& Review: Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski. Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, September 2015

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski. Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, September 2015

The Book Itself: It’s a bit generic, and looks a bit like an M. Night Shyamalan movie poster. This cover would probably not make me pick up the book from a shelf full of new books, but it is ominous in a misty, fade-away way.

My Review: On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and  Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

I think I heard about this book’s debut in some magazine. It was one of those synopses that I heard and went Wow, I hope that’s actually good. Because the premise sounds awesome! And for the most part, this premise and story held up. I found the book to be creepy in a great way, with this ominous, complex atmosphere that lent itself to a horror storyline. The book lost that tension for me in the last third of the story or so, but I thought it was wonderfully set up.

Secrets and revelations abound between Marin, her twin brother Kana, and their friend/Marin’s potential love interest, Line (whose name I hate! Every time I read it I just thought of this plain line on a page. How else am I supposed to pronounce that?). Before they can flee to a desert land where they will live out the next fourteen years, their families must follow a set of creepy, complex ritualistic arrangements and cleansing of the town. Kana says what everyone is thinking: “It’s like you’re setting it up for someone else,” before he is shushed and dismissed. No one will talk about what happens to the town of Bliss (way too happy of a name) while they’re gone. They either don’t know or don’t want to let the children in on the secret.

And it’s this deliberate lack of information that builds the atmosphere so well in this book. The town slowly darkens, and the children trapped there slowly start to piece together why exactly they needed to flee so rapidly. The first few chapters after they get trapped in Bliss are so well-written, they had me turning pages as fast as I could. The glimpses you get of the “monsters” are just teasing enough to be scary, and the clues they come across while trying to gather supplies are just grisly and ominous enough ratchet it up to heart-pounding.

It’s when you get a better glimpse of the “monsters” that it all becomes….less. Of everything. The characters are suddenly less active, the threat less pressing, the atmosphere still morose but less intense. It isn’t until the end of the book that we get a full head-to-toe descriptions of our enemies. And even then, they’re more weird than creepy. I won’t spoil it for you, but…they are less terrifying than the book in the beginning led you to believe. In my opinion.

As for our human characters, I didn’t find them to be different enough either. They spoke very much the same. All three had the same inflection, same vocabulary, and the same reactions to physical stimuli. And a lot of the time they were those stupid teenagers in the horror films: Why on Earth would you go outside? Why are you splitting up?! HOW ARE YOU THIS STUPID WHEN IT’S CLEAR THAT THINGS ARE OUT TO KILL YOU?!! I didn’t actually scream any of this, but it bugged me.

So I did not love all of the character choices. And I would have actually been just fine never seeing our “monsters”; I thought they were much more terrifying when they were never seen. But all of that aside, this has the potential to become a series, or at least have a sequel: In the desert lands, Marin must be sequestered in something called The Cloister for a year with all the other young women where they eventually carve glow in the dark tattoos all over their bodies (so yeah…creepy). And I would probably read the sequel, in the hopes that it keeps that wonderfully wrought tension and atmosphere of the beginning of Nightfall without the slight unraveling of the tone near the end.

My Grade: C

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