In Black Sand Beach: Are You Afraid of the Light?, a graphic novel for middle grade readers, a group of kids explore the strange area around a family vacation home.
Twelve-year-old Dash and his best friend Lily join Dash’s parents, cousins, and extended family for a summer vacation at a ramshackle beach house. Weird behavior is apparent from the start: Dash’s father delivers awful jokes, and his young cousin, Andy, has a tenuous grasp of reality. Even weirder are the whispers that only Dash seems to hear, and the spooky lighthouse nearby. The kids investigate ghosts, false memories, magic, and cows that aren’t really cows in this story that uses humor to offset its creepier elements.
The book is divided into three parts, each preceded by a stunning, mood-setting visual: an illustration, paired with its mirror image on the reverse side of the page. The rest of the interior art is impressive in its own right, but also cartoonish enough to deliver laughs. It is rendered in meticulous lines that are most visible in the exquisite, detailed backgrounds of trees, wood grains, fabrics, sand, and water, making the setting seem realistic and inhabited.
The kids are the competent characters here; the adults seem incapable of detecting, let alone solving, the mysteries that surround them. With a large cast and plenty of surprising developments, the book plants seeds for potential future story lines, even as layers of its mystery are peeled away to ensure immediate satisfaction.
Funny and playful but also creepy and intriguing, Black Sand Beach: Are You Afraid of the Light? is an entertaining graphic novel that establishes a rich world of possibilities and impossibilities.
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