Natasha stalks the quiet streets of dead-end Lunar Bay like doom in a denim jacket. She’s a grim reminder that some teenagers can never escape the ever-tightening noose of their lives. Burned out and benumbed by a traumatic past, dogged by scurrilous small-town gossip, she finds solace in drugs, sex and Slayer.
When a naïve transplant crosses her path, he’s drawn into shadow and doubt. With his girlfriend ghosting him, Natasha’s fresh introduction to her half-lit world is darkly appealing. Now faced with confusing quandaries—connection or convenience, relationship or exploitation—can he help any of the women in his life? Or is he just helping himself?
The untold tragedies of Natasha’s lonely life may be more than he can handle. And in a town whose history is littered with dead girls, there may be no happy ending for anyone.
A tar-black coming of age story, this gritty psychological thriller from Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Matthew R. Davis, eloquently chronicles the crushing gravity of small-town hopelessness, the double-edged catharsis of sex, drugs, and heavy metal, and the brutal weight of youth’s first lessons in accountability.
What horrors have Natasha’s flat eyes witnessed? And how far will she go in pursuit of the one tiny spark of hope that still flickers in her haunted heart?
*** I received a free ebook in exchange for an honest review ***
I recently read The Dark Matter of Natasha by Matthew R. Davis, an Australian horror and dark fiction author.
The Dark Matter of Natasha follows a teenage protagonist as he navigates poverty and the isolation of a small town, always wanting something more in a place that can’t offer much. After a confusing sexual incident and subsequent rejection by his girlfriend Caitlin, there’s a real sense of abandonment and that the life he’d hoped for is slipping away from him. Then he meets Natasha and everything changes.
Natasha is alluring in many ways. She’s someone he doesn’t understand, someone who seems to accept him regardless of his naivety, insecurities and how different he is from her. But Natasha is a greatly flawed. She’s someone who’s seen the worst of the world and it’s betrayals. She’s hardened and jaded by life and expects nothing but more of the same from it. There’s a sense of hopelessness to her and a waiting out the clock despite her young age.
It’s hard to discuss how our protagonist changes over the course of the story without giving away major plot developments as spoilers. But after a series of catastrophic events occur, he’s changed in ways he can’t ever recover from. Although he and Caitlin remain together, their marriage is a cold one and bound by shared experience rather than any love remaining between them.
The Dark Matter of Natasha is a complex novella that is both a coming-of-age story and one of desire and trauma. In an exploration of the bleakest natures of human experience and how repeated trauma reduces human capacity to a shell of itself, a hardened and emotionally distant one fuelled only by memory. Despite the dark undertones to the story, there are such clearly defined characters.
Davis makes us witnesses to how despite her indifference to life, Natasha changes lives forever. But the trauma that seemed to only belong to Natasha at the beginning of the story is a creeping thing, almost a character in itself, to where by the end our protagonist and Caitlin exist but no longer seem to truly live in the world. Davis shows us the spreading tide of trauma and hopelessness from a small community that has indelible effects on those who survive it.
A powerfully written and intense dark fiction novella. Trigger warnings are necessary for psychological and sexual abuse and suicide themes. A recommended read.