Into The Woods: ‘Lovely, Dark and Deep’ by Amy McNamara

Getting totally lost within the world of a book is one of the best feelings ever. Sometimes I tend to overlook setting in favor of other elements—like great characters, realistic dialogue, or a can’t-put-it-down plot—but, when it’s done right, setting can truly make you feel like you’re in the book, right next to the characters, living their experiences along with them. How many times have you closed a book while wishing you could visit the town within its pages and start a new life there?

That’s the feeling I got from Amy McNamara’s Lovely, Dark and Deep. When Wren goes to stay with her artist father after a tragic accident, she’s able to hide out in the woods that are, as the title suggests, lovely, dark and deep. She hides away in her dad’s home, overlooking the ocean and lost behind the trees. She tries as hard as she can to stay numb and to forget her grief by going on long, thought-killing runs through the woods.

But, of course, you can’t hide out in the woods forever. Wren’s parents make her get a job, she has to interact with the people in her dad’s art community, and she meets a guy. Cal might be exactly what she needs…if she can deal with the onslaught of emotions he brings out in her.

Based on my summary, this book might sound upsetting—and, don’t get me wrong, it is! But it’s a lot of other things, too, including romantic. I got totally sucked in to the relationship between Cal and Wren, two people who each have more than their fair share of baggage.

Not a lot happens in Lovely, Dark and Deep, but it doesn’t really matter. The book is primarily about Wren dealing with her grief, and even her smallest actions feel like huge victories. And, as I said before, the setting is so vivid and so eloquently described that I just want to move there. I listened to Bon Iver while reading this book, and it made me feel even more like I was really living in those cold woods in the middle of winter, instead of sitting outside on a nice day in fall. A house in the woods that overlooks the water sounds pretty perfect (says the girl who wakes up to the sound of grocery store deliveries and garbage trucks on most days).

Don’t be scared away from Lovely, Dark and Deep because you think it will be sad. It is, but it’s also really beautiful and completely compelling.


-The lyrical writing style is another reason why this book is so great. As it turns out, Amy McNamara is also a poet! And when you read passages like this one, you’ll totally believe it:

“Spring’s a fever dream. We’re frozen in place under a high-up thin, blue winter sky. Cloud free. Sun flash off the water. Blinding snow. It’s all so present, demanding. People say New York’s intense. I don’t think they’ve really paid attention to nature. The crowded streets are a buffer in New York. They give you a different sense of scale. Up here I’m a speck on the lens of the vast, glaring natural world.”

-In addition to being a poet, Amy McNamara also features a lot of poetry in this book. You probably recognize the book’s title from the Robert Frost poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Philip Larkin’s poems are a big part of the plot, too.

-Can we just talk about how amazing that cover is? A+ work to the cover designer! Not only is it beautiful, but it fits the tone of the book perfectly.

-In a lot of ways, Lovely, Dark and Deep reminded me of Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere—high praise, since that’s one of my favorite books I’ve read since starting this column! If you’re fan of Jandy Nelson, be sure to check this one out.

How about you guys? Have you read Lovely, Dark and Deep? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education! Leave a comment, email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

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