Monday, January 21, 2013

Can Someone Shine A Light, Please? What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

What We Saw At Night
Author Jacquelyn Mitchard

Allie Kim suffers from Xeroderma Pigmentosum: a fatal allergy to sunlight that confines her and her two best friends, Rob and Juliet, to the night. When freewheeling Juliet takes up Parkour—the stunt-sport of scaling and leaping off tall buildings—Allie and Rob have no choice but to join her, if only to protect her. Though potentially deadly, Parkour after dark makes Allie feel truly alive, and for the first time equal to the “daytimers.” On a random summer night, the trio catches a glimpse of what appears to be murder. Allie alone takes it upon herself to investigate, and the truth comes at an unthinkable price. Navigating the shadowy world of specialized XP care, extreme sports, and forbidden love, Allie ultimately uncovers a secret that upends everything she believes about the people she trusts the most. 
Review: What appealed to me about this particular book was learning about two things I never heard of before, mainly: Xeroderma Pigmentosum and Parkour. Mitchard takes you into another world where kids with a lethal allergy to sunlight live. The loneliness and fatalism of this infliction are as isolating as the darkness. A commonality of existence bonds the three teens and their families in a unique place, a town that provides a clinic specializing in research.  Besides that, there is not much else to do in the town, so the trio takes up stunt-sporting to fill the hours. 

We all know that weird things happen at night and our imaginations can get the better of us. During one of their outings, Allie is witness to something terrible. Here is where the mystery and murkiness begin. If you're hoping for a light to shine through to illuminate what is going on, you're going to be disappointed.  From here on out I felt like I was feeling my way through the pages blindfolded. Now, this is an interesting style and concept, and I've given a lot of thought to my appreciation or hope of its purposeful intention. With that said, I was uncomfortably lost at times and felt like too much was hidden from me as the reader. I kept thinking I was missing pages or paragraphs. Nevertheless, I read along hoping that I'd be rewarded with a tight wrap-up or 'a-ha' moment. As I neared the end, I was left with missing pieces, more questions and not really sure of what the hell happened. In reflection, this story reminds me a bit of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  If you enjoyed that style and mysterious story-telling, you'll probably also like Mitchard's approach. Lastly, the story ends, but the mystery doesn't. The reader is left with a confrontation, a bold exclamation followed by the lead-in to the next story in the series. 

All in all, I wandered around a bit too much in the dark for my liking, but I do appreciate the creative concept and reflection the story provoked. I keep going back, wondering how much was intentional by the author. I'm going to lean toward the optimistic side of this one and chalk it up to creative license and experimentation. However, some readers may feel frustrated with the lack of insight provided, feeling as I did at many points in the story, that either I totally missed something, or pieces and connections were neglected.
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*ARC provided by Soho Teen courtesy of NetGalley

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