Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Black ChalkBlack Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I would like to thank the publisher through Netgalley for my advanced reader’s edition of Black Chalk, by Christopher J. Yates.
Before reading this debut novel, I had seen it compared to the cult-classic The Secret History, as well as seen reviews saying it was good, but not brilliant. So I started the novel with the hope that it would be an entertaining psychological chiller, as well as capturing the wonderful, gothic world in an elite British college.
Black Chalk did not fulfill my expectations. To put it succinctly, I was bored through most of the novel, which seemed composed of a tangled web of repetitive, confused thoughts shared with us by our drug-addled narrator.
The premise of the novel, that six friends at college in Oxford invent a game with psychological consequences for the losers, seemed initially interesting. However, in actuality, the game as played seemed immature and superficial. Rather than creating an atmosphere of gothic suspense that I could really sink my teeth into, the game that the six friends created reminded me of the kind of dares that a fraternity would force upon their initiates.
Furthermore, the motivations of the characters were convoluted. The narrator told us over and over how psychologically damaging this game was to him and his friends, but I felt thoroughly unconvinced that anything subversive or complex was going on. I was unable to suspend disbelief or care about any of the characters.
Throughout the novel, there were multiple hints at upcoming reveals, but for the most part, none of this panned out in a satisfying way.
The writing style in Black Chalk also left something to be desired. As a reader, I personally really enjoy novels with a strong sense of place, and I think that Black Chalk is the type of novel that could have benefited from more description. Instead, the focus was mainly on thoughts and dialogue. And as a slight aside, the poetry written by one of the characters, who was supposed to be talented, made me cringe.
Finally, I was shocked by how abruptly the novel ended. As I read the last sentence in a chapter, I thought, “that was weak…surely this can’t be the end of the novel,” but in fact, it was.
I wanted Black Chalk to be enjoyable, to be dark, psychological, and creepy. Unfortunately, it left me just as confused as the narrator, and just as motivated as he was to escape from the Game.

View all my reviews

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cleopatralovesbooks
    Feb 19, 2014 @ 09:24:27

    What a brilliant review which explains exactly why this book wasn’t for you. I had considered this one but I think I would share the same issues as you did, drug addled narrators isn’t what I want to read.


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