A Neon Darkness (The Bright Sessions #2) by Lauren Shippen - Book Review

Write on: Mon, 01 Nov 2021 by  in Natasha's Reviews Read 376

Robert always gets what he wants because he makes those around him want it too. It’s an ability that should make his life easy and blissful, should give him anything and everything. And yet, arriving in Las Angeles soon before his 19th birthday, he brings nothing but a haunted past. But he meets people, people he thinks could be his friends, who might actually understand him. If only he’s willing to give up control.

A Neon Darkness is the second book in The Bright Sessions series based on an audio drama of the same name. It’s said to be able to be read as a standalone, and though I’m sure the audio drama would give me much more background on the characters and the world, it didn’t feel like I was missing any vital information without it. I have read the first book, but it’s very tangentially connected, and I don’t think it made much difference to my experience with this novel.

There is one piece of information I was missing going into this book, which is that it’s a villain origin story for one of the main antagonists in The Bright Sessions. I’m not considering this a spoiler because it’s hinted at by the tagline on the front of the book and, of course, obvious if you’re familiar with the web drama. For a lot of people it seems, this aspect made the story less than enjoyable, but I actually found it to be a pleasant surprise. Just don’t go in looking for a sympathetic character or a ton of positive character growth because you won’t be finding it.

Our main character, Robert aka Damien, is a whiny spoiled little asshole. He has his fair share of trauma, but his ability to make people do whatever he wants, and his willingness to use it indiscriminately, quickly outweigh any sympathy we might have for him. There was no shortage of instances when I wanted to punch him in the face, and if that sounds overly frustrating, this book may not be for you. It’s more of a character study than anything else, an exploration of what might happen if a relatively selfish person had an almost unlimited power to manipulate, and a glace into that person’s mind. At this I think it succeeds.

Contrary to Damien, the friend group that he meets are more than loveable, a tightly knit group of diverse individuals with interesting (though sometimes unwanted) powers of their own. Neon, Indah, Marley, and Alex all have problems and meaningful stories of their own, which I’d love to see explored more in the future.

As I’ve already hinted, there’s not a whole lot of plot to this novel. There is a shadowy nefarious figure after people with superpowers (who are called Unusuals) but it feels like more of a tie-in to the bigger universe than a means to actually accomplish or reveal anything. This didn't bother me beyond the typical annoyance at things being teased in a so-called "standalone" that will only be explained or resolved elsewhere.

If messed up, superpowered young adults trying to find their way in life (and being encouraged to actually go to therapy instead of trying to save the world) sounds interesting to you, maybe give The Bright Sessions a try. And if you’re a lover of villain stories or unlikable narrators, A Neon Darkness could be a good starting point.


Last modified on Monday, 22 November 2021 22:46

Natasha's passion for reading was kindled by her parents and the local library that allowed her family to checkout 50 books at a time. She first fell in love with fantasy through Arthurian retellings whereas her love for science fiction began with Star Wars novels. Nowadays, she still spends her free time reading but also gaming, running a blog (natrosette), and obsessing over TV shows. Maybe if she spent as much time reading as she does looking for books to read, she'd actually make a dent in her TBR.