ARC: Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Teen for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Five Midnights debuts June 4th.

NetGalley’s a funny thing—most of the time all you have to judge a book by is the author name, the publisher, the cover, and a bit of doctored up marketing copy.*** It makes me judgey to the extreme—if I’m accepted to read the book, I’m kind of stuck with it, after all, since I want to keep my NetGalley ratio up. And if you don’t like the book, you’re left in the sticky situation of either giving a bad review or being dishonest with your readers. I always err on the side of honesty, but what I’m trying to say is that the whole ARC game is a grab bag type of situation.

Five Midnights met me halfway there—this is decidedly a three-star type of book, with bits both good and not so good. It feels very “young”; not in terms of its target audience, but in terms of the writing. Take the characters as an example: the MC, a New England transplant in Puerto Rico, has her emotions dialed up to eleven at all times. It’s an attempt at characterization that comes across as a bit jumbled; she doesn’t ever really settle as having a distinct personality. Another example is a fight that the MC has with a friend; the whole argument comes across as ungrounded, in a very “the author wants a fight here” kind of way. The pacing, too, is a bit off; a climactic scene facing off with monster stretches out over many POV switches, in a fashion reminiscent of those ten episode Dragon Ball Z fights.

But other parts are great. All the Puerto Rico setting details cannot be discounted; the author will make you feel like you’re in Puerto Rico, tasting the tastes and smelling the smell as the MC ventures from one unique neighborhood to the next. And though the details are many, they fit the book well, in a way that some other detail-heavy works never accomplish—“Yiwu” comes to mind. I appreciated the Spanish peppered throughout the dialogue (though “Hold the teléfono” maybe stepped a hair over the edge into ridiculousness). And the monster itself was interesting, since I knew literally nothing about this mythical beast.

I’d say that if the premise of the book sounds interesting, then give this a go. I’d be interested to take a peek at this author’s sophomore novel, since I suspect some of my craft complaints here might not surface in the next book.

***Speaking of marketing copy, by the way, can I pause for a minute on the word “unputdownable?” As per a review in the NetGalley description, this book is “flat-out unputdownable.” I’m starting to see this description everywhere; it was fun the first time around, but this word is just so over-the-top that I’m over it. It’s already getting cliched in my mind, and feels fake review-ish. Am I the only one??


Just a real quick reminder that Chapter Nine of The Gold in the Dark releases this Sunday at 11 AM EST! ❤

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