Book #37 ~ What We Saw At Night

This book was provided to me by Soho Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Cover via Goodreads

WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT is the story of three outsiders, teens with a deadly allergy to sunlight that forces them to live a life opposite of everyone in their small hospital town. When they discover the extreme sport Parkour, it seems that they’ve finally found something uniquely theirs—even if leaping from buildings in the dark feels somewhat suicidal. But the stakes go far higher when they witness a horrible crime while practicing on an allegedly empty building. Worse: what they see, sees them, too. (via Soho Press)

I decided to read this despite it being YA because the premise sounded fairly interesting. I want to read more mysteries and thrillers, and this seemed to fit an interesting niche. Mitchard avoids some of the things that particularly annoy me about YA. The “does he/doesn’t he” love story is pretty much “he does” and the passages about fashion are minimal. As a teen with xeroderma pigmentosum, Allie’s musings about the her future (according to Wikipedia: “Fewer than 40% of individuals with the disease survive beyond the age of 20. Some XP victims with less severe cases do manage to live well into their 40s.”) are much less maudlin than many other teen heroines’ might be. Additionally, Mitchard has a nice way with prose. The writing is crisp and clear and sprinkled with enough slang and new grammar to make the characters sound young, but smart. The passages about XP and Parkour slowed the plot down, but were interesting none-the-less. Not needed was the recounting of Allie’s research into serial killers. I can see where her interest in forensics sets up future books, but it felt a little tacked on.

As most books are, this one isn’t quite what the blurb says it is. The conflict isn’t just between these teens and a murderous villain, but between the members of the group. Information is kept from each other…and parents…and police. It becomes a little too necessary to the plot that Allie not pass on information. As a genre, mysteries  are all about the gaining and passing of information, whether from character to character or author to audience. Situations may confound the flow of facts, but there were a few moments in this book that I thought, “There’s no reason not to go to the police now…” Allie’s justifications for not doing so didn’t seemed compelling. (The 1986 film River’s Edge handles teens witnessing a murder in a more real-feeling way.)

What We Saw At Night also included a somewhat muddled meditation on abusive relationships. Interestingly, I read the Sherlock Holmes story “The Illustrious Client” this past week which also includes a charismatic man with a collection of women.

Finally, I would not have read What We Saw At Night if I had known it was the first in a series. I’m not interested in involving myself with series, especially ones that have little stand-alone qualities. The ending is extremely open-ended and unsatisfying. An interesting question for me as a writer is why some books in a series are satisfying on their own and why some are not.

What We Saw At Night is set for publication on January 8, 2013.

Genre: YA Mystery
Why did I choose to read this book? The blurb sounded interesting.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Finished it.
Craft Lessons: (or rather craft questions) What is an acceptable (to me) flow of information in mysteries? Are there rules? Also, what make a book in a series satisfying on its own?
Format: Kindle ARC – Not terribly well formatted.
Procurement: NetGalley

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