Title: What We Saw at Night
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
No. of Pages: 272
Bottom Line: Fantastic novel that I simply devoured until I discovered there would be a BLEEPING sequel. Ms. Mitchard better write quickly because I want to find out what happens!
“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.”
Thoughts: In What We Saw at Night, Jacquelyn Mitchard introduces readers to those suffering from Xeroderma Pigmentosum. Famous for being the disease ailing Nicole Kidman’s children in the movie The Others, Allie, Juliet, and Rob live in perpetual darkness while knowingly facing a shortened lifespan. To offset their “handicap”, they take up Parkour, a fascinating and actually quite beautiful stunt sport. It is while they are running around performing stunts where they witness what looks like a murder. Or is it?
Much like the darkness in which the three friends live, What We Saw at Night is filled with secrets and unanswered questions. Each friend harbors secrets as they try to live their lives without regrets while knowing that they are facing a life with no solutions and little long-term hope. Juliet in particular is one of those mysterious friends who always maintains an element of reserve while citing bestie status. It is these pockets of unknown that drive Allie for answers while forcing her to grow up in ways she never thought possible or necessary.
Throughout it all, however, there is nothing cliched or forced about the story or its characters. In fact, Allie’s voice is refreshingly honest and realistic. She has her teenage moments, but there is a level of maturity that befits someone living with an ultimately fatal illness. Even better, her mother is a very real presence in her life, as are all of the parents. Finally, there is a novel about teenagers where the parents are not mysteriously absent or clueless. It is such a welcome feature.
Be warned, however. Just as the action heats up and the need for answers reaches a fever pitch, the novel abruptly ends. It is a testament to Ms. Mitchard’s writing skills and the great story that is What We Saw at Night that I am anxious for the sequel because my frustration and irritation at discovering that there was a sequel was great indeed.
Even with my annoyance at the lack of resolution, this is one novel I cannot wait to discuss with others. There was so much to love, starting with the characters to their family to the mystery itself and ending with their disease. What We Saw at Night was simply a great way to usher in the new year.