‘Nightfall’s Thrilling Concept is Dulled by Uncharacteristic Writing | Review of ‘Nightfall”

By Cynthia Ayala

'Nightfall' by Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski  G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
‘Nightfall’ by Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

The sun doesn’t set for twenty-four years, and when it does, the darkness rises, bringing the nightmares and monsters of the night alongside it. No one stays on the island once the sun leaves, but for Marin, Kana and Line, they didn’t have a choice and they were forgotten. Now the trio need to not only survive the night, but make it off the island and swim south towards the desert lands. But it may be to late for them to save themselves…

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski is a post-apocalyptic young adult thriller, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on September 22, 2015. It follows three young teenagers as they traverse their home island Bliss, seeing it in ways they never had before.

In many ways this novel is very similar to H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. It’s set in a world that is very dystopic universe where people live on this eerie island that has these strange rules regarding leaving the island. It’s only until the kids are left behind that they discover to fear the night. Much like in the Time Machine, they fear the darkness in the very far future because there are creatures out there that can only come out in the night to hunt those above ground. That makes this story a survival story, one where the kids were stupid kids who ended up getting lost behind. Much of the context takes time to build up to the point where the characters finally face the monsters that are hunting them.

It’s a very good novel, but the problem is it’s very slow. The writers devoted a lot of time to building the world for the readers, and while that was a smart move, it also made the book lag. The pros of the novel was the fact that readers really do get to know who these characters are. Their personalities and characterizations are there, but at the same time, much of the relationships seem to lack depth. The relationship between the three friends doesn’t start to feel fresh for the reader until half the novel has been read. The events just move so slowly to built the universe in which this novel is set where the sun shines for years followed by years of darkness. It’s interesting, there is no doubt about that, but it’s slow and with a synopsis like the one above it’s hard to not just want the action and adventure to just start after a while.

However, that being said, at least the characterization is there. The reader has a chance to get to know who these characters are and why their relationships with each other should matter, even if they aren’t defined strongly enough in the beginning. The novel has strong writing, but it’s just so slow…and long. No, there is nothing wrong with long books, but the problem here is that it feels long. It’s dragging. And to make matters just a little worse, there is a lot of telling. It’s understandable considering that the narrative is first person and shifts between three characters, but after two or three chapters, it all sounds like the characters are droning on. What would have benefitted this novel was really tapping into the emotional mindset of the characters and using that to lead the characters to the point of their abandonment, because Line vanishing seemed like a left turn and makes seem unreal that withal the danger, all the urgency and the fact that he is the only caregiver for his little brother, it doesn’t fit.

But once the momentum of the novel continues to grow and the story develops, it becomes a very good novel. More imagery and scene specifics could have been used to paint the story more and add to the showing aspect of the novel, but with the material here, it’s a good enough book that has a lot of strength to overshadow it’s weaknesses. And when the story concludes, it ends with a ray of hope for these three friends. (★★★☆☆ | B)

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