Book Review: Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski

Over the holidays, I came upon a post that explained an intriguing Icelandic holiday tradition. In Iceland, books are a common gift exchanged during the Christmas holiday. After opening presents, national tradition is to spend the rest of the evening wrapped up in blankets and chocolate to read with family and friends- thus promoting one of the most amazing cultural phenomenons ever! My family has a somewhat similar tradition, involving exchanging box loads of books to share. From my sister-in-law this year, I got the new YA fiction story, Nightfall. Loving the cover art and the dark feel of the book, I picked it up one snowy night and began reading.

Here’s the excerpt from the cover:

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.

My thoughts? After being irksome initially, I liked it.

The book started off a bit unsure of itself. I have to admit the main concept behind the book seemed a bit contrived- a land where the sun gradually rises and falls over a period of 14 years, followed by 14 years of pitch blackness. That in itself would be fine, explained away by a specific tilting of the planet or slow rotation of said planet… Except for the fact that the inhabitants in this story migrate south to an area where the sun rises and sets normally, just every three days…  The flawed concept bothered me, probably way more than it should have. (And don’t mention the arctic or Alaska- although there are times of the year when the sun does not rise or set, it still moves according to the same 24 hour cycle seen by the rest of the world) But anyway, rant over, moving on…

This particular YA fiction has the typical heaping of teenage angst, newly developing romance getting in the way of friendship, and love for family overcoming all. A few of the plot twists seemed awkward, thrown in randomly, but I have to admit the authors did a decent job tying everything together in the end.

Despite all of my complaints, there were several things I really liked about this book. The authors did a good job establishing the haunting setting, the feeling of rushed escape to the south, and the main characters’ frantic search for a way to follow their families in their southward migration. The transition of the island and the characters themselves is well-done and keeps the story moving at a pretty good pace. The creatures bubbling out of the growing darkness were also intriguing. I loved that the authors gave the creatures voice, rather than being just one more group of unintelligible boogie men growling in the background.

Even though I disliked the faulty science behind the book’s concept, I enjoyed reading it overall. I give it three out of five stars.




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