What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard
(Soho Teen, 2013)
Format: Audio download via Audiobook Jukebox (narrated by Rebecca Gibel for AudioGO)
From Goodreads: "Allie Kim suffers from Xeroderma Pigmentosum: a fatal allergy to sunlight that confines her and her two best friends, Rob and Juliet, to the night. When freewheeling Juliet takes up Parkour—the stunt-sport of scaling and leaping off tall buildings—Allie and Rob have no choice but to join her, if only to protect her. Though potentially deadly, Parkour after dark makes Allie feel truly alive, and for the first time equal to the “daytimers.”
On a random summer night, the trio catches a glimpse of what appears to be murder. Allie alone takes it upon herself to investigate, and the truth comes at an unthinkable price. Navigating the shadowy world of specialized XP care, extreme sports, and forbidden love, Allie ultimately uncovers a secret that upends everything she believes about the people she trusts the most."
So I quite like Mitchard. She's not a 'must-read' with me, but I'm generally happy enough to pick up her books and get her take on family dynamics, especially in the face of uniquely trying long-term issues. And Allie, with her XP, abandoning father, 'daytiming' family, and a potential murderer on the loose certainly qualifies for Mitchard's stock-in-trade. And she definitely does her thing here - Allie is a stranger in a strange land of darkness and that spot between childhood and adulthood that can need careful navigating. She's bright but not always sure of herself, and since her social life necessarily consists mainly of the other two XD kids her age in town, plus various interactions with hospital and research adults, her willingness to put up with and ability to be hurt by Rob and Juliet is deep.
Still, I was irritated by a couple of things. Allie's narration is a 'recent past' one - there are several moments of 'if I'd known then what I know now...' which grated on me. Every time it happens, I expect Allie to change a little, to react differently next time. But she tends to push on as always, and as appealing as she is, she is far too often reacting to external drama instead of taking internal stock. But the more problematic issue is the one of the cliffhanger. Instead of being one that seems to close this story while leaving a new one looming around the corner, this novel ends fairly abruptly, with Allie's life calmer, sure, but with the same mysteries and threats over her head as existed from the beginning, although she knows more about them now. It's a TV-season ending, and I find it far from satisfying.
I did enjoy Gibel's narration. She handles the emotional and suspenseful sections extremely smoothly, giving Allie's reactions a real resonance. I feel the love.