ARC Review: A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen

Goodreads// Los Angeles, 2006. Eighteen-year-old Robert Gorham arrives in L.A. amid the desert heat and the soft buzz of neon. He came alone with one goal: he wants to see the ocean. And Robert always gets what he wants.

At a very young age, Robert discovered he had the unusual ability to make those close to him want whatever he wants. He wanted dessert instead of dinner? His mother served it. He wanted his Frisbee back? His father walked off the roof to bring it to him faster. He wanted to be alone? They both disappeared. Forever.

But things will be different in L.A. He meets a group of strange friends who could help him. Friends who can do things like produce flames without flint, conduct electricity with their hands, and see visions of the past. They call themselves Unusuals and finally, finally, Robert belongs.

When a tall figure, immune to their powers, discovers them, the first family that Robert has ever wanted is at risk of being destroyed. The only way to keep them all together is to get his powers under control. But control is a sacrifice he might not be willing to make.


Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Teen for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. A Neon Darkness is published on September 29th 2020.

First of all, this cover is just gorgeous and pretty interesting to look at after reading the book. Kudos to the artist who designed it!

This book sounded interesting. The premise is essentially a darker take on the powered people story with morally grey characters so it sounded juts like my kind of book and I was hoping for a Vicious/Victor Vale kind of vibe. But frankly, it was disappointing. I just didn’t like this book very much. I mostly enjoyed the story while I was actually reading it but in the end, it just left me a bit confused about several aspects and I didn’t really felt happy or satisfied after finishing the book. It just lacked something.

The main character is Robert, whose ability is to make people want what he wants. It’s clear that Robert’s grown up using his ability instinctually, to survive and protect himself to the point where he doesn’t seem to have that much intentional control on when he’s using it. But he’s a morally questionable person, he doesn’t try to not control the people around him, and although he realizes the wrongness of it at first, by the end, you can see how much he has changed after having a taste of what he desired most. Here’s my problem with this character – his goal the entire novel is either to be loved and understood or to find a meaning for his life and that is a perfectly valid life goal, I suppose, it just isn’t very interesting to read about. Otherwise, I actually quite liked him. I’m a sucker for morally grey characters and honestly, he was the main reason why I kept on reading the story. I was invested in his journey and I didn’t really care about any of the other characters except maybe Indah.

The plot and conflict are my main issues with this book, or should I say the lack thereof? This novel was character-driven from the very beginning, but the plot and conflict felt very underdeveloped. Where was the story headed? Was the conflict supposed to be Robert’s deteriorating relationship with his friends or dealing with Tall Man Isaiah and his people (which barely happened)? I’m still unclear on these two aspects.

The writing style was lovely and I’m open to reading more of this author’s books for this aspect alone.

Overall, this book was pretty unremarkable and confusing and I don’t recommend it.

8 thoughts on “ARC Review: A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen

  1. I recently finished this one and loved how it was very character focused. I personally recommend the podcast if you want to learn more about his character, he’s such a great antagonist. Really enjoyed reading your review Rafaela, sorry this one didn’t work for you!

    Liked by 1 person

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