Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick
digital galley provided by NetGalley
Summary from Goodreads:
There are things in Winter, Wisconsin, folks just don't talk about. The murder way back in '45 is one. The near-suicide of a first-grade teacher is another. And then there is 17-year old Christian Cage. Christian's parents disappeared when he was a little boy, and ever since he's drawn and painted obsessively, trying desperately to remember his mother. The problem is Christian doesn't just draw his own memories. He can draw the thoughts of those around him. Confronted with fears and nightmares they'd rather avoid, people have a bad habit of dying. So it's no surprise that Christian isn't exactly popular. What no one expects is for Christian to meet Winter's last surviving Jew and uncover one more thing best forgotten: the day the Nazis came to town. Based on a little-known fact of the United States' involvement in World War II, Draw the Dark is a dark fantasy about reclaiming the forgotten past and the redeeming power of love.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this book. First of all, I have to say that after finishing the book, I really liked it and plan to suggest it for my son to read. The first section, entitled “November1, Late Morning Winter, Wisconsin left me wondering what I was about to read. I think the biggest – and really, only – issue I had with the book was the beginning and ending sections. I had a bit of a problem reconciling them with the rest of the story.
I was quickly drawn into this story of teenage Christian, the quiet artist who has an unusual gift or curse -– he can draw people’s deepest, darkest fears. Even he isn’t sure exactly how it works or why. This is his dark secret; and it starts causing him more trouble than usual. He’s had some bad things happen in relation to this talent, but nothing compared to what is about to happen. Christian starts sleep walking and sleep painting while having extremely vivid dreams about events that he knows nothing about and that seem to take place in his hometown but in the past. Then he starts slipping into the past while he is awake. What is happening to him? Why? And maybe the more important question is – how? Christian questions his own sanity and others begin to question it as well.
Thus begins a wonderful, frightening, unusual quest to answer many questions – most of which Christian and most of the townspeople had no idea needed to be answered.
I really enjoyed this story for a variety of reasons. This book takes place in Wisconsin and deals with the WWII prisoners of war that were housed here and in other states throughout the United States after the war. During a family trip to Door County we learned about this historical event when I asked about the unusual building that housed the storefront for a family-owned orchard/farm. The building had been used as barracks for prisoners and had been moved to its current spot and cleaned up for use. I thought that the book deals with possible issues that might come up in the situation of this nature. This is a little known historical event that is just so fascinating. How did the people react when prisoners were moved into their town? What about those of German descent? Fascinating and important questions are examined within the context of the story.
The book encompasses several genres – young adult fiction, mystery, supernatural, horror, and suspense. This book was almost impossible to put down. The mystery is compelling and the supernatural aspects just made it all the more urgent to get to the end of the book and find out what happened. I think it is quite possible that there is a second book planned because the ending definitely leaves this option open. I would recommend this book and I would read a second book if it were published.