Romancing the Dark in the City of Light


Title:   Romancing the Dark in the City of Light

Author:  Ann Jacobus

Publisher: New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015

ISBN: 9781250064431

 About the author: from

Ann Jacobus writes children’s and YA fiction, blogs and tweets about it, teaches writing and volunteers weekly on a suicide crisis line. She’s published short fiction, essays and poetry in anthologies, journals, and magazines, and her debut YA thriller came out from St. Martin’s Griffin in October, 2015. San Francisco is home to her and her family.


Summer Barnes has just moved to Paris to attend school. As a stipulation of her inheritance, Summer Barnes, second-year high school senior, has to graduate college at age 22.  Kicked out of several boarding school, she is sent to Paris to live with her distant mother.

Critical Evaluation:

Summer Barnes is looking for love. But if she doesn’t learn to love herself, she’s going to self-destruct. Summer is an authentic yet flawed young adult who thinks that by finding love, her life will be fixed.  Summer is an awkward, complex, and flawed young woman who needs to see her own self-worth. She relies on sarcasm and a snarky attitude to get through her interactions with others.

Since the stipulation for her inheritance requires that she finish college at 22, she goes to live with her mom. She and her mom are distant. Summer’s growth is going to be her salvation. She competes with her mom’s dog Camus as he is “mom’s precious child”.

While taking the Metro to Paris, the train stops suddenly. There was a woman on the tracks who is now dead. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Did she commit suicide? We see where Summer’s mind is when she says, “If she jumped, it may have been a release.” She is plagued by feelings of hopelessness. She knows depression runs in her family, but refuses to take prescription medications. Ironically, she will consume alcohol. Symbolically, Summer carries around her late alcoholic father’s flask, which she fills with vodka. She seems to justify his drinking by saying it’s different because her dad drank scotch.

Summer meets Kurt and Moony. Summer is looking “for someone to make life more meaningful”. Kurt is the dark path for Summer in this story. They initially meet on the ill-fated train, and then again at the cemetery. In the ultimate foreshadowing of her potential future (or lack of) she visits the Père Lachaise Cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. Then she mentions Sylvia Plath.

Moony is a friend she met at school. He is a good guy, and Summer really likes him, but Kurt is pulling her toward him. Ultimately, she has to look inward.  We get to see Paris through Summer’s eyes. It’s a serious novel, yet there is a strong sense of place in this story, as we go through landmarks of Paris. Ann Jacobus writes a compelling and candid story about a flawed young woman who needs to find herself, and hopefully doesn’t follow in her father’s footsteps.


Reader’s Annotation: Summer Barnes is looking for love. Will she find it at the bottom of her flask?

Genre: contemporary romance

Curriculum Ties:social studies, substance abuse education

Booktalking Ideas: Make a map of Paris and mark the landmarks/places that Summer visits.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 16+

Challenge Issues— substance abuse, profanity, suicide

Challenge Resources 

  • Library Selection Policy
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Why did you pick this for your collection?  

  • 2016 Housatonic Book Award Winners, Young Adult and Middle Grade
  • Positive reviews
  • author talk