Title: Draw the Dark
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Publisher: Carolrhonda Books
Publication Date: 2010
Price: $16.95 (hardcover) $9.95 (paperback) $19.99 (audio)
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Interest Age: 14 to 17
Lexile Level: 790
Annotation: Christian Cage’s vivid visions led him to dark secrets the town has been hiding for years.
Plot Summary: In Winter, Wisconsin, there are some things best forgotten. A murder in 1945. The near-suicide of an elementary school teacher. The disappearance of Christian Cage’s parents. Christian doesn’t want to forgot. He has obsessively drawn and painted their images since their disappearance. However, that is not the only images he draws. For some reason, he can hear and illustrate the thoughts of those around him. Voices from the sideways place tell him their deepest fears and when he draws it, they die. When strange swastikas show up painted on buildings and people start dying, fingers are pointing to him. Soon waking nightmares consume him as he dreams of WWII events from the eyes of a young Jewish boy. Driven to understand, Christian starts researching long-forgotten events in Winter, Wisconsin during WWII.. events that many believe are best left buried.
Critical Evaluation: In this story, debut author Bicks weaves 1940s American into the life of contemporary teen, Christian. As Christian sleepwalks and draws, he is pulled into the town’s past. Into a history that many would like to keep buried. I was amazed at the skill Bicks had in combining the historical with the fantastical to build a suspenseful mystery. She didn’t veer off into too much history, though I probably wouldn’t have minded, nor did she overdo the fantasy. It was just the right mix of both to move the story along.
While I initially picked it up for the historical elements, it was hard not to care about Christian Cage. His parents disappeared as a child and he was raised by the town sheriff. Due to the rumors about the disappearance of his parents and an unfortunate suicide of his first grade teacher (which some of the townspeople blame him for), he grew up pretty much a loner. The only thing he cares about is his art and finding a way into the ‘sideways place’. Christian is a gifted artist, but his gifts extend beyond his drawing skills. He draws the things people fear the most. Their deepest, darkest secrets that they lock away. So he isolates himself from people. To keep them from getting hurt. To stop himself from unintentionally hurting other people.
Draw the Dark is a great book. Once I started, I lost myself in Winter, Winconsin as Christian attempts to figure out the messages his blackouts and dreams are telling him. Ilsa J. Bick definitely created a intricate mystery that will engage readers, both male and female.
Author Bio: Ilsa J. Bick is a child psychiatrist, film scholar, former Air Force major, and now a full-time author. Her critically acclaimed, award-winning YA novels include Draw the Dark, Drowning Instinct, and Ashes (a 2011 VOYA Perfect Ten). Ilsa currently lives in rural Wisconsin, near a Hebrew cemetery. One thing she loves about the neighbors: they re very quiet and only come around for sugar once in a blue moon. (from Ingram)
Tie to Curriculum Units: Nazis, 20th Century US History
Booktalking Ideas: Nazis in America, Supernatural, Small town mystery, creepy dreams, secrets
Challenge Issues: Draw the Dark has received favorable reviews from a variety of review sources including a star review from School Library Journal. Additionally, Bick’s provides a new historical perspective of US involvement in WWII that rarely is covered in history.