January 10, 2013

Review: What We Saw At Night

What We Saw At Night First in a series
By Jacquelyn Mitchard
Available now from Soho Teen
Review copy

Allie Kim and her friend Rob take up Parkour in order to keep up with Juliet, the other kid their age in town with Xeroderma Pigmentosum.   One night, they see something suspicious in an apartment.  Then Allie sees it again, and the other two have only her word to go on.

WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT is gripping.  The potential murders often fade into the background of Allie's relationships, but so much of her life is driven by Rob and Juliet that its understandable.  Without them, she's close to alone in the night.  And if there is a murderer, then that's when you want your friends by your side.

I liked the characters and how their relationships developed.  Allie and Rob tend to follow Juliet's lead, since she's more worldly and bolder.  But there's something wrong beneath the surface, driving her wild actions, as Allie begins to discover.  And while Allie might crush on Rob since he's the main guy in her life, he's definitely a crushable sort.  He's reliable, trusts Allie to take care of herself, and has a car.  (Big deal when you can't drive, a significant other with a car.)

But there were a couple of things that bothered me about WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT.  Why is there so little night life?  The three kids are often alone in the night.  But their town is supposedly the center of XP research.  There's a hospital people move from all over the world to go to.  Allie refers to an older XP guy who died and there are other patients in the hospital when she goes for a check up.  There are also references to medical trials, which need a decent number of patients for significance.  I'd assume there are at least twenty-five to fifty people with XP in the town.  Why are none of them ever out at night?  They can't go out in day without great difficulty and staying in all night every night would probably drive them nuts.  And if the town's main industry is this research, why aren't there shops open at night?  I don't just accept that it's a small town.  I live in a small town.  The tattoo parlor is open late and the farmers wake up early.

The other thing is the ending.  I expect many people will complain about the ending.  That's because it sucks.  Just when things are getting really good, the story suddenly spins its wheels for a chapter then ends.  There's no resolution.  Not to the mystery, not to the relationships, not to Allie's character growth, nothing.  I don't even want to read the next book, WE LOST IN THE DARK, because WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT's ending is so lame.  It's not a cliffhanger; there's not enough momentum for that.

WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT has an excellent beginning, an interesting protagonist, and the XP and Parkour add some nifty atmosphere to what could be a standard mystery.  But as it goes on the plot gets ridiculous and hard to follow until it just ends.  It's disappointing and I had very high hopes for this book. 


  1. I was wondering about the lack of other people with XP as well. I thought part of it was that this trio were some of the older patients at the moment but still. Despite the ending, I am really interested in reading the sequel; I *have* to know how Allie stops that guy.

    1. Yeah, I thought maybe they were the only high school age patients, but there should be some college aged or older people, as well as younger kids.


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