What They Do in the Dark by Amanda Coe

Photo: Jesus Ayala/Studio D

24 of 46
What They Do in the Dark
256 pages; W. W. Norton & Company
The girls in Amanda Coe's gripping and disturbing novel, What They Do in the Dark (Norton), are anything but sheltered. Set in a gritty Yorkshire town in the 1970s, the story's plot centers on the budding relationship—friendship would be too benign a word—between 10-year-old classmates Gemma and Pauline. Handed over by her mother to the nominal care of her grandmother, Pauline goes to school smelly and dirty and shakes down other kids for money. Raised in relative luxury, smug Gemma feels her secure life eroding with her parents' breakup. A third girl, Lallie, is a spoiled but exploited 11-year-old television star whom Gemma idolizes from afar. In masterfully understated prose, Coe explores the way particular adults fail these children, as well as the heartbreaking and horrific effect of violence and ignorance on an entire community.
— Karen Holt