THIS DARKNESS MINE by Mindy McGinnis (2017)
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Last year, when This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis was released, it was all the rage in my bookish internet circles. People I’m subscribed to on YouTube were talking about it, excited that Mindy had a new book out, but no one actually knew what said book was about. They just knew it was Mindy McGinnis, and they were excited. I remember finding the title intriguing, but I hadn’t picked it up until now. This Darkness Mine has some extremely polarizing reviews on Goodreads. Some people loved it while most people hated it. I was in the small minority who actually really liked it. This, coming from someone who is unnecessarily picky about what she reads.
This Darkness Mine follows high school senior, Sasha Stone, who seemingly has the perfect life. She has a long-term boyfriend, a blossoming career as a clarinetist, and is on track to being her class’s valedictorian. Everything is going great for Sasha. Until it isn’t. Until she starts losing large chunks of time, with no memory of the things she participated in, until she starts receiving texts from a boy she thought she wanted nothing to do with, until she starts blacking out and suffering from heart problems she didn’t know she had.
What follows is a dizzying and disturbing spiral into Sasha’s psyche as she struggles with the loss of control over her life—all thanks to her evil twin sister, Shanna. Yes, you read that right. Evil twin. It gets weirder. Not only is Shanna Sasha’s evil twin, she’s not even technically alive. After seeing an ultrasound of herself and her twin in the womb, Sasha is convinced that she absorbed Shanna’s body before they were born. Shanna’s heart is Sasha’s heart and vice versa. The boy Sasha didn’t think she wanted? He’s what Shanna wants. The chunks of lost time Sasha had been experiencing? All thanks to Shanna.
It gets weirder.
I was not expecting to like This Darkness Mine. Given how many of my bookish friends online hated it, I thought I was going to hate it, too. However, since I’m a big fan of anything weird and over-the-top, the more I read this book, the more I was grabbed by it. Sasha as a character is not a nice person, despite supposedly being the “good” twin. She’s cold and selfish and oftentimes vindictive, her emotions as shallow as a kiddy pool. I liked that she wasn’t likable, and found her narrative quite chilling to read. Sasha doesn’t have much remorse for the things she does, but at the same time, she doesn’t feel anything nearly as deeply as Shanna does. Shanna is the emotional twin. She acts on impulse. Sasha does not.
Speaking of Shanna, it’s never clear whether the book wants you to believe that she’s real or if it’s all in Sasha’s head. It’s up to the reader to choose whether or not Sasha exists. I chose to believe that, simply because I felt it was more fun that way. The guessing game isn’t wrapped up by the end of the book. There are no clear answers. This might bug you if you like unambiguous endings, but I thought it added to the overall unreliability to Sasha’s story. You can’t tell if she’s telling the truth. And maybe you don’t want to know.
There are some side-characters in This Darkness Mine, but they don’t matter nearly as much as Sasha and Shanna. There’s a bit halfway through the book where Sasha is admitted to a cardiac center to receive a heart transplant, and her friends there are more fleshed out than her friends in school are. The humor in this book is dark and often very morbid, and some of the scenes involving sex and violence push the YA envelope, even if YA as we know it today is vastly different from the YA of ten years ago.
This Darkness Mine requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. It asks you to go along for the ride, not question it. That’s what I did during my time with the book. A lot of the events that happen are completely unbelievable and probably wouldn’t happen outside the realm of fiction, but do I care? Absolutely not. I kind of loved this book, in all its twisted, disgusting glory. I can’t rightly say I’d recommend it, though. It’s something I loved due to my individual taste, but it definitely won’t please everyone. Read at your own risk!
We’ll be getting a copy of This Darkness Mine at the Oreana Library here soon!