Review: Dark Room Etiquette by Robin Roe

Dark Room Etiquette by Robin Roe

Dark Room Etiquette
Robin Roe
HarperTeen
Published October 11, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Dark Room Etiquette

Sixteen-year-old Sayers Wayte has everything—until he’s kidnapped by a man who tells him the privileged life he’s been living is based on a lie.

Trapped in a windowless room, without knowing why he’s been taken or how long the man plans to keep him shut away, Sayers faces a terrifying new reality. To survive, he must forget the world he once knew, and play the part his abductor has created for him.

But as time passes, the line between fact and fiction starts to blur, and Sayers begins to wonder if he can escape . . . before he loses himself.

Dark Room Etiquette on Goodreads

My Review

My feelings about this book range from strong to very strong. At the beginning, Sayers isn’t a very likeable guy. Sure, he’s not the one actively tormenting another boy in his class. He’s just the one standing by, watching it happen. He’s spoiled, rude, and unaffected by other people’s pain. We get to know this version of him over the first quarter or so of the book.

Then he gets kidnapped by someone who seems to be deeply unwell. At first Sayers refuses to cooperate with his abductor. But as time goes on and escape continues to be an impossibility, he does what he must in order to survive.

The book feels like an exploration of what trauma does to someone. Both in the way it breaks someone down, and in the way that it leaves permanent marks on that person’s life, even after the traumatic event is over.

I’m not at all an expert on trauma or how it affects anyone. I’ve watched someone close to me grapple with past trauma, and some of the things Sayers does and says were familiar to me because of that experience. I liked that the whole story wasn’t an exploration of the trauma itself. I liked that Sayers formed different relationships and that his relationships operated differently as he began to piece things back together. He valued different things. He wanted different things. But he also wasn’t capable of some of the things he’d been capable of before.

So there were lots of things I liked, but it was a hard book to read. I think the hardest part was witnessing the breakdown Sayers endures during his captivity.

I think readers who enjoyed A LIST OF CAGES will enjoy DARK ROOM ETIQUETTE. I think fans of WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE by Kate McLaughlin should check this one out.

Dark Room Etiquette on Bookshop

Content Notes

Content warning for drug use, bullying, torture, assault, murder, suicide, and references to sexual assault.

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Representation
One significant minor character is Latine. Sayers’ best friend is bisexual.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. References to sex.

Spiritual Content
A classmate discusses her faith openly. Later, Sayers prays with a girl.

Violent Content
Sayers witnesses a boy bullying another student. A boy takes another boy into the woods, clearly intending to harm him. Sayers’ abductor hits him and keeps him chained or locked up, sometimes starving him and another person. Sayers discovers bodies of boys who were murdered. He witnesses someone die by suicide. He learns that someone sexually assaulted another person.

Drug Content
At the beginning of the book, Sayers prefers drugs that will make him feel amped up. Late in the story, he smokes weed, using it to calm himself down.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of DARK ROOM ETIQUETTE in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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