“I tell this story because I can,” writes Saundra Mitchell in the author’s note of her new novel, All the Things We Do in the Dark. Seeking to avoid “adding one more fictional rape to a world that uses it far too often for entertainment,” Mitchell retells a traumatic event from her childhood, adding elements of fabulism to create All the Things We Do in the Dark.
The first thing everyone notices about Ava is the scar on her face. When she was 9 years old, a man lured her into the dark and raped her. But Ava’s a junior in high school now, and she knows what to do: She avoids strangers, follows her mother’s rule of never going out by herself and, most of all, keeps her emotional baggage neatly folded in mental boxes with strong, secure locks—until she finds a dead body in the woods, that is.
Ava instantly connects with the dead teenager, whom she calls Jane. Jane haunts Ava at every turn, leading Ava to take impulsive chances as she begins to break all of her own rules. But even as Jane appears to Ava in increasingly disturbing guises, Ava’s regular life goes on. Her best friend, Syd, becomes distant, and she finds herself falling for her classmate Hailey. Soon Jane’s secret can no longer stay hidden, and Ava must make a choice. Will she claim her buried past or let it claim her?
Like the worms in the soil of Ava’s visions, All the Things We Do in the Dark will crawl into readers’ viscera and stay under their skin.