Jacquelyn Mitchard’s What We Saw at Night is the first offering from Soho Teen—Soho’s new line devoted to crime novels written for the YA crowd—and I enjoyed it so, so much that my hopes for the imprint are even higher than they were before. (Which I wouldn’t have thought physically possible. I’m a bit of a Soho Crime fangirl*.
I must have missed the memo about Mitchard writing for the young adult market. Which is embarrassing, as it wasn’t only one book that escaped my notice: no, in addition to stand-alones Now You See Her and All We Know of Heaven, I missed AN ENTIRE TRILOGY. Whoops. I’m hugely pleased to have finally removed my blinders, because reading What We Saw at Night landed Mitchard firmly onto my short-but-sweet List of Authors Who Have Transitioned Well from Adult to Young Adult Market.
Unlike some of the books that DID NOT result in the authors’ inclusion on said list (*coughTheodoreBoonecough*), What We Saw at Night doesn’t resort to infodumps, to condescension, to didactic lectures or to holier-than-thou cardboard protagonists. No, it’s a solid thriller with a cool premise—think Rear Window, but starring a Parkour-practicing heroine who has Xeroderma Pigmentosum, a condition that makes sunlight not just dangerous, but life-threatening—strong dialogue and character development, exciting action, suspenseful plotting, and the requisite smootchies, AS WELL AS being a really believable, effective story about friendship, secrets and lies.
It’s got a really cool neo-noir feel, in part because the action all takes place at night, but mostly because of Allie’s narrative style: she’s very fond of the “I should have known at that point...” sort of foreshadowing. The details about Parkour and XP are worked into the narrative organically, and even I, a devoted non-exerciser, found the passages about the grueling training regimen both inspiring and fascinating. Allie makes such smart choices over the course of her investigation** that I felt the need to squawk “SMART GIRL!” every time she avoided another one. Hanging over everything she does and thinks and says is the fact that people with XP have a pretty short life-expectancy—according to Allie, she and her friends will be lucky to make it to their 40s—and that knowledge makes the chances they take more believable. As Allie puts it:
This is my girlhood and my everything-hood. You can’t blame us for wanting to carpe that diem if our diems are numbered.
It seems somehow oxymoronic, but there’s something joyous, life-affirming and hopeful in their recklessness, and DESPITE the MASSIVELY UNSATISFYING CLIFFHANGER ENDING—when I finished the book, I swore so loudly and at such great length than I scared my husband—I’m very much looking forward to my next night out with Alexis Kim.
BONUS THING I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK: I’ve noticed lately that more and more authors are giving their chapters actual names (rather than simply numbering them). My favorite one in What We Saw at Night is “Secrets and Whys.” Eh? Eh? Good one, right?
*Yes, I’m that much of a nerd. I get fangirly about specific imprints. And editors. C’mon. You can admit it: you totally do, too, right? RIGHT? Please don’t leave me hanging on this.
**She listens to her gut! She doesn’t take everything her best friend says at face value! She doesn’t go into an apartment that she suspects has been visited by Someone Nefarious! She contacts the authorities when she thinks something is hinky, regardless of worries about looking dumb if she’s wrong!
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is probably curled up by the woodstove, reading.