Cover Image: My Dearest Darkest

My Dearest Darkest

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Member Reviews

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Review based on final copy. All opinions are my own. 
I had completely forgotten I had requested to review My Dearest Darkest at time of release, but ultimately it worked out, because I could fit it in with my reading for the spooky season instead. And the way it almost felt like a more paranormal spin on another recent read, which also focused on the complex, sometimes toxic dynamics among girls in high school also worked well for me. 
Cottingham captures the creepy vibes very well. The atmosphere of the school is well-conveyed, and there’s a creepiness conveyed through the prose. It’s more on the younger end of YA, but as someone who doesn’t often care for intense, gruesome scares in horror, I feel like it had just the right tone to be scary but not too much so. 
Another key component is the sapphic element and the relationships among the girls. I really liked the growth of Finch coming to terms with her feelings for Selena. Selena herself is also a cool character, and I loved peeling back the layers of the archetypal mean-girl to explore her vulnerabilities, including her toxic friendship with another girl. 
This is a solid debut, and I can’t wait to see what Kayla Cottingham writes next! If you enjoy YA sapphic  horror, I recommend picking this one up.
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I think this book tried to do too many things without really going all the way.

I liked Selena’s character a lot and she felt like the driving force of the story even though Finch should have been at the center. Selena started out as the stereotypical high school mean girl, and I liked that we really dug into her character to see what lay beneath. The balance of social pressures, rumors, her own interests, toxic relationships, and identity made her feel like a very complex and real character.

A lot of the supernatural aspects came up in the book solely because of timing and not because of a character- or plot-driven reason (or at least that’s how it read to me). We don’t see lasting consequences for two out of three of the characters for whom supernatural things happen, and it felt like a major oversight. Plus there’s a huge chunk in the middle where the supernatural is entirely incidental as we sidebar into normal teenager drama, but then the ending is so rapid fire that it felt like an entirely different book. The balance was just off there.

Overall, it was okay. I liked bits and pieces of it - enough that I would probably read another book by the author - but I didn’t love it.
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My Dearest Darkest
by Kayla Cottingham
Finch is the new girl at an upscale boarding school. Being new is hard, especially when she is so different. She can't quite explain it, but ever since she woke up from her near-death experience, she hasn't been the same. Something pulled her from that crashed car sinking in the river, but she's not sure what. 
Then she clashes with It girl Selena and her perfect friends. This is the school she's dreamed of, but not the classmates she thought she'd have. And she keeps feeling that familiar pull, that same strange tug right before she came out of the water. Is it her guardian angel guiding her away from danger? Or is it something darker pulling her in the wrong direction? #netgalley #My #DearestDarkest
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Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest, personal review. This mystery/thriller is a bit too dark at times for my taste and it touches on subjects that may be too intense for some readers. Otherwise with those thoughts in mind, this is a good read for a teen mystery. Finch is a sheltered teen who transfers to an competitive private school after suffering a near personal tragedy. She felt pulled to the island and the school ever since that incident and she is about to find out why. This is one to read to the end because you will want to know what happens to these characters.
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This was a wild ride. Not only the story, but my feelings for it. For the first 50% I was really considering dnfing this. Like literally after each chapter I thought, "do I really want to keep reading this?" And you know what? I'm very happy that I did.

Finch is not my favorite character. I found her very annoying, and I don't think I was supposed to find her annoying. That made things difficult. I did enjoy Selena and the side characters. I thought that (for the most part) the side characters were given personality and presence that made them (and the story) feel more realized. I'm sad that I didn't get to see more of a couple of them, but it's OK.

The second half of this story solved a lot of the problems I had with the first half. Finch was less annoying, there was communication, there was action, and there was tension. My god the tension. I was so tense for the last third of this book I stg. There were some scenes that depicted some pretty intense body horror (for me at least), and if you have a problem with anything dealing with nails or teeth, you might find it hard too. I just squinted my eyes and read as fast as possible in those situations.

I loved how sexuality was tackled in this, and I love how proudly and happily the word lesbian was used, and that bisexuality was respected as well. The conversations around sexuality and how it was handled between different characters was just great. We love to see it.

I'm excited to pick up the next thing by Cottingham because she really showed promise. You can very much so tell that this is a debut, and I'm confident that all of the things that were indicative of that will be worked on and fixed in her next one.
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ARC kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

CW: Graphic body gore, eye horror, abusive relationships, anxiety, death (of friends and family), grief, depression, drowning, outing, murder, PTSD, panic attacks, blood, bullying, forced outing 

I think I just found one of my favourite sapphic books of the year. 

Not only did this book bring forth the dark academia aesthetic (which is the best kind of aesthetic if you ask me) and suspenseful horror, it also had really well-rounded characters and romance. 

My Dearest Darkest is told in two perspectives, one being Finch, a white haired girl who just lost her parents in a freak accident who's a new student at Ulalume Academy and Selena, the hot, popular bisexual girl who's instantly drawn to Finch. Their connection grows stronger after an encounter with a greater god who grows more powerful with each "gift" the two or their friends give them in exchange for beauty, health and charisma. But as Nerosi's power grows so too do her demands and very soon, she starts asking for more than just a strand of hair or fingernail clipping. She asks for body parts. Selena and Finch need to work together to take down the rampant goddess before someone gets seriously hurt. 

I loved this book from the start, it just drew you in from the first page and I was constantly asking "ooh what will happen next?" I also was interested in the development of Selena and Finch's friendship and I was shipping the two together with all my heart and soul. Both girls were so different but they suited each other perfectly at the same time, Selena's self-assuredness balancing Finch's quiet and reserved nature. I can't tell you who had my heart the most in this book but Finch was just so loveable and lovely, she's a character you can't help but fall in love with especially after everything she's been through and how she's still finding her feet after her parents' death. I loved the discussions this book had about that and also showing grief, anxiety and mental health in a realistic and relatable way. 

Another theme that I really enjoyed reading about in this book was Selena and her toxic relationship with Chloe. Chloe was using Selena, turning a crush into something to be manipulated and used. Chloe was obsessed with power which ultimately lead to the choices she made and eventually, her downfall. Every book has a villain you love to hate but with Chloe, she was just pure evil, I don't think there's a way she can redeem herself. She even made Nerosi look great at times which is saying something. 

The only thing I wished this book did more was delve into the whole connection between Finch and Victor, another student who got involved with Nerosi years ago with his friends. There's so many loose strands there and I would love a sequel that teased that out a bit more. What really happened to Victor? What really happened to his band and his girlfriend? Is there more to the story than meets the eye? I wish we could find out because the anticipation is killing me!

All in all, one of my favourite sapphic books I've read this year. A huge thank you yet again to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the ARC. 

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Didn't get to download so i'm writing this as to not mess up my score! Still want to read it, especially this autumn because it seems like the perfect spooky read!
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After Finch survives a near-death experience, she arrives at her new boarding school a little different. She feels drawn to the creepy tunnels under the school, the same place where an emo band went missing some years ago. In addition to all this weirdness, there is weirdness between her and the beautiful yet cold Selena, the gifted dance student Finch is paired up with for a project. I loved the development of their relationship and I appreciated the homage to Jennifer's body.
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This will sadly be a short review as I found this book to be incredibly disappointing. The premise sounded intriguing but I struggled to finish this title and had to keep putting it down. I didn’t find any of the character likeable and found the story/mystery rather dull.
I would be interested to see if the authors other works were any better but in this instance I wouldn’t be recommending this book to my borrowers
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dnf @ 42%

2.5 stars

I had been SUPER excited for this one -- it sounded atmospheric and creepy as heck, which are things I love in my horror novels. But unfortunately it didn't deliver on either account for me. Pretty much all aspects of the book felt flat and artificial to me. None of the characters (besides Simon) were interesting to me, and I felt like the romance elements truly just sprung out of thin air -- there's no chemistry (platonic OR romantic) between any of these teens. The story concept itself is interesting, but the writing was so un-compelling that I just couldn't make myself read any further. I'd be interested in trying another novel by this author, but this book just didn't work for me.
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This book was amazing. I coudn't put it down. It was magical. Higly recommended! The characters, the plots, the writting: wonderful and perfect.
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3.5 rounded up. 

A satisfying paranormal  horror for teens. The book is creepy, and I think it'll best fit younger teens trying to get into horror. It's very Lovecraftian, but it reads a little young and isn't too explicit so I think young teens can use it as an entry point. 

I do think it's very clearly a debut novel. The characters don't have much depth so it feels a little lackluster especially as some deeper motivations could have made the story that much more compelling. This book is truly paranormal which is fantastic because so often that's not how it played out. 

I will absolutely be picking up with Cottingham does next.
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2.75/3 stars 

I may just be too old for this book, because I think I would’ve liked it a lot more if I was 13 with a lot less reading experience. This book is very obviously a debut novel, and not in a good way. While there are a lot of plot elements that seem interesting at face value, the execution is extremely lacking. The writing felt very juvenile, and everything from the characters to the mystery felt very underdeveloped. The dialogue was also so obnoxiously gen z™️ that it was exhausting to read. Maybe Kayla Cottingham’s next book will be better, but this is just not it 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an arc
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Once I heard the premise of My Dearest Darkest and saw it pop up on my Netgallery feed, I just knew I needed to request it. I am so glad that I did because I absolutely loved this story!

This story had me on the edge of my seat the entire time as I was trying to unravel the mystery happening at Ulalume Academy. The writing helps to further the dark, suspenseful mood forward allowing the reader to get more invested into the story. This story is filled with Eldritch monsters, cults, and body horror that is sure to get you intrigurting in this terrifying story.

My Dearest Darkest is perfect for readers looking for a sapphic horror that has major dark academia vibes, a slow burn romance, and the classic enemies to lovers trope.
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I'm glad to see that it has received recognition from places like BookRiot and BuzzFeed because this book definitely deserves to be recognized. I can't wait to add it to my young adult collection! Definitely going to recommend this one to patrons.
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I love the vibes of this book but I am just struggling to get into it. I think I will try again next time I am in a dark academia mood
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I really enjoyed this YA mix of paranormal horror and dark academia. It's a debut novel and definitely shows some great promise for this author. There are strong gothic vibes and the narrative was solid with some well-executed character composition. There's also a good sapphic component. I do wish there was a bit more development to the plot as I think there could have been some stronger exploration of the emotions and relationships, but I still enjoyed what was present.

There's a good mix of the two genre components. There's a dark Mean Girls vibe to the social aspect and the atmosphere is fun. The story also has some fantastic creepy vibes, but stays within what I would consider a YA range for intensity. With what I would consider to be a bit of Lovecraft infleunce, there are definitely a few moments of strong violence and gore, so it's not completely for the lighthearted, but these scenes are limited.

I had a really fun time reading this and devoured it in just a couple of days. It was a good under the covers read and definitely one to contemplate before reading it after dark. I'm looking forward to what else Kayla Cottingham can produce in the future. Her talent for horror writing is one I would definitely love to explore.

* Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you so much, NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire, for the chance to read this book in exchange of an honest review.

Finch Chamberlin is the newest transfer student to the Ulalume Academy, but she has a huge secret. Months before, Finch and her parents got into an accident and she should have been dead, but a monstrous creature saved her and she doesn't know why, only she keeps feeling a pull from the school and the surrounding town of Rainwater.
Selena St. Clair knows there's something wrong with Finch, but she can't resist being drawn to her anyway and when one night Finch, Selena and her friends accidentally summons a creature of immense power, a creature willing to grant their desires in exchange of a human body part, everything changes.
When their wanting turns deadly, Finch and Selena have to do anything in their power to stop the creature, before it's too late.

