Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night's experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?
Fear--we all experience it at some point in our lives. The intensity and situation may vary, but it seems to be a universal feeling. For The Seven, their fears are omnipresent--a force that interrupts their lives, that weeks/months/years of therapy can't seem to fix. However, their shared therapist, Dr. Stevens, offers them hope in the form of Fort Eden, an intense camp that she claims will help them eradicate their fears. Loaded into a van together, none of them know what to expect, but no one expects to be dumped in the middle of the woods and told to hike to their destination. Upon their arrival, they're greeted by ominous buildings, which only serves to building upon their fears and misgivings. Our main character will goes so far as to hide out in the building opposite everyone else and watch what happens.
In Dark Eden, Patrick Carman brings to life a vivid potrayal of what it's like to fight intense, life-hindering fears. The main character, Will Besting, has the upper-hand among the rest of this cohort as he snuck into Dr. Stevens' files and listened to all of theirs. "The Seven" are each subjected to a treatment that appears to work to alleviate their fears. Each person enters the mysterious chamber and emerges cured with no knowledge of what happened in the chamber--no idea how they were cured.
Dark Eden is a suspenseful, psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The main character, Will, is intensely suspicious and guarded throughout the beginning. Like all of the charaters, Carman maintains an air of mystery to Will's fear. We don't find out until each person is being cured what their fear is, which leaves us wondering about Will's particular fear up until almost the end. It's interesting to be in Will's head as he discovers how the cures really work. As the reader, you are constantly curious as to what will happen next: Who will get cured? Will Will be discovered? What is really going on at Fort Eden?
Dark Eden is a book that you really have to commit to reading. The beginning seems a tad slow as things are very deliberately to the reader. It's also easy to become impatient as you wait to learn about the fears of each of The Seven, especially Will. Things are, of course, revealed in due course, but the journey to the end is not quick or painless.
Dark Eden is definitely a book that I would recommend without reservations. The ominous, uncertain atmosphere of the story and the descriptions of fear and "healing" will engage readers of many ages. I would especially recommend this to many male YA readers (since librarians always seem to be looking for something new to recommend to their reluctant teenage boys). It's overall a very intense, engaging read.
Thanks to OUaT Book Tours for allowing me to read this book!