Thursday 27 December 2012

362. What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Due to be published January 8th 2013 (eBook) Soho Teen

From the publisher:
Three teenagers with XP (a life-threatening allergy to sunlight) are a species unto themselves. As seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Allie Kim, they roam the silent streets, looking for adventure while others sleep. On a random summer night, while scaling a building like any other, the three happen to peer into an empty apartment and glimpse an older man with what looks like a dead girl. A game of cat-and-mouse ensues that escalates through the underground world of hospital confinement, off-the-grid sports and forbidden love.

While there is an actual story in this book, there are two key elements that stand out in this story and are worth mentioning from the start, XP and Parkour.

XP or Xeroderma Pigmentosum, is an inherited condition characterised as an extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet light (UV) from sunlight.  What is basically means is that people who suffer from XP, do not venture outside during daylight hours, and as with the characters in this book, they live their lives at night.  It also means they can’t attend school, they are all home schooled, and they have difficulty having friendships with Daylighters, because as their moniker suggests they live their lives in during the day.

I recently made a comment to someone about free-running.  Without knowing much (anything) about it, I joked that running was SO restrictive, that people needed to do ‘free running’ instead.  As I was reading this book I started to mentally take back my comments, because a big part of this story is about Parkour (or free running), and I had no idea that it’s practice had such a long history and was extremely disciplined.  Being the nerd (information gatherer) that I am I had to see for myself what this Parkour thing was all about.  The descriptions in the book are good, but to see it in action is another thing altogether!

So, the two interesting elements aside, the story is about three friends, Allie, Juliet and Rob, and as the little suggests, what they saw at night.  On their first attempt at Parkour on a new apartment block just outside of town, they see a man with a lightning streak of blonde in his hair, in an empty apartment leaning over a half naked girl, who looks dead.  While they all convinced themselves it wasn’t what it seemed,  Allie can’t get the image out of her mind.

What begins to unfold is the mystery of this man, Blondie.  Why he is in town, what he’s doing there, and how does…know him.  When a friend of Allie's dies right after spotting Blondie and Juliet at a Festival, she is certain he is the cause, and we start to find out what’s going on.  What Allie finds out is that Juliet basically has a secret life, that she has kept hidden from her friends, and it's not all nice, and it's starting to become dangerous.

As much as the mystery/thriller elements to this story, I really liked the story about the relationship dynamic of the three characters.  As so often happens in real life, a group of three friends will often have it’s fair share of drama.  In a trio, there is usually one person who is like the connector.  If that person starts spending more time with one friend as opposed to the other the whole friendship becomes unbalanced.  And if that person also starts making choices that the other two don’t understand, the trio can quickly become a duo.  The friendship that these three characters is so much more intense than most teenage friendships because their world is so small (having to live it at night) and all they have is each other.  In some respects their friendship has been borne more out of necessity than desire.

There are so many things to like about this book.  The fact that the characters have XP, and therefore the story takes place at night makes for a very unique story.  Apart from characters who happen to work the night shift, there are few adult characters in this book, so the teens basically have the whole town to themselves.  I think this Independence and freedom, as well as the action, is what will make this book a winner with teen readers.  When I got to the end of the book, I realised that it wasn't really the end, as there are unresolved storylines...and there was a preview for the next book at the end What We Lost In The Dark.

For more info on Parkour:

For more info on XP:

Who will like this book: Girls and boys age 14+
Read it if you like: Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagon

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