Secret Hour (Midnighters) by Scott Westerfeld

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Secret Hour (Midnighters) by Scott Westerfeld

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A strange scenario of teens in a world of their own - shared, of course, with nasty beasts and mysteries.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: July 2010
Publisher: Atom
ISBN: 978-1907410031

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If you do have to move into a small American town, make sure it isn't Bixby, Oklahoma. Jessica does, and finds it perhaps more trouble than it's worth. She quickly bonds with some of the more goth-seeming kids at her high school, but it's the night-time activities that intrigue her. She thinks she's in a dream when she walks through a dazzling forest of raindrops, suspended in a moment of frozen time - that moment being exactly midnight. But wouldn't you know? - her goth-seeming friends are active at midnight too - and so are some very dangerous creatures of the terrible kind...

I could carry on by itemising the friends - there is the gnomic psychic and polymath, the more psychic girl who in fact hears too much and has a mental overload of feedback-type contact to live with, there is the lad with glasses that allow him to focus on otherworldly elements - which is handy, when Jessica doesn't realise she herself is one - but there is a problem in all that, gifted us by the start of the book. We have a Jen, a Jessica, a Dess, a Melissa - did we need all the characters to have such similar names? It isn't for any purpose.

Also, Westerfeld has dropped his usual clarity and precision for the first quarter of this book, making things a great melange of intrigue. While we know Jess isn't in a dream when the raindrops are frozen, there is a lot we have a small struggle working out. And for once I found that a little unwelcome.

Beyond that things are nearing his regular greatness. This is clearly the first book in a trilogy (and dating from 2004, all are being given the current restyled reprint imminently) and it permanently reads like one, but there is little to worry about on that regard. The action scenes (once again Westerfeld indulges some strong flying fantasies with a character here - just as all those hoverboards did in his major series elsewhere) are suitably kinetic, the threat levels always at a nicely judged balance of believability, and the intrigue of the lost hour Jessica and friends are forced to explore and endure brings this to the boil finely.

Once again Westerfeld has given us a teen genre read with a strong heroine that lads would be able to engage with. While the characterisation isn't as spot-on and strong as he has since achieved, this remains a compelling start to a trilogy that will be popular with eleven-plusses. It would gain a greater grade for having a bit less wilful obscurity and annoying names, but the hiccup those give the reader is easily passed over for a strong title we can recommend.

I must thank the kind Atom Books people for sending me a review copy.

Scott's other series, mentioned above, is of course the one beginning with Uglies. Readers wanting more dark teen reads could go for The Dead (The Dark) by David Gatward, which is slightly older in audience than this title.

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Buy Secret Hour (Midnighters) by Scott Westerfeld at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Secret Hour (Midnighters) by Scott Westerfeld at


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