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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Dark Territory by J. Gabriel Gates and Charlene Keel

Star-Crossed Love, Martial Arts, and Supernatural Evil meet at the Abandoned Tracks in the Deceptively Quaint town of Middleburg...When Ignacio Torrez moved from the rough streets of Los Angeles to a small town dead smack in the middle of nowhere, he never expected to find himself in the midst of a gang war. But, he soon learns, these are no ordinary gangs. The wealthy, preppie Toppers on one side of the tracks and the working-class Flatliners on the other adhere to a strict code of honor and use their deadly martial arts skills, taught to them by the wise Master Chin, to battle one another for pride, territory, and survival. When Raphael, leader of the Flatliners, falls for Aimee, a Topper girl, the rival gangs prepare for a bloody, all-out war. The only hope for peace between them lies within the dark territory of the abandoned train tunnels where the tracks cross. Under the direction of the mysterious and frightening Magician, the awesome power within the crossing sends the rivals on a terrifying mystical quest to fight the malevolent force that threatens the existence of Middleburg.

Paperback, 480 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by HCI Teens
ISBN 0757315747 (ISBN13: 9780757315749)
series The Tracks #1
Full Bookish Disclosure: I reviewed Dark Territory after reading only half of the book.  I “knew” what the last half was going to be like, and felt my initial impressions were correct.  I gave it 3 Stars.  Then I finished reading.  Then rewrote my review.  And gave it 4 Stars.  So there you have it.
Knowing what I know about this book, that it was an idea for a TV show, makes this book work.  Somehow, Gates and Keel take a very teen-melodramatic “poor vs. rich” plotline, mix in some martial arts in various forms, some paranormalcy, and basically, kick some tail.
There are a lot of clichés.  Rich vs. Poor, “I hate you because you’re from the wrong side of the tracks (literally),” “your dad fired my dad, so I hate you,” and so on.  Which gets kinda…irritating.  But, I’m not a teen.  I’m 30.  So, maybe I’m a little too far removed from the intricacies of high school to relate to that.  But there have been the two gangs in Middleburg for sometime, so I’m not quite sure I understand why they’re there, other than the previously mentioned clichés.
The main group of characters, all teenagers from the same school, but different socioeconomic classes are typical teens.  Trying to make it in the cut-throat hallways of high school.  It’s real, honest.  The conversations and kidding and interactions and attitudes all felt very teenage.  Even the angst (which I’m not usually a fan of) worked in Dark Territory.  Nothing was forced or faked.  The romantic subtext running throughout the book is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, where two kids from different worlds fall in love and fight to be together.  They don’t end up committing suicide or anything, though.
There’s a good vs. evil element that builds, from nearly the beginning of the book.  Whispers on the wind, strange feelings, Kate, the dude in red.  It built, and built, and built, and I really just wanted to get on with it, but it built some more.  Dark Territory would make an excellent book to TV show conversion: all the angst and dramatic effect building are there in it.  The CW or ABC Family could literally just produce from the book.  Not that that’s a bad thing, there’s a lot that’s not left to the imagination, and in a story like this, that’s good.  Gates and Keel spell it out for you.  You’re not going to have to figure it out for yourself.  All the building left me a little exhausted.  But once the war begins, I couldn’t put the book down!  The pace picked up and speed me down the tracks toward the ending.
The ending is a little too neat and tidy.  It still leaves room for the sequel, but can stand by itself.  It’s not all rainbow and butterflies, but close to it.  And I appreciated the lightness of it compared to the darkness that reigned through most the book. 
4 Stars: Cross the tracks and get this one!
Get to reading,
*This book was provided to me by the publishers in exchange for an honest review*



  1. Glad to hear the ending allows the book to stand by itself...YA and cliffhangers seem to be all but inseparable these days.

    Will definitely consider reading this next time I'm in need of a dose of angst and melodrama.
    It happens.)

    (More often than I'm going to admit.)

  2. I've been looking for a good book with a male lead. Seems I read nothing but books focusing on strong heroines lately. I may have to pick this one up. Thanks for the review.

    Kelsey d.


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