January 22, 2013

Nighttime daredevils on the case

By Jacquelyn Mitchard
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Allie Kim is the near opposite of most 16-year-olds. Living with Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) means avoiding sunlight is a matter of life or death, so she can only go out at night. As the disease rarely allows the luxury of a long life, Allie feels anything but invincible. She has great friends in Rob and reckless Juliet, both of whom have XP as well. When Juliet turns the group on to Parkour, the YouTube-friendly urban sport, they have a sense of cheating death with every leap or swing, especially since they’re increasing the danger by practicing in the dark. One night they land on an apartment balcony and see what may be a crime in progress. Allie wants to find out the truth, Juliet is oddly silent and Rob is caught in the middle. What We Saw at Night combines exhilaration, fatalism and mystery in a gripping novel.

Author Jacquelyn Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean) has turned Rear Window on its ear with this mystery. Allie’s investigation is hampered both by her friend and her inability to accomplish anything during the day. The mystery is grabby and scary, and the Parkour scenes have visual flair on the page, but there are quiet moments that speak volumes as well. When Allie awkwardly calls an old friend to reconnect, she’s watched by the local pizzeria’s alcoholic owner: “Maybe that's why he drank so much: he understood that basic social interaction was sometimes a lot harder than risking your life.” Her mother knows Allie is in a race against time, so she allows her daughter crazy amounts of freedom; instead of feeling liberated, Allie is only reminded of her vulnerability.

What We Saw at Night doesn’t resolve as neatly as one might hope, but in this case that might be a good thing. There's a sequel on the way, and readers will want to reconnect with Allie and her quest for truth and justice.

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What We Saw at Night

What We Saw at Night

By Jacquelyn Mitchard
Soho Teen
ISBN 9781616951412

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