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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Are you a true crime fan? As someone who has always clung to the adage that truth is stranger than fiction, I certainly am. And when it comes to the content and characters in Out Here in the Darkness by Abra Stevens, I know that for some readers the truth in this book will not only be stranger than fiction but a lot harder to stomach. You can’t just close this book and tell yourself “Good thing that never happened!” With that warning in mind, prepare to be shocked and even somewhat nauseous when you read how on one summer night, five teens brutally murdered one of their peers in a field near a cemetery. Stevens does not spare the gory details. Not only is what these teens did abhorrent, but the events leading up to it and the group’s justification of the act are repulsive.
Out Here in the Darkness is a well-researched book that combines actual details of police efforts to find those responsible with specific court transcripts once they face the justice system for sentencing. But what elevates this true crime story above becoming a dry recording of facts is Stevens’ ability to make these young criminals real people who have gone astray. Through the exchange of dialogue between the teens, and their likely personal reflections before and after the act, readers recognize that several of these teens were once just kids raised in anything but ideal circumstances. Though their crime was monstrous, Stevens doesn’t leave readers thinking of them as monsters. Abra Stevens’ interest in the psychology of these murderers is shown most toward the end where the author devotes several chapters to exploring one of them, Mike Cravey, as he serves his 33-year prison sentence. This section is most enlightening, and readers who care more about the whys than the whats behind violent acts like the one depicted will think about those whys long after they close the book.