My dear bookish friends!
What a book! I have another review of a TheWriteReads tour book for you today, and this proves again that it can be really worth it grabbing a book that is not really in your usual genre. I definitely wouldn’t have picked it up without this tour, but now I’m glad that I did. Big thank you to TheWriteReads, the author, and Grey Matter Press for my spot on this tour and an ecopy of the book (neither of which influenced my rating in any way). Please keep on reading to find out what The Dark Matter of Natasha is about, and for my detailed review!
Natasha stalks the quiet streets of dead-end Lunar Bay like doom in a denim jacket. She’s a grim reminder that some teenagers can never escape the ever-tightening noose of their lives. Burned out and benumbed by a traumatic past, dogged by scurrilous small-town gossip, she finds solace in drugs, sex and Slayer. What horrors have her flat eyes witnessed? And how far will she go in pursuit of the one tiny spark of hope that still flickers in her haunted heart?
When a naïve transplant crosses her path, he’s drawn into shadow and doubt. With his girlfriend ghosting him, Natasha’s fresh introduction to her half-lit world is darkly appealing. Now faced with confusing quandaries—connection or convenience, relationship or exploitation—can he help any of the women in his life? Or is he just helping himself? The untold tragedies of Natasha’s lonely life may be more than he can handle. And in a town whose history is littered with dead girls, there may be no happy ending for anyone.
A tar-black coming of age story, this gritty psychological thriller from Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Matthew R. Davis, eloquently chronicles the crushing gravity of small-town hopelessness, the double-edged catharsis of sex, drugs, and heavy metal, and the brutal weight of youth’s first lessons in accountability.
This book is like a force of nature, like a hurricane that grips you tight and only lets go of you when it spits you out at the other end. And even then, you are changed. The Dark Matter of Natasha is a very powerful story. It made me very sad reading it, especially considering how bleak it is. There is a lot of hopelessness in it, and even if there isn’t there is always a lack thereof, no light at the end of the tunnel, nothing to look forward to for any of the characters.
The author knows his play with words very well; his skill so powerful that you won’t be able to stop reading even if you want to. There is a great use of metaphors in it, especially at the beginning, something that adds a layer of depth to the story it didn’t per se need, but it made the writing even better. The same could be said about the slight sarcastic untertone at towards the beginning of the book.
“Because I know exactly when the Big Bang occured, and I know exactly when existence outreached its grasp and began its inexorable implosion. Both of these things happened on a Monday. Figures.”
However, some of the sentences are quite long, sometimes trying to fit too many ideas into one, something that I noticed but that didn’t bug me too much (as I tend to do the same). But there was something I didn’t appreciate very much, and that is the slightly crass sexual references which maybe cheapened the book a little, especially at the beginning. It is just a personal opinion, of course, but I didn’t think it needed them. While I found myself pulled in to a very well written piece, these overly detailed and crass descriptions tend to become overwhelming at some point, leaving me wincing sometimes.
The book, as short as it is, has a great collection of characters. It reminded me a bit of a short story at times, in which the characters often become shadows or mere outlines, but they are still crucial to the story. Here, we don’t know much about the characters either, and yet we feel with them, feel for them, and maybe that is what made their hopelessness and bleak lives stand out even more to me. The main character, an inexperienced, lonely boy at the beginning, was seemingly being pushed and pulled into directions he wasn’t ready for. In his youth and naivety though, he couldn’t resist the pull, and gave in to the dark side quite soon.
“From her battered boots up, Natasha was bad luck walking.”
Natasha, the girl who gave this book her name, was a very interesting character too. I couldn’t tell from the start what her story would be, but as more and more of her dark past is unraveled, it becomes clear how tragic her life really is. It hurt to read about such a lonely, empty and, indeed, unlucky girl, whose sole fault was being born to the wrong parents at a wrong time. And yet, she didn’t shy away from pulling others with her into the darkness, though she did leave the choice up to them.
Then, there are several side characters who give the story shape, rough edges and angles, and who, though not a huge part of the story itself, play a crucial role to the plot. That is, for example, the main character’s first girlfriend, a trusting, innocent girl whose life changes too, as much as his does, when he gets involved with Natasha. Or his mother, who, despite hardly being in the story much herself, is being dragged down by her son’s actions as well.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, so I’ll leave it at that. Just trust me when I say that if you read this book, you will want to finish it in one sitting like I did (which doesn’t take long).
This is not a happy book. It does not have a happy ending, and there isn’t much along the way that would give the characters hope, but there is enough to make the pull of the book very strong. The writing sucked me in too, and there were quite a few lines that made me curious for what other books there are or will be by this author. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of sexual references in this, and the language is often blunt, crass, and direct – basically how I imagine the mind of a teenage boy to be at times. This is his coming of age story, and unfortunately it doesn’t have a happily ever after. And yet, his story is worth telling. Just make sure you check the content warnings first, as it isn’t for the faint of heart.
4 stars from me!
About the Author
Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, South Australia.
His work has been shortlisted for, and sometimes won, the Shirley Jackson Awards, Aurealis Awards, Australian Shadows Awards, and the WSFA Small Press Award.
He plays bass and sings in heavy rock/metal bands such as icecocoon and Blood Red Renaissance, dabbles with poetry, video editing, and visual art, and works on projects with his photographer partner.
He is the author of Supermassive Black Mass (novelette, Demain Publishing, 2019), If Only Tonight We Could Sleep (horror stories, Things in the Well, 2020) and Midnight in the Chapel of Love (novel, JournalStone, 2021).
He loves all kinds of metal from Mötley Crüe to Pig Destroyer and his favorite Slayer album is Seasons in the Abyss.
Find out more at www.matthewrdavisfiction.wordpress.com