book in the series last year and I loved it. So when I saw the cover and the synopsis of A Neon Darkness, I couldn’t keep my excitement! Fortunately, I was approved of the e-arc!

A Neon Darkness is a slow and gripping origin story that will have you immersed in your thoughts and emotions.

My thoughts on A Neon Darkness

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely adored The Infinite Noise when I got the chance to read an e-arc last year! I got really invested with the characters and the world. So to be reading the second book in the series, I was just so excited.

Onto the book, what else can I say except: this was so good! Just like the first book in the series, this has been such a character driven story. We see the characters just talking to each other, trying to process their emotions, trauma, and other shit they went through. More than ever, we see the main character slowly turning into the villain, or the morally grey character that he is. Still, I couldn’t help but feel for him. He was misunderstood and I sympathize that, but at the same time, his faith and logic was also on a rocky path and that can be discouraging as a reader who wants to root for the main character.

There’s no high-stakes or super adventurous plot, instead we see a lonely, troubled kid looking for love and acceptance yet fails to see what these things truly mean. We see Robert, or Damien, slowly unravel and lose control as he encounters different people and goes through a new chapter in his life.

Another noteworthy thing about this book is how philosophical it can be. More than once, I found myself contemplating about a several things as I read the book. Consent and free will are two themes in the book, two things that Damien himself struggles to understand. Apart from this, the book also focused friendship, and finding the true kind or idea of friendship. All of these made A Neon Darkness so interesting and stimulating.

Also, I loved the fact that this book was diverse. The cast features people of color, including a Black character and Asian characters. Plus the book also featured queer relationships—there’s a sapphic relationship, and gay and questioning characters.

Overall, I really loved this book. If you haven’t read the first one, you might have a little trouble connecting with the story and the characters. But if you’re like me who adored the first one or you happen to be a loyal fan of The Bright Sessions, I’m sure this will be an interesting read.

Buy A Neon Darkness + Preorder Campaign

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