What We Saw At Night is the newest Young Adult title from Jacquelyn Mitchard and the first release from the new Soho Teen imprint. It is exciting to see Soho Press venture into the YA arena and it’s nice to see Mitchard try her hand at a mystery for teens.
In the novel, Alexis Kim (Allie to her friend and family) is on the cusp of adulthood. She is about to make decisions that will affect the rest of her life. From what her future career will be to where (and with whom) she is going to lose her virginity, she is struggling with the same dilemmas faced by all teenagers. But Allie also has to deal with Xeroderma Pigmentosum. Because of this disease, she is unable to go outside in the light of day. Just the slightest exposure to direct light can cause a deadly skin reaction.
Her friends, Juliet and Rob, also suffer with XP and thus their bond is stronger than most. At night, when most of the world is sleeping, their small posse heads out on the town, exploring the streets and alleys that average people only see during the day. As they enter the final summer before their senior year, they discover parkour, an extreme sport favored by the current generation of teens. Parkour basically involves moving from one place to another regardless of the obstacles in the way. As such, it means scaling massive structures, facing huge drops and performing various acrobatic movements commonly associated with gymnasts.
Given their unique situation, Allie and friends are forced to practice their parkour moves in the dead of night. Being in places where people are not expected to be sometimes means seeing things you were not meant to see. And this threesome of teenagers just might have witnessed a murder in a building associate with a local housing complex.
This plot set-up allows Jacquelyn Mitchard to test the bonds of this close-knit group of friends. Allie is forced to express her interest in Rob, even at the expense of losing Juliet as her best friend. And when it appears that one member of the group might know more about the happenings at the housing complex than they have let on, the threesome’s bond of trust is shattered.
Risking her life, her family, and her future, Allie sets out to explain just what is happening and how it relates to the Tabor clinic (a specialized medical facility for XP sufferers). Mitchard excels at telling the story in an authentic teenage voice. You can see Allie struggling with each decision she must make.
Parkour is the perfect metaphor for what these kids are going through. To them, even the smallest wrong move (such as running out of gas in the middle of nowhere with the sun on the horizon) can have deadly consequences; just as each leap from a building ledge could be their last. There is also something ninja-like about parkour, which gels nicely with the night movements that XP requires of its sufferers.
What We Saw At Night appears to be the first in a series of books featuring Allie and her friends, so there are certainly some huge loose ends left at the end of the story. While cliffhangers may be common in other YA genres, most mystery readers are used to more closure at the end of a book, so proceed with caution. Consider yourself warned!
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.