I do not usually like things that can be described with the word dark. I’m even less likely to enjoy a book with a tagline that includes the word brutal. Melt, by Selene Castrovilla, came out yesterday and definitely earns the terms dark and brutal in its depiction of a romance between high schoolers Dorothy and Joey. From the beginning their love seems meant to be, but Joey’s reputation, his relationship with alcohol, and the domestic abuse that’s always been a part of his life at home threaten what Joey and Dorothy have. Despite the darkness, the instant tension that comes from rooting for both kids and also wondering if it all really is too much for Dorothy kept me turning pages. The interesting structure of the story also made me feel like I needed to make an exception for this dark and brutal book. There are two unique story devices that really set this book apart for me. One is the weaving in of elements from The Wizard of Oz. This is not a retelling. There is no scarecrow, no field of poppies, and no man behind the curtain. But there are quotations from the famous book framing different sections of the narrative and a few key references sprinkled into the story.
The second device is the lyrical and fractured nature of the chapters narrated by Joey. The book is told through a dual, first person POV, where chapters alternate between Dorothy and Joey. Joey’s chapters are told through a stream of consciousness form of poetry. His rough language makes this feat even more impressive. Through his words you can tell that he is a broken person (hence the broken language), but also see his potential.
This book might not be for everyone. It definitely has big triggers for abuse. It also might not be the book for you if you really are bothered by insta-love YA story lines. Still, it’s a quick and unique read that I definitely recommend.
*I received an ARC copy of Melt through NetGalley, but all the opinions here are my own.