Bright and Tender Dark

A Novel

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request. Sign In or Register Now
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date Jun 04 2024 | Archive Date Jun 02 2024
Bloomsbury USA | Bloomsbury Publishing

Talking about this book? Use #BrightandTenderDark #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


Perfect for readers of I Have Some Questions for You and Notes on an Execution, a gripping, kaleidoscopic debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.

Publisher's Note: Bright and Tender Dark is not a traditional thriller or mystery but a nuanced literary novel with multiple point-of-view characters, exploring how one young woman's life and death ripple throughout an entire community.

Days after the dawn of Y2K, beautiful, charismatic nineteen-year-old Karlie Richards is found brutally murdered in her campus apartment. Two decades later, those who knew Karlie-and those who just knew of her-remain consumed by her death. Among them is her freshman year roommate, Joy, now middle-aged and mid-divorce, living in the same college town and desperate for a new beginning. When she stumbles upon a twenty-year-old letter from Karlie, Joy becomes convinced the man in prison for her murder was wrongfully convicted. Soon she is diving deep into the dark world of internet conspiracy theorists and amateur sleuth blogs and bouncing off others touched by the long, sensational aftermath of this crime. They include KC, the trans night manager at the building where Karlie was killed; Sheri, the mother of the intellectually disabled man serving time; and Jacob Hendrix, the charming professor with whom, Joy knows all too well, Karlie was romantically entangled before her death.

Jumping between 2019 and 1999, Bright and Tender Dark takes us from the era of Reddit threads and online obsession to the evangelism-infused culture of the late '90s to reveal what really happened to Karlie. It is a compulsively readable, prismatic literary novel that brilliantly mines the mythology of murder, the power of urban legend, and the psychological urge to both protect and exploit what you love but cannot have.

Perfect for readers of I Have Some Questions for You and Notes on an Execution, a gripping, kaleidoscopic debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781639732890
PRICE $28.99 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (PDF)
Download (PDF)

Average rating from 9 members

Featured Reviews

Thank you NetGalley for a free e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Joanna Pearson's "Bright and Tender Dark" is a gripping and intricately woven literary mystery that explores the long-lasting impact of a tragic murder on a college campus. Set against the backdrop of the turn of the millennium and spanning two decades, Pearson's debut novel delves into themes of obsession, the distortion of memory, and the murky depths of internet culture.

The story unfolds with the brutal murder of Karlie Richards, a charismatic nineteen-year-old whose death becomes a lingering obsession for those who knew her and even those who only knew of her. Pearson masterfully navigates the narrative through various perspectives, including Karlie's freshman roommate, Joy, who becomes embroiled in a quest for truth upon discovering a two-decade-old letter. This discovery leads her into the dark world of conspiracy theorists and amateur sleuths, raising questions about the conviction of the man imprisoned for Karlie's murder.

Pearson's skill lies in her ability to weave a complex narrative that jumps between 2019 and 1999, capturing the essence of each era and its influence on the characters' perceptions and actions. The novel's exploration of the power of urban legends and the psychological complexities surrounding high-profile murder cases adds a compelling depth to the story.

The characters are intricately drawn, each with their own connection to the murder and its aftermath. The inclusion of a diverse set of perspectives, including that of KC, the trans night manager at the building where Karlie was killed, and Sheri, the mother of the convicted man, enriches the narrative, offering a multifaceted view of the tragedy's ripple effects.

However, the novel's ambitious scope and the number of perspectives can occasionally make the narrative feel overwhelming. The complexity of the plot and the depth of the themes require careful reading to fully appreciate the intricacies of Pearson's storytelling.

"Bright and Tender Dark" is a prismatic and compelling debut that successfully combines elements of a thriller with literary depth. Joanna Pearson has crafted a novel that not only provides a gripping mystery but also a thoughtful exploration of the human psyche in the face of tragedy and mystery. This book is a must-read for fans of literary mysteries and those fascinated by the psychological underpinnings of crime and obsession.

Was this review helpful?

Captivating, suspenseful, entertaining novel! This beautiful story kept me on the edge of my seat while I was reading it! Would highly recommend to those who enjoy this genre.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: