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Vivaldi in the Dark

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Out-and-regretting-it comprehensive attendee Jayden Phillips turns his cast-iron plans for life upside-down by falling in love with private-school violinist Darren Peace, a sardonic boy with the craziest hair Jayden's ever seen.

But all is not what it seems, and Jayden's bullying problem becomes meaningless when he is confronted with what the music does to Darren. How do you stop a dangerous depression rooted in the same thing that makes someone what they are? Dark moods, blank apathy, and the undertow of self-loathing all simmer beneath Darren's dry and beautiful veneer, and Jayden feels powerless to stop them.

Then a mugging gone wrong takes the music forcibly away, and Jayden is finally given the chance to change Darren's life -- and, quite literally, his mind.

294 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 2013

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About the author

Matthew J. Metzger

32 books329 followers
Matthew is an asexual, transgender author from the wet and windy British Isles.

Matt writes LGBT novels, both adult and young adult, and particularly enjoys digging into the weird and wonderful diversity of people all across the sexuality and gender spectrums. When not writing, Matt is usually asleep, or crunching numbers at his day job. Free time is not really a concept here.

He is also owned by an enormous black cat. Approach with caution.

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Profile Image for Baba  .
859 reviews3,873 followers
February 13, 2014
4 sensitive stars.****Review completed February 13, 2014

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Matthew J. Metzger had me at…

The baton came down, the bows came up, and the storm ended. The silence was as ringing as the strings, and rolled in like an angry tide to reclaim the stage, flooding over the orchestra until the very last memory of the tempest in Vivaldi's Summer had been washed away.

As I see it, this excellent intro sums up the entire book. Vivaldi in the Dark deals with some heavy subject matter. Undertones are interrupted by mournful clouds of numbness and sorrow until they're washed away by rays of hope.

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"My friends are girls," Jayden said. "The other guys, they don't…you know, it's weird. Being friends with a gay guy. You know, they might…I don't know, it's like they think I'm catching."
Darren snorted. It echoed oddly in the bathroom. "I'm friends with a black guy; doesn't mean I tan better in the summer."

GPS (Gay Perception System)

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Alone in the darkness, he played Vivaldi.

Vivaldi in the Dark is the story about Jayden and Darren. On the one hand, we have the sixteen-year-old effeminate Jayden who's been bullied for ages. Jayden, however, has a plan and he's determined to succeed. He wants to apply for the scholarship to the sixth form at St. John's, a private school. Once there, he'd do his A-levels in order to apply to the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge, nobody would care that he was gay. The bullying would stop (I kinda doubt it because bullying happens everywhere) and he could do whatever he wanted to do. He could act and write; he could join the drama societies and he could find like-minded people and befriend them. He could find a boyfriend already.

On the other hand, there is the fifteen-year-old brooding, sensitive yet highly talented violinist Darren. He suffers from depression. His parents, especially his father, have high goals for Darren. His father puts him under pressure relentlessly to become a musician. He doesn't care if Darren is happy with what he's doing. As a consequence, Darren's father is absolutely clueless that his own son is depressive. When Jayden meets Darren for the first time, they feel a mutual sympathy and over the following days and weeks become more than only friendly. Darren realizes that Jayden makes his life easier. In fact, the light Jayden brings into Darren's life can balance out the darkness. Even though Jayden suffers from a case of severe tongue-tied shyness whenever he's around Darren, he starts to loosen up, albeit haltingly. When he talks to Darren he's blushing all the time in many different shades of red. Plus, he's stuttering and fumbling over very simple sentences but in a very sweet and adorable way.

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But he didn't say a word as Darren pulled himself impossibly closer and the hot dampness of tears began to collect in Jayden's hair and on the pillowcase. He didn't say anything as the shaking became more violent. He kept quiet as that arm pinned and clung for dear life, and he held his tongue when the sound of Darren crying, actually crying, ripped into his own chest and burned a path up to his throat. The ceiling swam blearily above them, and Jayden said nothing.

Vivaldi in the Dark is a sensitive portrayal about a depressed teenager who finds a way out of darkness thanks to his first love. But it's also a story about bullying and overcoming fears and family dynamics. Darren feels hollowed-out, empty and aching after every practice, rehearsal or recital. He doesn't enjoy playing the sad and solemn violin. Besides, playing the violin makes Darren's bad days even worse.

"I feel like I'm disappearing," he whispered.

When Darren is depressed, there's a numbness to everything and he feels listless and very exhausted. Simply put, during those darker days he's overwhelmed by a strong lethargy. But Jayden is a big help to make it bearable. There's a light at the end of the dark tunnel.

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As a much appreciated counterpoint we have Ethan and Paul, Darren's loyal (best) friends. I loved seeing them goofing around. They really mellowed the plot.

"Biscuit?" Ethan wrinkled his nose. "No way, muffin is so much cooler."
"You're both freaks," Darren opined, but they ignored him.
"Muffins would totally have curly hair if they were people, so he's a muffin."
"He's not gay enough to be a muffin. Muffins are completely, one hundred percent, Elton-John-in-a-tutu gay."
"You're the one who said he had a boyfriend."
"You two, I swear to God, are fucking married," Darren said and managed (somehow) to extract himself from the tangle.

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When an author accomplishes to hold my attention from start to finish and, in the process, engages my heart, then he's totally won me over. This story felt believable and authentic. Right from the beginning I was there and ready to absorb the story even though I hadn't known what to expect and I was once again afraid that I had to deal with yet another dramatic cheese festival. Granted, Vivaldi in the Dark is anything but a drama-free story. On the other hand, the drama doesn't overshadow the entire plot. It is there but in small and well-placed doses. The author gave me room and time to breathe; he gave me time to deal with the subject matter. And at the same time he brightened the plot with witty dialogue and some well-placed banter. I never felt overwhelmed by Darren's depression. It is an emotional read, yet there is no cheese alert either which made me sigh with relief. Overall it was a very accomplished combination of good plot, eclectic main and secondary characters with great characterization and a beautiful and credible romance. All in all an authentic story about finding your first true love.

Matthew J. Metzger is a new-to-me author and after reading Vivaldi in the Dark, I'm definitely looking forward to checking out his backlist. He's a young author and yet he impressed me with his mature and engaging writing style. As many of you know I'm not a fan of YA books. Isn't it significant that the YA stories I enjoy the most belong to the m/m sub genre?

Life did not come with a soundtrack, and yet some low, haunting melody was drifting through the hall.

It's true, life doesn't come with a soundtrack but you can compose your own music; a melody that will guide you through life's ups and downs and will lead you to your destination. A destination that YOU choose and not your parents. Parents are here to counsel, guide, cherish and protect their kids. We should never forget that.

Steam low (no explicit sex scenes; you'll have to settle for kissing, cuddling and hugging)

Recommended read.

"I don't know," Darren said honestly. "I just feel like…I've been jarred. Shaken. Like something ripped all the cobwebs out. I don't know. Just…different. It's still there, you know. It's not gone, it's just…not quite…everything."

Profile Image for Sheziss.
1,333 reviews441 followers
July 16, 2015


This is a great YA book. I love this genre, I'm not going to lie.

We have two boys. Jayden is middle class and bullied at school but with a lovable family. Darren is filthy rich whose parents don't give him much of an attention.

Bullying. Depression.

It's very hard to hide bullying. It's harder to make it stop. If you have problems in one school sometimes the best way to avoid that is to change school. I understood Jayden's desire to flee and be accepted at the private one, not only because of the abuse he suffers but because it's a promising place to begin a promising life.

It's very hard to hide depression. I have a close person who deals with it in a normal basis. It's so evident only a less than a concerned parent can be blind at this. I found the description and the scenes with Darren's sudden apathy quite realistic. They weren't exaggerated or dramatic-on-purpose. They were fair and balanced. I could totally buy it.

The MC are lacking in their certain areas but they complement each other. While Jayden is insecure but happy at home, Darren has loyal friends and deals with a cold shoulder from his parents. Jayden loves theatre. Darren has stage fright. Jayden is stable. Darren is depressed. Jayden is bad at Maths. Darren writes bad English. Jayden is abused by his mates. Darren is a music genius and admired by his peers. Jayden is shy. Darren has charisma. Jayden doesn't like coffee. Darren can't live without it.

This book is smile-inducing. Their interaction is really sweet and fun. Dialogues are superb, the joking and snark are the best. I laughed at Darren's friends. And I felt sympathy at Jayden's parents adorably getting in the middle of things. Their story is what teen love should be. Innocent, pure and eye-opening. I loved Darren's nice arrogance and playful attitude. And I loved Jayden's maturity. There was respect and friendship and then love and warmth. I loved Darren's patience at Jayden's limits. And I loved Jadyden's patience at Darren's problems. I wanted to hug them both at the same time.


And I wanted to hug Scott, too. Brothers can be a pain in the ass or the most awesome people on Earth. Sometimes at the same time. It's an impossible situation. Personal experience.

But I prefer Darren, I wish I had found someone like him in my teen years. In an age when boys are crazy and makes you roll your eyes more than like them, it's a breath of fresh air to meet someone with principles and who values everybody as a person. Those years are not that far behind me but I remember most of them wanted to project an I-don't-mind-what-you-think-about-me-because-I-am-so-cool-I-let-your-live image. Maybe because they really cared about other people's opinions but didn't know how to deal with that properly without making feel the other person like something less than them. But he sounds like one of those people who really listens to you. And that's always attractive for me. Am I rambling?

There were typos. Now and then a word was missing in the middle of the sentence or the word was turned into another one with a similar writing but different meaning. Needs to be corrected.

I like hot guys with beanies, too.

And I love cuddling and kissing and leaving marks on necks. Vampire playing *Sheziss giggles*. They are seriously cute, I melted most of the time. I felt like ice-cream under the sun, almost pathological.

One thing I didn't like were the black scenes. Yes, they cut sex scenes!!! *Mad Sheziss* I love connection during sex, above all when MC are REALLY cute together. I felt cheated, I was expecting those moments as manna from the sky and I had to be content with sand. Argggg.

Anyway, it was worth it. Not sure about going on with the series. I've read they time travel three years to the future and they are separated again. Not attractive, I'll think about it. But this one? Read it.
Profile Image for Barbara.
433 reviews89 followers
February 21, 2014
BR HERE with Isabel, Shakisha, Dorota and Tainted Skyee

Amazing, enrapture writing, toe-curling, life-affirming, stomach butterflies, and every kind of wonderful, is what Vivaldi in the Dark brings us!

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The story exquisitely written of Jayden Phillips and Darren T. Peace, deals with teenage issues and problems
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Is an honest story about subjects that might make some people hide, cover, and ignore…
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But it’s not a weakness, is an illness and that it's not as hopeless as it seems, there is always a way out...

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Along the book my heart hiccupped a lot!

But from me is so HIGLY recommend…

Thanks to all the ladies that read it wit me!
One heart for each: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

By the way … Cover reveal of the next one …
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Profile Image for Isabel.
562 reviews105 followers
February 19, 2014
I marked this book "to read" as soon as I read the title! I love violin music and I love its sound, and though I don't have any gift for playing violin, I love to hear it! So the title captivated me right away!

But this book is not about the joy of playing violin or hear its music, actually it's about the opposite! It's about how the pressure for perfection and the pressure to please someone, drove a young man to depression. This book is about how this young man, Darren, found the beautiful and shy Jayden! And how Jayden, even being bullied in his school, had enough strenght to help his boyfriend and to stand by his side, when Darren needed most!

This book is not about hot sex or amazing bodies... is about friendship, discovery, devotion, pure and innocent love! It will stay in my memory for a long time, I have no doubt!

The sequel is very much welcome! I sincerely hope that, in the next book, Darren find peace in his mind, with his violin and with music! I hope that Jayden keeps by his side, always joyful, strong and supportive! I love both!

A special thanks to those who joined me in this BR: Bárbara, Shakisha, Taintedskyee and Dorota.

Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 76 books2,539 followers
January 29, 2014
This is one of my favorite Young Adult M/M stories in the last year. Vivaldi in the Dark has two main character teen POV voices that feel authentic, a dash of humor, and an intensity that isn't melodramatic angst. The British idioms and language are an added bonus, giving consistent flavor to the story.

Jayden is gay, and although he's only actually out to his best friend, he gets teased and bullied enough at school for seeming gay that he's keeping his head down. He plans to transfer to a better school, go to uni, and then come out, and finally have a real boyfriend. But all his plans are thrown in disarray when he meets Darren, a talented young violinist. Suddenly having a boyfriend is topping the list, even if Jayden's not sure he's ready. Darren is gorgeous and self-assured, smart and easy to be with. Jayden's willing to step out of his protective shell for a guy like that.

Darren meets Jayden at a dark moment, when he's finished another frustrating, repetitive rehearsal, and the walls of his life are closing in. Suddenly there's this brilliant, interesting and open guy who's clearly attracted to him. Jayden feels like the antidote for everything that's wrong with Darren's life. He can't help trying to wake the naive, untouched and retiring Jayden up to his own potential.

But there's a dark cloud hanging over Darren's shot at happiness. He's struggled with his dark moods, which on introspective days he admits amount to depression and occasionally self-harm. He may look good on the surface, but underneath he's really no fit match for Jayden's easy warmth. What kind of guy would care to stick around when Darren slides back into one of his bad times?

This book is notable for one of the best depictions of teen depression I've seen. The underlying causes aren't blatant - like many real depressed teens, Darren isn't abused and traumatized. His situation isn't that awful, or that simple. The author depicts his moments of nadir in beautifully chosen phrases, making the reader feel the heaviness, the dulling, muffling, lethargic nothingness that smothers light and life in his dark moments. And Jayden's responses are also true to life, as he tries to somehow make the difference for his boyfriend, against a foe neither of them can really understand.

The events that shake up the situation are perhaps a bit dramatic, but they work to bring several of the simmering crises to a head. The secondary characters in this book are welcome additions to the story, particularly Darren's brother and two best friends, and Jayden's step-dad. As they all come together in the wake of the crisis, life for Jayden and Darren reforms in a different configuration.

The resolution was a little swift and upbeat. I imagine there were moments of pain and loss mixed into the positives of this nice little happy-for-now ending. Perhaps we will see more of that in the sequel (actually two sequels, I'm told), which I am delighted to be able to look forward to. Minor quibbles aside, I really enjoyed this book, will happily reread it when the next comes out, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA stories with gay protagonists.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,405 reviews210 followers
February 21, 2014

Vivaldi in the Dark moved, breathed, and felt like a piece of music to me. The natural rhythm and music of life with all its pressures, dreams, joys, and love came together to tell a story with pure, sweet, honest heart. Words and emotions warmed, flowed, soared, dipped, shivered, and swooned! My heart fell right in step with this story—laughing, smiling, blushing and breaking.

Darren Peace and Jayden Phillips are two strong, smart, determined young men each with aspirations, problems, sadness, and darkness. One the master of the cool “don’t-give-a-shit” attitude and sarcastic humor. The other brimming with sweet, sweet innocence and warmth. I adored them both! And when they met—OH! How it all clicked into place! Instant magic, chemistry, and smiles. We watch them grow closer, laugh, explore and share bits and pieces of their lives. They learn to be there for each other. Learn to love. The pure power of first love never fails to knock me on my ass! It’s intoxicating and beautiful and overwhelming! It was a joy to be a part of Darren and Jayden’s lives. A world filled with music, theater, friends, school, caffeine, and blushing. Haha…The colors Jayden could pull across his face were dazzling!

”He felt flushed, energetic, tired, lonely, and alive, all at once. He felt too far away from Darren, even though they were sitting so close he could feel him breathing.”

But this journey was not all smiles. A big part of Darren’s life and this story is depression. Darren has “bad days” when he can’t move, feel, or do anything. Mr. Metzger excels at capturing those dark, heavy moments on the page with words and tears.

”I’m numb. I don’t feel anything. I don’t want to do anything. Like I’m disappearing. I feel paralysed, some days, and those days, I’d do any amount of stupid shit to make it stop.”

I could feel the shadows and numbness creeping in on Darren. Powerful moods and emotions so many of us cannot understand. One of my favorite parts of this journey was how honest Jayden and Darren were with each other about the depression. By sharing his darkest moments with Jayden, Darren showed so much of himself, so much bravery, and really just how much he cared about Jayden. That was huge to me! The way Darren wanted it all out there for Jayden to see – to decide for himself if he wanted to deal with it--was very important and powerful for me. That shared moment and confession exhibited so much respect, love, and maturity. Darren may not get all romance novel lovey-dovey with his emotions, but he certainly shows it in his own way. Real moments that made me proud. Hell—I adore him! :) And Jayden made me just as proud by trying so hard to understand and admitting when he couldn’t see why or how Darren could be depressed. Damn! Metzger captures a lot of complex and meaningful emotions and pain in these pages. I hope this story inspires readers to talk about their own pain and depression more. Get it out there! Talk about it. Even if you can’t understand or see a loved one’s depression—it helps to try to talk about it. Support each other by listening and being there.

My one and only issue with this story was that I didn’t completely buy into blaming the violin for making Darren’s bad days worse. I could see that the violin held an ugly feeling and connection to Darren’s father. The push from Darren’s father to be perfect was cold and heartbreaking. But….

So many side characters came into play here—adding energy and life to the pages. Some voices were hilarious. Others frustrating and cold. My surprise favorite was Scott, Darren’s brother. In the beginning, Scott really came off as just another annoying brother. Haha…But WOW! He stole my heart in the second half after a big turn of events. A true protective, older brother shines through with guts, strength, and huge heart. Siblings are superheroes to me. The power and love they hold is a true miracle and wonder in this world.

I highly recommend this beautiful coming of age story of friendship, family, and love. It seeped right into my blood and heart so fast and easy. At page one--I was all in. Darren and Jayden definitely stole a piece of my heart to call their own.

I would not have met Darren and Jayden though without Baba’s push, updates, and beautiful review.

Thank you, Baba! :)

My Laugh Out Loud Moment:

Profile Image for Mark.
357 reviews161 followers
December 29, 2013
Why do I like YA? Well, it makes me remember that very first kiss, that sense of trepidation with your first real love, the emotional turmoil of being sixteen again. This book brings all those feelings together in one wonderful story.

Jayden is sixteen and is out at school. Due to this the ensuing bullying that he encounters is really quite horrible, but real. Teenagers can be so cruel to each other at times. After school he goes to meet his mum at the local theatre to get a lift home as she is involved in the local amateur theatrical society.

The theatre is also used for orchestra practice before Jayden’s mum’s theatre group by the pupils of another private school, St John’s. He wishes to get into the sixth form to take his A levels and have a better chance of getting into Cambridge University. He has a best friend Charley who I loved.

“What about St. John’s?” she suggested. “All boys, they’re bound to be gay.”
“You can’t make gay people Charley.”
“So why do single-sex schools churn out so many of them, huh?”
“They don’t, it’s a myth.”
“Yeah, right” She scoffed.

One that Jayden is trying to pass the entrance test for. When he arrives one evening he hears the sound of a violin coming from downstairs so he goes to see. There he finds Darren practising alone after the orchestra practice. A friendship forms that leads to more.

Jayden’s eyes flicked almost imperceptibly to his blazer. “St. John’s?” he ventured. “Yes. Are you gay?”

Darren comes from a very well to do family where both parents are professionals and high achievers and due to this the expectations put on Darren are extreme and there is no real love. Jayden comes from a loving working class family and attends the local comprehensive school. However, the attraction is there and a relationship soon develops. As Charley puts it…

“He’s gay, you’re gay, what’s not to work out?” She sniffed and Jayden rolled his eyes.

Although Jayden is out at school he still isn’t out at home. His parents are always constantly worried about the bullying he’s experiencing and often Jayden just refuses to tell them. When he does come out, his parents reactions are really one of love and support. This was such a lovely moment in the book, if only the parents of gay teenagers would handle the situation like Jayden’s. This was not the case for Darren when his parents later find out. Matthew writes with a great deal of sensitivity and you really get a feel for the insecurity going on inside.

He was shaking; his fingers were trembling in Mum’s. His chest hurt, and his face hurt, and he had the horrifying suspicion that he was about to cry.
“I've been….I’ve been scared to tell you, but I can’t….I can’t just keep it quiet anymore and…..and I….” The quiet certainty – the unsaid support, even though he didn’t know yet, pushed Jayden over the edge, and he said exactly what Darren had said. “I’m gay,” he blurted out, and the first tears spilled over.
“I’m gay, and I…I…”
“oh, darling, come here,” Mum crooned, coming around the table to sit next to him and hug him. She hugged him a lot, but not like this, not pulling him right in to wrap her arms around him and squeeze all the hurt out.

This was one such beautiful moment from many. Well, his Dad’s reaction was great too and oh Jayden’s embarrassment of the parent talks about sex that followed after. I could just feel how Jayden was squirming listening to his Dad, but then his parents were fair, wiser and more mature. Some lovely moments here that brought a smile to my face.

However, Darren has a dark secret he suffers from depression. Possibly more common in teenagers than one would think. He has good days and really bad days where he withdraws into himself. In the past he also self-harmed but after going out with Jayden his depression seems to get better. Although it totally doesn’t go away and he has a number of bad spells. He eventually tells Jayden and through Jayden’s love and support manages to keep the worst at bay. Matthew writes with such sensitivity that if you have never suffered from depression, after reading this book I now have more of an understanding about how someone feels with this illness then I ever did before. Absolutely beautiful writing brings Darren’s feelings out and you can really feel for the poor lad. Oh I just wanted to hold him and make it all go away for him. Tell him it’ll be OK. But Jayden did a great job too which was very mature of him for his young years.

The object of Darren’s misery is actually his violin. It becomes a symbol of dark foreboding and every time he shuts himself off to practice, it’s usually a sign the depression is coming on. Therefore the title is very fitting, Vivaldi In The Dark. This situation is exacerbated by the pressure put on him to succeed by his parents. Although there is no love and support there, only worried about their careers they take no interest in Darren as a person. Here he finds solace with Jayden and his family. Darren’s parents are so distant and busy with their own lives they don’t notice what their son is going through. The only one who knows and is supportive of him and stands up to his parents for him is his older brother. The story closes on a very symbolic note with a hint of a HEA!

This book deals with a number of teenage problems and issues beautifully described, emotional and harrowing, especially when you are sixteen. I was enraptured by the writing from the very beginning. It flows beautifully, is coherent and a joy to read. It made me fear once again the horrible school bullies, it made me coy at the first touch of someone else’s body. The first sweet kiss with sparks flying and hormones racing, would I want to be a teenager again? No definitely not! But what sweet joy, so for all the Mums, Dads, teachers, carers and young at heart this book will be a real treat.

Profile Image for Tina.
1,688 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2016

YA is not exactly my genre but the premise and the review of my friend Mark persuaded me to give this one a try.

Vivaldi in the Dark is about 16 years old Jayden, out and bullied in school, and same-aged Darren, a depressive kid and a gifted violin player. Jayden wants nothing more than to help Darren to overcome his depressions, but he quickly learns that of all things Darren’s violin is the connection to his dark side. Jayden is determined to help Darren out of his darkness.
"I know it’s not the violin causing your…your illness, but it makes you worse. You know how I know you’re having a bad day sometimes? … You only ever play Vivaldi when you’re hurting and you’re miserable and I hate it because you’re not even letting off steam. You’re even more upset when you’re finished playing than when you started, and I…I hate it, Darren, I hate your violin. I hate your constant practice and I hate that you hate it, and I fucking hate Vivaldi.”

Darren is so broken when we first meet him but, even then, there is just something about him that is fighting to survive, that screams hope. He's endearing and sweet and I just wanted to wrap him up and hug him and keep him safe. His journey out of the blackness is painful at times, and I’m sure without Jayden he couldn’t have done it.
“I’m fucked up in the head and I don’t know why, and…I know it’s stupid, Jayden, believe me, I fucking know. And I’ve tried to get over it, I’m still trying, but it’s not working.”
“Look, I’m just saying…This,” Darren waved a hand between them, “isn’t going to be fun. I’m not going to be fun. Maybe every now and then I’ll be in the right place in my head to have silly dates out and go to parties with you, but there’s going to be days when I don’t want to know either of us exist, and there’s going to be days when I’m too tired to play because I’ve been up all night destroying my room, and…and I can’t promise…I can’t promise that I won’t. You know. Stop.”

Jayden is so patient, supportive, confident and good with Darren, it’s a lot of very difficult work that Jayden does to save Darren from his inner demons. Their slow, slow romance is wonderful. There is no graphic sex in this book but it doesn't matter one bit. What we get is wonderfully done and very appropriate to the story.

"You are going to make the best of it because I know you.”
“What do you know?” Jayden whispered.
“I know you’re ridiculously dedicated, and you’ll stop at nothing to get — and keep what you want.”

All of the characters, both main and secondary, are believable and full of personality. How I disliked Darren’s asshat of father and his cold and rigid mother and how I loved Scott, Darren’s brother, his amazing funny friends Ethan and Paul, and Jayden’s fabulous parents!

The content of this book might be difficult for some readers but the writing is awesome. The author does a fantastic job of transporting the readers into Darren and Jayden’s world, so that they feel every emotion along the way.

This isn't what I would call a fluffy romance, it's an emotional journey, a story of coming of age. One which is worth sticking to till the end. A great read.

Five stars for me without a doubt. Matthew J. Metzger is definitely an author to watch out for!!!
Profile Image for Claudie ☾.
547 reviews141 followers
October 7, 2021
Despite tackling such a heavy subject as depression (and in such an accurate way), this was a surprisingly sweet and heartwarming story. I’m pretty sure YA will never be my go-to genre, but I really enjoyed this book (would’ve enjoyed it more if the MC were ten or so years older, but oh well) and will definitely continue this series. Jayden and Darren were really well drawn and believable characters — very emotionally mature, too — and I loved them together, how they completed and supported one another. Darren’s friends Ethan and Paul were hilarious, I loved this trio’s banter and I hope we’ll see more of them in the future installments. Some events near the end were perhaps a tad too dramatic, but I didn’t mind much.
Profile Image for Mare SLiTsReaD Reviews.
1,138 reviews67 followers
March 11, 2014
BR With Mishyjo, even though I sucked as a BR partner ;)

4 PG stars

So here's the thing.

Usually YA books are just too "young" for me.


This book brought me home, kinda.

I'm Livvy. 19 and having a baby.
With no father in the picture.
I meet this man, who takes me and my boy on, and insists that he calls him dad.
Takes him to football games, watches sports, gives advice.

I'm Livvy.

You wouldn't get it unless you read the story. But I felt like in reality it could be my world.

And while my son is straight, he's fully white... where my husband, he's fully black.

So you know Jayden, I FELT HIM. Almost like he was my own.

Bigots, and racists all have the same thing in common. They are all IGNORANT

And now, in 2014, that shit just isn't acceptable any more. But unfortunately, it still happens.
Which is sad, and shameful and disgusting.

I'm glad I'm Livvy. Cause you know what, she was freaking awesome.

And also, so freaking glad that I was too lazy to push my kids ;), to the point of depression
because really, they need to strive to achieve their own goals. I can help, but I won't hinder. EVER.
I wish all parents acted this way. Our future generations would be so much happier IMO.

My heart bled for Darren. I loved his character. His antics and sarcasm. His small little smiles.
He pained me when it was one of those days .

I just wish his POV delved a little deeper into his thoughts on Jayden.

I can say that I felt that Jayden loved Darren way more.
Can I say that?
Meh it's how I felt.

The array of characters. Each of them brought something to the story.

Scott~ He was just awesome.

Charley~ I don't know. I didn't like the way she moved. How she was mad at the end. And we never got the why... I'm pretty sure it was what? Jealousy?

Livvy~ Well obvs she's amazing, she's me!

The dad~ God help me I'm blankin when it comes to his name right now~ But he was amazing too

Darren's parents~ Just NO. NO.

This story, it's not a sweet coming to age story, its really, well it's just REAL.

Matthew J Metzger, he created a real world, with real issues, and he kept me entranced.

I can't wait to delve into book 2, which brings us to the college years, which honestly BONUS POINTS to the author. Cause these 2 characters deserve to grow 2gether.

And then I saw there is a book 3 coming in May. Adult years maybe? I hope so!!


Profile Image for Anyta Sunday.
Author 89 books2,574 followers
June 28, 2014
Lovely language and imagery.

Darren's confidence (for the most part) made him a really attractive character, and I enjoyed reading his scenes and lines!

Perhaps the conflict could have been threaded through earlier to string the tension more, but still, highly enjoyable. :)

Only one little . . . snag for me

Watch out for this author--he's got something special going for him. I look forward to seeing how his writing progresses!!!
Profile Image for Jenni.
255 reviews39 followers
July 12, 2016
Vivaldi in the Dark doesn't disappoint. There’s bullying, difficult parents and young, troubled MCs, so with all that, you’re quickly pulled into the world of Brits Jayden and Darren.

The book alternates between Jayden and Darren’s POV, and the author pulls the transitions off seamlessly. I was never confused about which character was talking, and I SO appreciated that!

Jayden is gay and reluctantly out at his public school, but he’s horrifically and regularly bullied. He’s itching to move up and on with his life. He has a supportive friend, Charley (a girl), and great parents.

Darren attends a private school and has a couple of buddies who suspect he’s gay and support him no matter what. Darren has an awesome older brother, but his parents suck. They force him to practice violin nonstop but are otherwise a non-presence in his life. To top it off, Darren suffers from crippling, untreated depression.

Wow, I really felt the tension and sadness in Darren’s life, and I thought his illness was brilliantly written. To the point of it being too hard—and occasionally frustrating—to read.

Even though I liked a lot about Vivaldi, the one thing that was really, really unfortunate was that I felt ZERO connection between Jayden and Darren. Oh my gosh, how I wanted it to be there! The potential, GAH! But there were (for me) absolutely no sparks, so that really took me out of the story in some key places. And even though he was written to be non-emotive, I did see and feel tenderness from Darren, and I believed he cared for Jayden through his actions and words.

Because I think the point should be made: based on the description, I expected the mugging to happen much earlier in the story. It actually happens in about the last 15-20 percent, so the fallout doesn't have the impact I think it could have (if it had been sooner). So that was another big miss for me.

The ending of Vivaldi was quick and neat, and it’s a happy-for-now closing, which conveniently leaves things open (read: hanging) for the second book in the series. Personally, I would have liked a little bit of resolution on a couple of issues before I had to leave the boys. I liked the story, though, and I plan to read on. I think it’ll be interesting to see Jayden and Darren mature and move on to some of the freedom that college brings.

3.5 stars

Profile Image for Maya.
282 reviews69 followers
October 6, 2015
Vivaldi in the dark is a book that deals with heavy issues - depression, self-harm, bullying and neglecting parents, shown through the love story of two boys – Jayden (16) and Darren (15).

The story is portrayed very realistically; all events and dialogues are just as they should be experienced by two teenagers. There is drama, yes, but nothing excessive and no artificial angst.

The descriptions of the depression that Darren suffers in both its mental and physical effects, Darren’s bad days and Jayden’s inexperienced but sweet desire to help, are so vivid and heartbreaking that I had so stop reading several times to gather myself.

“I feel like I’m disappearing,” he whispered.

How these two kids cope with such a serious issue (because they don’t really deal with it) had me in tears more than once. I read in the discussions below that this topic is very personal to the author. I cannot begin to imagine what it cost him to write this book.

I could feel the damage caused by Darren’s neglecting and ambitious parents although it is never directly linked to Darren’s illness. And I hated them.

“I fucking love you,” he said on the threshold, with that wide-eyed serious face that made Darren want to kiss him, and the anxiety knotted itself up into a tight, sulky ball in his gut. He let go of Jayden’s hand—and it ached—and put his game face on. Mother’s face. That steely, ferociously independent face. The one he wore whenever Father wanted an update on his progress at school. The one he wore whenever Mother would sit at the kitchen table and listen to his practice. The one that said, I’m exactly what you expect. I’m exactly what you want.

The one Jayden could see right through like a glass window.”

The love between the two boys is captured on page exquisitely and sensually and at the same time is made so real with Jaden’s stammering and Darren’s sarcasm. Several times I returned to reread some of the paragraphs, they were so beautiful.

“It punched him in the chest like a heart attack, and his vision tunnelled on the impossibly beautiful, ridiculously perfect, ethereal shadow tracing the boards of the stage—and right there, right there, Jayden Phillips fell in love. The music stopped.”

I read recently in an interview with Matthew J. Metzger (which of course I can’t find now) that the music is not the point of this book but rather the stage for Darren’s experiences. It is mentioned in the beginning of the book that the tedious repetitiveness of Vivaldi’s notes feel like a trap to Darren just like the reoccurrence of his good and bad days. And the violin is the tool.

“But the violin was a sad, solemn instrument, and it had taken Darren with it.”

I thought that this parallel was created beautifully by the author.

The hilarious banter with Darren’s friends Ethan and Paul as well as the conversations between Jayden and his dad provided the needed balance to the heavy issues in the book. I love British humor and its passive-aggressive sarcasm. This book gave me just the right amount of it, considering its subject matter, so there was no way I wouldn’t appreciate it.

Scott – Darren’s brother and Collin – Jayden’s father are fantastic supporting characters. I loved them.

There were a couple of things that bothered me.

I felt like Darren’s parents are portrayed as rather one-dimensional. I understand that this may have been the author’s intention - both Darren’s mother and father make quite few appearances in the book - and this is to show how detached and neglecting they are but I needed more interaction. Although Darren’s parents are well counterpointed to the loving and understanding Jayden’s parents I have a small issue with the stereotypes here.

I am not sure of the idea behind having Charley in the story besides to show that Jayden has friends. She disappears as quickly as she appears after a jealousy fit that remains unresolved.

Also, some of the scenes cut off rather unexpectedly, I don’t know if this was intentional but it creates some distance for the reader.

Hence the four stars.

Finally, I really liked the book, I wanted to take Darren and Jayden home with me, hug them senseless, feed them with cookies and muffins and tell them that everything will be OK.

Vivaldi in the dark is my second read by Matthew J. Metzger, I read “Our last summer” couple of months ago and I am truly impressed by this young author. Will definitely the next two installments of the trilogy.
Profile Image for Shakisha.
240 reviews2 followers
February 19, 2014
This was a great read. Even better reading with friends.

Review to come shortly.
Profile Image for Joyfully Jay.
7,699 reviews441 followers
April 9, 2017
A Joyfully Jay review.

5 stars

As Vivaldi in the Dark unfolds, we watch as a scared and bullied Jayden transforms into a confident and wiser young man. Darren, who has always appeared so sure of himself, so steady, reveals the darker side he hides—his deep depression that threatens to be his undoing. Early on in the story, Darren forces himself to reveal his suicide attempts, his self-harming, and his depressive states to Jayden, so very sure that this will end what Darren so desperately wants—a relationship with Jayden. Despite his misgivings and fears, Jayden cannot turn away from Darren and so begins a journey where both boys emerge from very different closets and step into the light.

The mastery with which author Matthew J. Metzger reveals Darren’s demons—the gripping depression and fugue states that he endures, the desperate need just to feel anything that leads to his self-harming, is absolutely breath taking to read. You feel every bleak and harrowing moment that Darren experiences when in the throes of a downward spiral. You understand Jayden’s fears and panic when he realizes how little he can do to help the boy he is falling in love with who he comes so close to losing every time the darkness overtakes him.

Read Sammy’s review in its entirety here.

Profile Image for Vallie.
688 reviews69 followers
February 14, 2014

This was a beautiful, sweet book. Young love, fresh love, passionate love, innocent love, filled with the naivete of youth. I was in love with Darren from the first time I "met" him. His badass, I don't need anyone act had me turning the pages on my nook without a break, waiting for the moment when his vulnerable side is revealed. And it did. It did so elegantly, without contrived, over-the-top drama. Darren was a tortured soul and his suffering poured through the pages. He was...real. I wanted to be next to him and tell him it will be alright. And of course, Jayden. His love for Darren was so absolute, so big, so transcendent, even the most cynical of cynics would crack a smile at how adorable and strong he is through it all. When Jayden sees Darren playing the violin for the play Jayden wrote...oh my god, the prose! I went back and read it again, and again, and again. It wasn't cheesy, and it wasn't corny, and it didn't make me think, "teenagers, everything is so magnified and dramatic with them". I thought, YES. Jayden is truly in love for the first time and it's taking over everything he feels at the moment.

Sometimes the conversations between Jayden and his friends were a little too high school, which is realistic for the premise of the book, just not my favorite thing to read. I loved Jayden's favorite duo though and I wish I could read more about them and their ridiculous banter. Also, I wish some of the scenes didn't cut off so abruptly. For instance, they go bowling, and the scene cuts off after they all just get there. I could tell the author probably wanted to give more page time to more meaningful interactions, but it gave the story a somewhat disconnected feel at times, which is what kept me from giving it 5 stars. And the ending came out of left field as well. The book just...ended. Will there be a sequel? I don't know.

If those aren't pet peeves of yours, it'll probably read like a solid 5 star. A true YA gem , this one was, and I recommend it to fans of the genre.
Profile Image for Ari.
991 reviews108 followers
January 22, 2014

Darren Peace

Jayden Phillip

yeah.. I know... ^,,^

Actually, this story follows any other YA formula; cute-sweet-fluffy young love, then something bad happens, recovery, ended with the promise of bright and happy future. Judging from the blurb and the title, I was prepared for dark and angst story, but up till 75% of the story, I was overwhelmed by their cuteness! My favorite part about YA is it makes me remember the feeling of that very first kiss, exploring each other, even the feeling of the first fight. Beautiful and sweet!

My complain maybe that the blurb is a bit misleading. Jayden not really out, in his school nor to his parents. His best friend, Charley, knows, but the others were just concluding by Jayden behavior. Also Charley was pretty much fix figure in Jayden life, but after Jayden got busy with Darren, Charley gone from the picture. It's worse because there's no closure about their previous quarrel.

I know nothing about depression, but I think it's a bit risky to say that that classic music made Darren's depression worse.

Anywayyyy, I really love Scott and Phillip family!

Profile Image for BevS.
2,750 reviews2 followers
January 30, 2016

A fabulous read, realistic, thoroughly British and dealing sympathetically with the serious issues of teenage depression, bullying and parents who couldn't give a toss. Met the author at the UK GRL meet, and bought this very book from him...it's sooo worth it!! 5 stars is all I can give unfortunately.
Profile Image for Ppit.
34 reviews
November 25, 2018
I legit cant stop reading once I got my hands on this book.

This is a slowburn MM YA - like, the slowburnest ever; with them being shy teenagers and this whole does he like me, like like me stuff. But, hey, it works! Because this is definitely one of the most wholesome book I've ever read. We got to fully know the MCs (and immersed in them) before they got together, which make me have a soft spot for Jayden and Darren. They're not perfect, but they're perfect for each other. And the deal with the whole coming out and depression are believably handled.
Profile Image for  Ishtar.
68 reviews42 followers
October 25, 2019
“For the first time in six years, Darren felt like maybe—maybe—it was going to be all right.”

Can we just talk about how Metzger is among the rarest to be able to describe the state of depression...?!
And also can we just make this book less underrated because I can’t believe such a YA masterpiece can only have 210 ratings... like seriously? What do YA fans want more?
Well? A gay couple.
A cute switch gay couple:
- A f*ckin’ takented violinist who hates the violin and classical music and likes math.
- Beat up a bully once too. That Darren.
- Has cute af hair and that is mentioned in every chapter until you actually wanna ruffle it.
- Perfect life but still has depression. (Isn’t that reality...)
- Coffee obsess
- The dark parts...the descriptions..the sceneries... I-I-I can’t.
- The drama is actually good, better than the majority of YA (especially What If It’s Us, and I tell you, these two books had lots of similarities)
- Can Jayden be girly enough? Yes. He can f*uckin’ top, and beat people up.
- I mean why is Metzger so talented at descriptions?!

Prose I loved:
• “That hushed lull of a neighbourhood evacuated to the rush-hour traffic, but not yet in the silent throes of abandonment. The kind of quiet contentment that came with a life used to its own course, but not yet jaded.”

• “Darren had a dry, dark sense of humour that leaned toward the macabre on occasion.”

• “His lips were buzzing like he’d kissed an electric fence. His entire face felt too reactive. He felt vaguely like…like there was something humming under his skin, trying to shiver its way out.”

• “He was already a familiar figure, cut out in the gloom by his wild hair and that hedonistic way he had of lounging against walls, one knee bent and the foot flat up against the brickwork.”

• “The piano could be entertaining, flexing to fit the music. But the violin was a sad, solemn instrument, and it had taken Darren with it. He knew that. He knew, the way the darkness gnawed into his chest when he played, the numbness in his fingers when he listened and composed, the way he felt so hollowed-out and empty after every practice, every rehearsal, every recital.”

• “Sometimes, I’m fine. And other times, I can’t cross the railway bridge without wanting to jump off it,”

• “There was nothing but waiting, waiting for a morning he’d wake up and not regret doing so.”

• “Not after a day of staring at his hands and wondering if he’d cease to exist if they ever did anything that didn’t involve a C sharp somewhere along the line.”

• “The word hung in the air, almost visible. Darren could picture it: looping calligraphy, glittery blue, gleaming in the gloom. And then it would spark out, one end to the other.”

• “Darren closed his eyes and rummaged in his head for the flippancy that he carried like a shield. The dry tone, the exasperated humour, the amused patience with the world. Scott’s tone, Mother’s tone, the tone that meant he’d slipped by so long unseen.”

• “A little harder, and there’d be that sharp slice of pain that would punch through and make itself known, force his brain to acknowledge it. Acknowledge him. One little push. One more. Once.”

• “I made a mistake with your father, and you’re the only good thing I got out of it.”

• “He was a quiet sort of beautiful, even with the depression dampening the edges of his expression.”

• “I love him,” he said simply. “I mean…I know we’re only sixteen and there’ll be sixth form and university and everything, but…right now? Right now, I love him.”

• “I feel like I can think,”

• “I fucking love you,” he said on the threshold, with that wide-eyed serious face that made Darren want to kiss him, and the anxiety knotted itself up into a tight, sulky ball in his gut. He let go of Jayden’s hand—and it ached—and put his game face on. Mother’s face. That steely, ferociously independent face.”
Profile Image for Aimee ~is busy sleeping~.
244 reviews10 followers
April 23, 2014
Why I read YA.

I've been avoiding writing a review for this, because sometimes I just have a hard time finding the right words to express my thoughts. And also because Kaje Harper's review already pretty much already expresses everything I felt perfectly. So check hers out (if it's not on here, on GR).

For now, I'll just say that I agree with her that this book has one of the most realistic depiction of depression, particularly among teens, that I've come across. Unlike what a lot of books that I've read which deal with characters and depression show, depression doesn't always have to stem from some sort of horribly traumatic past or event. That doesn't make it any less....real. Affecting.

I don't want to give the impression that this is an angsty or maudlin book because it has a depiction of teen depression. It's not, and should not put you off. The book is sweet, awkwardly sweet, with likeable and endearing MCs and side characters. It deals with first love, and all the vulnerability that goes with it. It does delve into harder issues, yes, with family and depression, but it handles with care and grace, so it never dips into melodrama territory as some YA books do. My only issue was that the ending was just somewhat rushed, and there was some unresolved conflict with Darren's family.

However, I loved the writing, and I've become a huge fan of this author. This goes in my top 5 YA faves. Recommended for any readers of YA.
Profile Image for Elizabetta.
1,224 reviews34 followers
May 13, 2017
I really enjoyed this. Jayden and Darren go through some rough times that include depression, psychological abuse, homophobia, a violent attack, and all the other foibles of growing up gay in this world. Reading this, I wonder (yet again) how some people can find such energy for hate and violence. But then, there’s also a lovely, sweet young romance-- a love can conquer all underpinning. And Jayden and Darren do get their much-deserved happy for now. Though this is a YA setting, the darker issues make it feel older, and the MCs show such courage for their tender ages. Looking forward to the next book in this series.
Profile Image for noel ☆.
9 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2023
This is the third book I have read by Matthew Metzger now, and definitely not the last.

There is something about the way he is able to lift these characters from the confines of words and pages as they enter your heart instead. Jayden is an anxious and easily flustered young boy who attends the local comprehensive (public) school, but he is determined to excel in his studies and escape from his situation in pursuit of his passion for playwriting. On the other hand, Darren is a charismatic and confident young boy, albeit a bit emotionally detached—he goes to the private school in town and is the best violinist in his orchestra. They both have their fair share of external factors that limit their potential and impact their well-being: Darren has cold, neglective parents and suffers from depression due to the overwhelming pressure placed upon him to exceed at playing the violin, whereas Jayden is essentially out as gay at his school and suffers ostracization by his peers in the form of cruel homophobic bullying.

Sex is portrayed so healthily in Metzger’s YA books. There is always informed discussion from a guardian about being safe and consensual, and to only engage in the activity when or if you ever feel completely ready. The book makes this abundantly clear in a natural progression of the storyline, while still emphasizing that the act itself can be fun, embarrassing, awkward, and a next step in a relationship that will allow for a deeper sense of intimacy. That is, Metzger's writing of everything leading up to sex feels appropriate for a YA audience, with the focus being purely on youthful discovery and emotional connection first and foremost. Jayden and Darren take this next step with all the proper precaution and communication, and it’s beautiful.

"He was going red. Darren secretly hated and loved this, the way Jayden floundered when he was anxious. It was kind of hilarious. It was also kind of irritating when there was nothing to be nervous about. It was just him."

(screaming) IT’S BECAUSE IT’S YOU!!! Sorry, I’m very normal about fictional characters.

"He just wanted to curl up with Darren and... well. Cuddle, he supposed. Darren would probably have heart failure at all the mushy feelings that implied, but... but Jayden felt mushy, so once Darren had been fed and stopped complaining that he was going to die, Jayden was going to cuddle him. Maybe to that death they'd avoid with the food. And then he'd cuddle the ghost too."

"You're staring.'
'Can't help it,' Jayden said."

Ah, young love...

Anyhow. This part of the synopsis, in particular, struck me: “How do you stop a dangerous depression rooted in the same thing that makes someone what they are?”

When depression is such a huge part of your life, when it has been there as long as you can remember, when it has stuck beside you despite all else (to spite all else), when you can’t recall how you felt before, when you don’t know who you are without that discomforting companion that has become so comfortable in its associated numbness… How can you extricate yourself from such a mental illness that has wormed its way like a parasite into your psyche, becoming so integral to your personality and identity? How can you recover from that? This is something I grapple with all too often.

"When he wasn't under a spell, Darren hated them. When he was, he didn't have the energy to hate them, but it all worked out the same. He was rendered useless, unable to feel anything properly or do anything correctly."

I can speak from personal experience with depression that this book does an incredible job at broaching this heavy mental health epidemic. There were so many excerpts I took note of which accurately depict my feelings. It was nice seeing these thoughts expressed on relatable page after page, but there are many trigger warnings to be aware of when reading this book. Not sure if I covered everything, but… TW: Some of these moments were rough to read through, even if you are not currently in that dark place or struggling with self-harm in that way.

The following… paragraphs… will basically just be an in-depth analysis on how depression is portrayed in this book. So, feel free to skip this if you haven't read the book and would rather be surprised. It’s also a bit ironic that while/after writing this, I fell into my own slump; hence, the belated posting of this review, but I digress…

"Darren knew he was depressed. He didn't need a degree in psychology to figure that one out. And he knew that he had absolutely no reason to be."

"'I get these...spells. Bad days, when I don't...function properly. When everything just kind of disappears and I just...I'm numb. I don't feel anything. I don't want to do anything. Like I'm disappearing. I feel paralysed, some days, and those days, I'd do any amount of stupid shit to make it stop.'"

When you're suffering, you’ll know. Despite what others may say about having no reason to be depressed, or that you don’t seem like a depressed person… When you're feeling a crushing amount of pain, you’ll begin to recognize that you're not who you used to be. Others might be able to tell, too, if they pay close enough attention or if you can't hide it as well as you might think. There’s a profound loneliness and debilitating inaction that overwhelms you. It’s suffocating and all-encompassing. Depression is messy, complicated, and nonsensical. But at its core, that’s what mental illness really is, right? Of course it doesn't make any sense. You can be depressed without any quote-unquote real or valid reason, you can have environmental stressors that further exacerbate your condition, and you can have past trauma that contributes to your rapidly declining mental health. All of this can be true alone or in combination, without negating the other.

"'I have nothing to be fucked up about,' Darren snapped.
Jayden made that tight noise again. 'I don't think you're right, you know,' he murmured. 'But even if you don't, it's chemical too. You're the science nerd, you should know that. Maybe it's just your brain out of whack, but it's not pathetic and it's not your fault. It's just an illness. It's like saying I'm pathetic for getting the flu or something.'
That was all very well and good—but they were all just words."

I think this representation of a character with serious clinical depression is vital: that you can feel depressed without any apparent cause to warrant it (as if depression asks for permission to invade your mind based upon a certain set of criteria or lived experiences anyways). Nevertheless, this can feel impossible to accept when you are at rock bottom. There is little to no consolation that may help to soften the blow, lessen the damage, or ease the pain for even a single second to exhale. While in such a state of mind, any attempt at bridging the gap might be met with fear and loathing:

"'I mean...is there...is there anything I can do? You know, to...help?' Darren had dreaded that question."

Sometimes you just have to wait for the storm to pass, try to hold on to your rickety lifeboat while weak in the limbs, and remember what calmer waters felt like:

"He'd tried it all before. There was nothing but waiting, waiting for a morning he'd wake up and not regret doing so."

But you can be there for someone suffering from depression, stay present with them throughout their lowest and darkest moments, if they'll allow you:

"He tried, however pathetically, to comfort."

When you’re self-diagnosed, unmedicated, and without therapy or any semblance of a support system, your depression can compound and contort beyond your control. How could you possibly expect to keep it together by yourself? This all applies to Darren, as he’s told nobody else except Jayden about what he’s going through.

"'Sometimes, I'm fine. And other times, I can't cross the railway bridge without wanting to jump off it,' Darren said flatly. Jayden drew in a sharp breath. 'I withdraw, I cut people off, I don't want to do anything, see anyone, nothing.'"

"'And it's not...I can't explain it. It's like...I don't want to die. I mean...I don't want to want to die. You get me? I want the feeling to stop... but I can't make it go away. I can't make myself go away.'"

Depression can cause you to doubt yourself (your own feelings and self-worth) and can severely impact your ability to maintain relationships. Cutting loved ones out of your life without giving them the chance to care or be there for you is just one mode of self-destruction. Often it’s easier to do this instead of being vulnerable enough to open up about the war you're fighting inside your head. When your own mind is making survival a daily struggle, how could you drag someone else into your own chaos? It feels selfish and stupid to merely ask for help, because where do you even start? How can you begin to explain what's going on when you barely understand it yourself? Darren voices similar thoughts when considering his pursuit of a relationship with Jayden.

"What was he doing? Getting involved with someone else while he was still so fucked up in the head—what the hell was wrong with him?"

For Darren to choose to be transparent about his condition so Jayden isn't blindsided later on is incredibly mature and responsible. This is something he doesn't share with his own family and friends, but resorts to battling alone. Still, he puts it all out in the open, knowing full well that Jayden could choose to walk away, and Darren would be hurt but he would understand—because Darren would do the same to himself if he could.

"He had been...scared. Scared Jayden would take one look at his bad days and run. Scared that despite what he said, Jayden just wasn't prepared to handle that. Scared, most of all, that Jayden would pity him. Scared that the attraction would sputter out, crushed under the weight of Darren's messed-up psyche."

There is always a foreboding undercurrent running through your veins: the knowledge that happiness or contentment will only be temporary, when your baseline is a steady flatline on an EKG. There is always the looming likelihood that depression will rear its ugly head back at you and see to your end.

"And Jayden couldn't shake the feeling, no matter how happy he was—they were—the rest of the time, that a day was going to come when the depression overwhelmed them both."

“He should have known. He should have known that it wouldn't last, should have known that it was only a matter of time before the shadows leaked in. Jayden wasn't a god. He wasn't a cure. There wasn't a cure, and he should never have been so blind as to think he was actually getting—what? Getting better?”

Getting into a relationship is a risky endeavor if you are severely depressed. If you lack a support system or professional help, it could be easy to become overly reliant upon a significant other. This could be unhealthy for both parties, as the relationship could morph into one of codependency. Darren recognizes that Jayden isn’t a god or a cure, that having a boyfriend who loves and cares about you won't perform a miracle and fix your depression. It is shown in the novel, how Jayden worries and cares for Darren as best as he can, but there's a limit to which you can attempt to quell someone else’s pain. To quote an idiom, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.” Additionally, we see how Jayden's tunnel vision on Darren causes him to neglect his friendship with his best friend. He brushes off this conflict, though, so I hope the next book focuses on this as well.

If you bleed onto someone else, will it not hurt them to see you hurting? Will they not also take a toll in trying to keep your head above water? If you drown, how would this impact them? Would they feel burdened by the idea that they could've made a difference? But how could they have? Someone can try and reason with you about why life is worth the effort, but logic often doesn't apply to depression. Nonetheless, it’s possible that a single person’s insistence on love and support could make a positive impact in another’s life.

"'I just feel like...I've been jarred. Shaken. Like something tipped all the cobwebs out. I don't know. Just...different. It's still there, you know. It's not gone, it's just...not quite...everything.'"

…I’ll be damned if this isn't exactly how it feels to be in that state of limbo wherein your depression has yet to resurface.

There is still so much stigma around depression, and I think this book does an amazing job of minimizing it by showing that even depressed people can love and be loved in return. Darren is sarcastic, witty, and flirty, yet he still has depression. He’s a dynamic character who isn’t reduced to his circumstances. It’s a popular notion that people suffering from mental illness should work on themselves first before getting into a relationship, as they might cause the other party undue suffering: you can't love someone until you learn to love yourself, you can’t pour from an empty cup (so fill your own cup in order to fill others’), and other similar expressions. This might be true for some people, but I am of the opinion that this is widely a myth. We continue to mature and develop for the entirety of our lives, and mental illness is not a curable condition so much as something you learn to live with (break negative patterns, build a healthier lifestyle, and make use of healthy coping mechanisms). Is it not possible to get better together alongside the companionship of another, and to allow that love to foster growth on an individual level? To me, this book provides hope for that idea. I look forward to reading the following two books in this series, and I hope the sequels continue to address these important topics with nuance. <3
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rox.
596 reviews38 followers
March 28, 2020
The baton came down, the bows came up, and the storm ended. The silence was as ringing as the strings, and rolled in like an angry tide to reclaim the stage, flooding over the orchestra until the very last memory of the tempest in Vivaldi's Summer had been washed away.

This book was full of meaning, feelings and life. Honestly, it's everything I love about YA.

"And funnily enough, I don't like homophobic people. I'm gay, it's kind of in the special glittery contract they make you sign when you go to get your first pair of skinny jeans."

We have two young boys who have very different backgrounds and two very different sets of parents, who are both unsure of their place in the world. A wonderful coming of age queer story showing how coming out isn't the same for everyone.

