Something is wrong with Marianne. It’s not just that her parents have split up, or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.
She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her.
But a first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. And Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.
- Title: The Dark Beneath the Ice
- Author: Amelinda Bérubé
- Cover Artists: Aliza Razell, image; Elsie Lyons, design
- Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
- ISBN: 1492657077
- Publication Date: August 7, 2018
- For Ages: 14+
- Category: Young Adult
- Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? ☠️ Scary.
I’d like to thank Sourcebooks Fire for providing a free copy via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.
SPOILER ALERT: This will be a much more spoiler-heavy review than I usually write, because I don’t feel like I can do this book justice without divulging some of its secrets. Proceed at your own risk.
The Dark Beneath the Ice is a chilling ghost story that subverts the traditional narrative of a haunting to explore society’s repression of teenage girls. Faced with the pressures of her parents’ difficult divorce, an overbearing dance mom, a misogynistic world that views any emotional response from a young woman as an irrational temper tantrum, and the crushing weight of heteronormativity, Marianne retreats from herself and becomes a ghost floating through her own life.
Marianne goes on a painful journey of discovery, navigating questions about her identity, mental health, and sexual orientation. Her instinct in each case is to hide, imagining herself submerged in water beneath a thick layer of ice so that nothing can reach her. She stays safe and untouched…until she begins to notice eerie things happening around her, like objects moving on their own and unexplained scratching and knocking noises behind walls. Soon the events become more and more dangerous, even threatening her mother and her new friend Rhiannon, and Marianne decides she needs to do battle with the ghost to stop the haunting once and for all.
Author Amelinda Bérubé keeps the reader guessing for a good bit of the novel as to what’s truly going on — is Marianne possessed by a demon? Is she being haunted by the spirit of someone who died on the night that looms as a curious blank spot in her memory? But Bérubé drops so many clues that we realize well before the climax that Marianne isn’t locked in battle with some malevolent supernatural entity — she’s fighting herself. The “ghost” that’s been haunting her dreams and making her waking hours a nightmare is actually her repressed self, the collection of all the rage and desire and grief that Marianne pushes down as far as she can so she won’t have to deal with any of the emotions that the adults in her life and society in general tell her are unwelcome. Little girls, after all, should be seen and not heard.
When you’re not sure what type of entity is terrorizing Marianne, this is a truly frightening read — the part of the narrative that hints at demonic possession is particularly difficult to get through without turning on all the lights. Once I understood Marianne’s real struggles, though, it became frightening in a different but very familiar way. Anyone who’s ever been a teenage girl can tell you what it feels like to have people dismiss you as irrational, tempestuous, and insignificant. I was overwhelmed with sympathy for her and with grief for all the time she spent lost in that liminal space, struggling not to make waves or admit to feelings that she thought she wasn’t allowed to have.
The true specter in this ghost story isn’t the shadow-Marianne trapped beneath the ice, but the Marianne narrating the novel, the one who refuses to acknowledge her own anger, confusion, grief, despair, or even joy. Amelinda Bérubé turns the tale of a haunting inside out, showing us what happens when we trivialize girls’ feelings by writing them off as teenage outbursts or “just a phase.” Repressing your true self — drowning every intense emotion because it’s uncomfortable or unfamiliar or simply unpalatable to the people who want to control you — is no way to live. As The Dark Beneath the Ice shows us, it’s not living at all; it’s simply haunting yourself with the dull, grey echoes of what could have been.
This book was so much more than I thought it would be. I give it 5 out of 5 coffins.