Friends, I absolutely love the cover of What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard, I love the silhouettes against the night sky. I love how the title font goes from yellow to green. I just think everything about the cover is gorgeous. Yet, this is not a review of the cover, but of the book. Unfortunately, I did not find everything about What We Saw At Night to be gorgeous, nor did I absolutely love it. However, to set the record straight so you aren’t confused about my rating or anything, I LIKED Mitchard’s latest, I just did not think it was mindblowing or amazing, nor am I rushing to put it on my favorites list.
Allie Kim has XP, a rare genetic disease that makes her allergic to light. Luckily, she lives in a small Minnesota town where there is a huge study on XP, so she’s not alone. Her two best friends Juliet and Rob have the disease as well. Due to XP, the trio cannot hang out during the day, they have to be nocturnal. It’s cool though because they don’t have curfews or anything. The teens have almost complete freedom, except for the whole daylight thing. Juliet is determined to live life to the fullest, and so she convinces Allie and Rob to take up parkour with her, which is basically where you jump from building to building, my whole idea of parkour is based on The Office where Micheal, Andy and Dwight see some videos on youtube and start doing it too with awful results. Anyways, while finding places to hone their new sport, the trio witnesses something sinister, a possible murder. Also! Juliet starts acting super sketchy and Allie can’t figure out why she’s so hot and cold, meanwhile Rob is starting to give Allie special attention.
Allie Kim is kind of compelling as narrator. I mean, okay, I liked her for the most part. She is a very smart girl who is level headed, plus she treats her friends very well. Yet, I had a hard time understanding why she was so cool about letting Juliet treat her like garbage. Allie is quite timid and didn’t seem to fully believe in herself. And okay, I get that teenage girls aren’t always bastions of confidence, even I wasn’t Captain Confidence, but I just wanted to shake her and be like COME ON LADY SNAP OUT OF IT. I guess it was hard for me to sympathize with Allie because as a reader I felt distant from her. It’s hard for me to explain what exactly the distance was caused by, maybe the writing? I just spent all of What We Saw At Night feeling as though I was being held at arm’s length.
However, I don’t want to be totally negative about Jacquelyn Mitchard’s YA debut, there were things I actually enjoyed. The mystery, for example. I did spent a lot of the book in the dark as to who the murderer was and I like when that happens. It’s awesome to not immediately be able to guess who the killer is. What We Saw At Night is quite suspenseful, once you get to the teens actually seeing something at night. That’s when it starts to get scary and suspenseful and you get that feeling of something bad looming, which I prefer when I read suspense books.
The pacing of What We Saw At Night kind of felt off to me. It is a short book, it clocks in at 272 pages, but feels like it takes forever to read. It’s because it drags in the first half until we get to the scary bits 42% of the way in, according to my goodreads updates. I don’t want to say that the writing is dense, but it’s not quite as breezy as the YA that I am used to. Not that this is a bad thing, I am fine with slower, more literary YA books, but it just seemed like the pacing didn’t really suit the story. I suppose to me, if a book is a thriller, it should be fast paced and enthralling and this one just wasn’t. Also, there’s a cliffhanger ending which really irritated me because I suppose I just expect a mystery to be solved by the end of a book at this point. Alas.
Look, there is definitely an audience out there for What We Saw At Night, but I just was not that into it. I was not very invested. However, maybe people who love mysteries and crime fiction will love this book. The concept is interesting and unique — I haven’t really read about teenage protagonists with XP before. Yet, I’ve read Dean Koontz’s Fear Nothing and I will admit it was in my brain while reading, because that main character also has XP, only he has a dog and it’s written for the masses, thus faster paced. Anyway, I think that if you’re really into crime fiction, you should give What We Saw At Night a chance.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other reviews of What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard:
The Book Smugglers – “its execution decidedly is not Hitchcock-grade material.”
Word For Teens – “this was one creepy ass book”
The Picky Girl – “an intriguing premise and realistic characters”