First of all, WOW. This book is absolutely fantastic! Eerie, creepy, bloody, brilliant and everything in between, it's absolutely one of my favourite this year and it won't be easily forgotten!
We have an exclusive and ultracompetive academy, a girl with a strange secret, a sapphic horror with a creature demanding human body parts in exchange of your deepest wants? Do I have to say more?
Here I come. A brilliant setting, a great characterization and an unforgettable story, able to leave you breathless and a bit scarred. 
You aren't ready for this book. Absolutely recommended.
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I'm not even exactly sure where to start with this review, other than saying this book was absolutely everything I wanted and needed all at once.  Cottingham's debut has skyrocketed her to the top of my must watch authors list. I fell in love with Finch and Selena and the entire vibe of Rainwater. This book gave me all the life I had been missing from my recent reads. I couldn't put it down an found myself reading late at night, and unable to sleep with thoughts of what Finch and friends would do next in their quest to save Rainwater. It wasn't overly steeped in horror, but had all the perfect additions of creepy in all the perfect places that left me wanting more and more. I cannot wait to own a copy of this book, I cannot wait to follow Cottingham's career.  Am deceased. Am obsessed. Cannot get enough of My Dearest Darkest.  All of the stars for this amazing book.
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**Disclaimer: I received a free eARC of My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this opportunity.

My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham is a young adult horror novel about two teenage girls who get caught up with a mysterious figure who offers to grant them their deepest wishes in exchange for a favour.  It is well written and quite twisty.  It was published on March 29th, 2022.  I rated it four stars on Goodreads.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

WILDER GIRLS meets THE CRAFT in this Sapphic horror debut that asks: What price would you be willing to pay to achieve your deepest desires?

Finch Chamberlin is the newest transfer student to the ultra-competitive Ulalume Academy... but she's also not what she seems. Months before school started, Finch and her parents got into an accident that should have left her dead at the bottom of a river. But something monstrous, and ancient, and terrifying, wouldn't let her drown. Finch doesn't know why she woke up after her heart stopped, but since dying she's felt a constant pull from the school and the surrounding town of Rainwater, like something on the island is calling to her.

Selena St. Clair sees right through Finch, and she knows something is seriously wrong with her. But despite Selena's suspicion, she feels drawn to Finch and has a sinking feeling that from now on the two will be inexplicably linked to one another.

One night Finch, Selena, and her friends accidentally summon a carnivorous creature of immense power in the depths of the school. It promises to grant every desire the girls have kept locked away in their insecure hearts―beauty, power, adoration―in exchange for a price: human body parts. But as the cost of their wanting becomes more deadly, Finch and Selena must learn to work together to stop the horror they unleashed, before it consumes the entire island.

I found myself drawn to My Dearest Darkest because of the cover initially.   It caught my eye when I was scrolling NetGalley.  It took me a while to read it, but I've been pretty much a mood reader lately simply because my attention span feels like it keeps flitting back and forth between things.   This book did manage to capture my attention.

I liked the way it introduced us to the characters and set us in a place where our two protagonists weren't going to be on the best of terms.  I like to read about dynamics between characters and seeing how those dynamics change as the story progresses.  The dyanmic between Finch and Selena was perfect for this.  They went from enemies to friends to lovers and it was fantastic.   I also enjoyed the other complicated dynamics between the other characters in the story.  It depicted different types of friendships, both good and bad, and I found that really intriguing.

I also really enjoyed the storyline.  It was very eerie and mysterious.  The mysterious entity that can grant favours isn't. something I've read a whole lot of, but I really enjoyed the way that story played out.  It kept me really interested in the story and what was going to happen next.  I also like the combination of supernatural events mixed into what felt very much like our world.

The writing was really good and descriptive.  I was able to picture the events in my head, and the story really seemed to come to life.

If you were at all intrigued by the summary of the book, I think you should definitely check out this story.
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