Jayden is sunny, sweet and kind - everything Darren thinks he doesn't deserve. Jayden is unwillingly out and gets bullied at school. At least he did, until he meets Darren.
So yes, Jayden is the sunshine character with the heart of gold that you will desperately want in your own life and to protect at all costs.
Which of course makes Darren the grumpy, sarcastic, dangerous character. And obviously, my favourite.
Darren comes from a wealthy family and is a violinist in the making - much to his displeasure. His parents are the worst and he struggles silently with depression.

"I get these.. spells. Bad days, when I don't function properly. When everything just kind of disappears and I just.. I'm numb. I don't feel anything. I don't want to do anything. Like I'm disappearing."

I really appreciated the depiction of Darren's depression - how absent he felt from his own life, and how scared he was of these episodes. Also how scary it was for Jayden to witness and how helpless he felt. Darren, who was usually so strong, was so vulnerable in these times. I was so proud of this boy for letting Jayden in.

It wasn't all serious and dark. There was a fun, edgy humour at times and sexual tension explored as their relationship develops.
I will definitely be rereading this one and reading the sequel! Would recommend.
Profile Image for F..
1,333 reviews59 followers
July 30, 2016
This is the second book I have read by this author and enjoyed - I may have to become a stalker. I see there are 2 more books in the series so will have to read on.
Liked the realistic setting and teenage angst and banter. Darren's parents were a*holes but unfortunately are replicated too often in reality.

4.5 stars, not quite 5
Profile Image for Elisa Rolle.
Author 53 books232 followers
December 6, 2015
2014 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention (5* from at least 1 judge)
Profile Image for Grell.
33 reviews7 followers
January 10, 2017

Read this review at your own risk. It contains a lot of gushing and is spoler-ish.


Wow! What a book!! This was like a roller-coaster ride right from start to finish. I loved the dynamic between our two MCs- Darren and Jayden and it was nice that we get both their POVs (dunno why, but single person POVs leave way too much to the imagination and leave me guessing about what's going on in the other character's head). There were points in this book where i was smiling, rolling my eyes, cringing, giggling; during some of the difficult parts of this book I was on the verge of tears, pulling my hair and biting my nails...

Now something about the MCs. MC No. 1 : Darren. Oh, Darren, Darren, Darren. Why do thou do this to me!? Darren was an extremely interesting character. He was an oxymoron in every sense of the word. He's half Irish-Iranian and half Brit. Darren is brash, has a dry, caustic sense of humour, razzes and rags his best friends Ethan and Paul (at every given opportunty), laughs at bullies, holds his own in fights. Oh, I should also mention his crazy curly hair and green eyes. Somehow the author managed to really make me like and (dare i say) fall in little in love with the dude along with Jayden. He may have appeared distant, rude, standoffish to others, but he was sweet on Jay. Darren was almost like Jayden's knight in a beanie. He is stubborn, cocky, and doesn't hesitate to call a spade a spade.

MC No. 2 : Jayden. Jayden helps out his mum at her amateur dramatics group The Stars and is their sole playwrite. It took me a while to really connect with Jayden. He was the complete opposite of Darren. While Darren was sometimes ruthless, badass and blunt, Jay was like the fair, blushing maiden. Easily flustered, at times tongue-tied and a tad bit on the shy side. But he really grows on you and after the first few chapters you can really connect with him.

Both our MCs meet each other for the first time in Brightside Theatre's storeroom. Jayden hears a low, haunting, tragic melody whie he's walking into the theatre hall. As he follows the music, he reaches the storeroom.

He opened the door—and jerked back as a violin bow swept out to jab him in the throat. The music stopped, the quiet ringing in its place, and the boy holding the bow stared at him from close range. A boy with loose, dark curls, stunning green eyes in the naked light of the storeroom bulb, and a pristine black uniform, probably from one of the schools beyond Queen Mary’s Avenue. An ethereal, out-of-place stranger disturbed from a haunting sonata that made something in Jayden’s chest twist uncomfortably.

What follows is how they get to know each other, start dating et al. I was liking this book just fine upto this point, actually enjoying it.

Some of the side characters such as Darren's besties - Ethan and Paul, his brother Scott, Jayden's mum and dad etc were really endearing. Paul and Ethan bitched at and/or dissed Darren mercilessly (they pulled this with Jayden too) but Darren seemed to give back as good as he got. Darren's elder brother Scott was supportive and looked out for him when he was at his lowest. Also, Jayden's parents rocked in their own ways, and the 'TALK' with Jay's dad was really hilarious.

Nonetheless, sometimes your partner/loved ones and/or significant others tend to take up all your time and energy, leaving nothing left over for others. Jayden was so wrapped up in Darren that he alienated himself from his one and only best friend- Charley. Jayden spent all his free time - either on the phone, at Milzani's- with Darren. This was understandable since a) he was totally head over heels for Darren and thus wanted to spend every spare minute with him. Call me pessimistic, but I felt that if someday things didn't work out for these two, Jay would be totally isolated.

Like a lot of Matthew J Metzger's other YA books, Vivaldi in the Dark is low on smex content. The sex scenes were fade-to-black type. But there are a lot of cute, aww moments and also a lot of handholding, smooching and general fooling around. So if you want sweltering, titillating, scorching sex scenes, look elsewhere.

I had mixed feelings about the ending. Some things were resolved but there were quite a few loose ends. For instance, in Jayden's case there was immense character development. At the start of the book he lacked confidence, was reticent, doormat-y and more or less of a punching bag for his school bullies. I felt glad to see him standig up for himself and by proxy even for Darren (dude was in the hospital at this point) and literally fight his demons. Also, by the end Jayden convinces Darren to stop playing the violin and classical music as whole, cause instead of improving his condition it only made his depression worse. Plus don't expect an HEA, we only get an HFN in book 1. I guess the author intends to resolve the loose ends in the next two books in the trilogy. I'm curious to see what's gonna happen with Darren and Jay in the upcoming books.

Overall a great YA read and I seriously reccomend! But just a forewarning, this book deals with some heavy, heavy, heavy issues and its not all about flowers, candy fluff and rainbows. Matthew J. Metzger's turning into one of my fav authors. His books are realistic, the characters are well fleshed out and relatable and the plot doesn't seem contrived. I've read most of his YA titles and this one's one of my top three favourites from this author, the other two being Spy Stuff and The Suicidal Peanut.
Profile Image for Alex Stargazer.
Author 7 books18 followers
May 22, 2017
Vivaldi in the Dark was a book I hoped to enjoy greatly; alas, I found it somewhat disappointing. Although the character-building was excellent, a number of other things held it back.

Vivaldi in the Dark, as the title may suggest, is about a certain reluctant violinist known as Darren. The meat of the story centres around his relationship with Jayden—a cute, rather effeminate young man with a penchant for writing plays. The author has also woven in a little additional detail: Jayden is a working-class boy suffering in a comprehensive, whilst Darren is a posh boy in a private school. I admit I am a fan of class differences in relationships; they make things that much more layered.

Anyway, back to the main plot. Vivaldi certainly has plenty to recommend it: the character portrayal is adroit, sensitive, and convincing. It’s a proper romance novel, unlike too much of the sad drivel bearing the moniker ‘LGBT’. It is also, in fact, quintessentially British; I suspect many American readers will be left in quite a fuddle.

Nonetheless, despite these strengths, several aspects of the book fell short.

To begin with: the sex. I know it’s politically incorrect, and somewhat offensive, to say this—but the interests of reviewer honesty compel to say it as it is. An a-sexual transgender man doesn’t get what it’s like to be a horny gay male teenager.

This I could overlook, if the book also didn’t suffer from some technical issues. The pacing is not well done: the story seemed to stutter towards the middle, while the ending felt a little rushed. The writing is problematic; there were, simply, too many occasions in which I was wondering who was doing the speaking. The copious use of italics began to annoy after a while.

The biggest technical problem, though, is point of view. Though written in third-person, the book actually feels like it’s been written in first person. Point of view transitions are clumsy and confuse the reader.

In short: this book could have been better had it been stronger technically (a little more editing might have helped with that). As it is, despite enjoying the story, I still struggled to finish this book. The pacing and points of view errors jarred too much.

Rating: 3/5.
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