I’ve been meaning to read The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana for months now. Justine and I decided to buddy read it back in the spring, but then we got buried in other stuff and somehow we never had time for it. Then in August I decided that I’ll make it my summer vacation read. It kinda ended up the beginning of my summer vacation read though, as I tore through it in 2 days.
I add this book to my Armed with a Bingo card under ‘A young adult novel‘ square.
|Series: –||Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction|
|Date of Publishing: March 6th 2018||Publisher: HarperTeen|
Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she’s more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her. But when he dies unexpectedly her dreams—and her reality—shatter.
While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah realizes she can reinvent herself however she wants: a confident singer-songwriter, member of a hip band, embraced by an effortlessly cool best friend. But Susannah is not the only one keeping secrets, and soon, harsh revelations threaten to unravel her life once again.
“But I suppose that was the difference between them. While my father proudly built his mysteries into an aura, put them on display and let them define him, my mother buried hers like evidence of a crime.”
While I was reading The Midnights, which is partly about a father – daughter relationship and the music that binds them, I kept thinking of Brian Fallon‘s latest album Local Honey. Which is ironic, because there is a song in the book which gets an important part titled Love, Honey. So. Close. Anyway, on this album there is a song, When You’re Ready which is a song from a father to his child (or children in his case). It just seemed so fitting.
Back in the spring, I pore over lists of books featuring music, because I wanted to read something like that. There were a few that picked my interest which didn’t seem to be the typical YA book where the people fall instantly in love with each other and the plot is goddamn predictable. The Midnights was one of those books that seemed interesting and not at all clichéd. So I went for it. And while my hunch was somewhat right, I ended up having conflicting feelings about it. It didn’t quite meet my expectations.
Let’s start with what I liked. The writing was pretty good, very easy to read and the descriptions were spot on. I also liked that there was no insta love here and that the story had more to it than which guy Susannah will fall in love with. I liked how the music played an important role aside from the fact Susannah gets involved with a band. Music is the bridge between the characters, it adds an extra layer to relationships – especially to Susannah’s relationship to her parents. I also liked Susannah up to about the 50% mark where things started to go in a way I didn’t like as much.
That being said, let’s talk about the not so good. Once Susannah gets ripped out of her everyday life and placed in a completely new environment without a warning and is forced to deal with it, things start to get weird. Her emotions – grief, anger – are completely valid and normal. Going through a chance because of it is also something one would expect. As well as making stupid decisions. The problem is that Susannah just makes one too many of those – from a hard working person who doesn’t like attending parties and who is generally reserved and cautious, becomes someone completely different. She makes new friends which means getting involved with a band she seems to be falling in love with about 3 different guys. But not loving either of them really. Susannah somehow had become this selfish person who doesn’t really care about the feelings of others – or at least that’s what I thought. And when things get out of her control – not that they were ever in her control in the first place – her way of dealing with stuff is not really dealing with them. The Midnights was supposed to be about friendships, love, music, family and on the surface it is. But if we look a bit deeper, friendships shouldn’t work like they work in this book. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t friendships like this out there, because there are. We all know how it feels like drifting apart from someone who used to be a good friend. Or what it feels like being hurt by a friend. But the real test of any friendship is how we deal with these hardships – do we fight and make an effort to right things or do we walk away without ever talking about the problems? Consequently, if we don’t say to the people we considere as friends we have a problem, then they will never know about it. Which makes it hard to solve anything.
Thankfully Susannah kind of redeems herself by the end, but I’m not sure if that’s enough for me to give The Midnights a higher rating. It definitely had its good points and I overall enjoyed reading it – I mean, come on, I was intrigued enough that I hardly put it down until I finished with it. But I also think it had a couple of missed opportunities and I think the plot could have been stronger overall. And the side characters less one dimensional.
The Midnights is about music, family, friendship and finding one’s way in life after loss. That road is sometimes has more bumps than one would like, but everything depends on how we blunts the hits. California is the perfect setting for this book, though I wish it was more part of the story than a mere background blurred as we speed through the story. If one looks for a light, music filled summer read, then The Midnights might be a good choice for that.