Book Review #12: What We Saw at Night

What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I’m not nearly as much of a mystery lover now as I was when I was younger, but I couldn’t help being drawn to What We Saw at Night. One of the immediate strengths of the book is the apparent randomness of the elements that comprise the story. Parkour, XP, and a possible murder? Color me intrigued.

As a clarification on the premise of the novel, Parkour is a form of martial art that involves leaping off and around tall buildings or other manmade structures. XP is a genetic disease that basically causes a severe allergy to sunlight, forcing its victims to live in the dark. Hence the title.

The characters we follow on their nighttime travails are a group of three similarly afflicted friends. They have a long history, but it’s also painfully apparent that something isn’t right in their world—even before they witness a possible murder.

Though the story and characters are both wonderfully original, I felt that the world-building and plotting were given more attention than the character development, in that they stayed strong throughout the book. I’ve read a handful of mysteries as an adult that I could poke some holes in, and What We Saw at Night was not one of these.

Allie, the protagonist, was painted accurately as a girl who has long used her friends to avoid the stasis of her own life, and must learn to forge on ahead without them. Her connections to her family, and the woman she babysits for, even the two other members of her ‘tribe’ who at times treat her badly, were what made the story worth reading.

I loved her to death—not only because she was likeable, but because her actions never felt implausible. Both Rob and Juliet, her friends with XP, suffered from a lack of believability at times—Rob near the beginning and Juliet at the end. Usually I care far more about the questions left unanswered with plot, but since the author has plans for a sequel, the character mysteries were far more irksome to me after some reflection.

That being said, had I not been aware of a sequel when starting the story, the ending would have ad me raging for days. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the first in a series pull off that big of a cliffhanger, and I’ve read a ton of series. The excerpt at the back of the book had me fooled into thinking there were more pages than I’d assumed, and when I came to the end I was furious.

Even though I was bothered by some of the characters at times, I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel. And if you have an interest in murder mystery plots that don’t feel tired or rehashed, then you should give What We Saw at Night a shot.

View all my other reviews

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