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A review of Jacqueline Mitchard's debut foray into YA, What We Saw at Night.

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BOOK REPORT for What We Saw at Night by Jacqueline Mitchard

Cover Story: Not Too Shabby
BFF Charm: Probably
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Uneven
Bonus Factor: Rare Disease, Minnesota
Anti-Bonus/Bonus Factor: Parkour
Relationship Status: Mixed Signals

Cover Story: Not Too Shabby

This cover could have been 10000000000000x worse, simply by slapping a fancy dress on it. I like blue, and the silhouettes are nice and in keeping with the kids' nighttime antics. Having Jacqueline Mitchard's name slapped nice and big across the front will please those adults who still haven't totally come out about their YA addiction, making it possible to pretend they're reading a really short adult book. "What? Her book was totally Oprah's first book club pick. This is, like, real shit."

The Deal:

Allie, Rob and Juliet all suffer from the rare genetic condition Xeroderma Pigmentosa, which makes sunlight fatal. They've been best friends since they were in diapers, when they met at the nationally famous clinic in their tiny Minnesota resort town. They're long accustomed to only going out at night, or dressing like mummies if they have to venture into daylight, but one thing they'll never get used to is the threat of an early death. Juliet, the daredevil of the trio, takes up Parkour -- climbing and jumping down buildings -- as a way to defy the chafing restrictions of living with XP (and having a cop for a dad), and soon she's roped Rob and Allie in with her. But when the three see a murder in an empty penthouse apartment, their hard-won balance is thrown off, and soon Allie is the only one pursuing secrets everyone else wishes could stay buried.

BFF Charm: Probably

Juliet's a total bitch, and Rob is sometimes a dick, sometimes just a dumb teenage boy, so I think Allie could use a wiser, older friend who'd stand with her and not doubt her. She's a bright girl, and definitely has potential, when she outgrows the teenage habit of sulking and avoiding confrontation (although some people never do, eh?).

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

The tingles between Allie and Rob get pretty hot at certain points, but I have to take off points for the boring tasteful fade to black after JUST A KISS. I imagine it must be hard for an adult writer to switch gears and write YA without worrying about being to smexy, but pro-tip, Jackie M: You could go a little farther. Like, at least as far as second base -- heck, even halfway to third -- and still keep your PG rating. Also, any boy who is a total clueless asshole who freaks and won't return text messages for MONTHS doesn't get full marks, no matter how good a kisser he is. So there.

Talky Talk: Uneven

I'm not sure how much of it is due to switching genres after being a big name in the grownup books world, and how much of it is something else (not a euphemism for something bitchy I'm too nice to say -- I just can't think of a something else right now), but the pacing and story seemed a little uneven. Allie's voice was authentic and great, but the heavy-handed foreshadowing and inconsistent revelations made me lose interest at times. Allie's mom is unrealistically awesome (granted, my kid doesn't have a rare and life-threatening disease, but I still don't buy her leniency), and Juliet's story ends up being too rushed to ring true. I'd've liked more depth and exploration of the characters, as well as more sinister happenings, and a little less time spent hurtling off buildings.

Bonus Factor: Rare Disease

So it's cool to have kids with disabilities that aren't magically cured, paranormal or boring. You think you're an outsider because you have no fashion sense, or because you have braces, or because the popular kids make fun of you? Try not being able to leave the house in the daylight, and then tell me a regular kid's social life sucks.

Bonus Factor: Minnesota

Holla, Megan no H! I always feel like giving Minnesota a shout out because she's from there and loves it, and I've never met anyone who's from there who DOESN'T love it. So yeah, the book takes place in a tiny Minnesota town, off-season population 600, that's mostly full of famous people's vacation homes.

Anti-Bonus/Bonus Factor: Parkour

So, it depends on how you swing, but parkour and freerunning and all that shit just does absolutely nothing for me. Wanna scale a parking garage and leap off it to your death*? Go right ahead, but don't ask me to join you. The book spends a LOT of time going into training and stunt details, and while parkour is a nice metaphor for the kids' lives, it eventually gets in the way of the story. But that could be because I don't care about it -- if it rocks your world, you might love its place in the novel.

*Yes, Parkour Fans of the World, I am aware that I'm grossly oversimplifying. It's just this thing I like to do.

Casting Call:

Candice Accola as Juliet

Shailene Woodley as Allie

Relationship Status: Mixed Signals

This book and I both sent out seriously mixed signals. It turns out we're interested in different things, and less compatible than I originally thought. It was a pretty fun date, but I'm more of a Law and Order: SVU marathon kind of girl (in general, not for a first date), and not so much a death-defying stunt kind of girl.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Soho Press.  I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). What We Saw at Night is available now.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.