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Scott Westerfeld – Midnighters: The Secret Hour

October 1, 2010

116. The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld (2004)
Midnighters, Book 1

Length: 297 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Urban(ish) Fantasy, Horror

Started: 15 September 2010
Finished: 17 September 2010

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? I’d really enjoyed almost all of Westerfeld’s previous books.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 05 March 2009.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if days had one more hour?
Not like this, it’s not.

Summary: When fifteen-year-old Jessica day moves to the small town of Bixby, Oklahoma, she’s expecting it to be different from her old life back in Chicago… but she had no idea exactly how different Bixby really is. The water tastes funny, the town is covered with thirteen-rayed suns – and, oh yeah, every night at midnight, time stops for an hour. For most people, that extra hour zips past in a fraction of a second, but Jessica can perceive the hidden hour, and move about through a world that seems frozen in time. But she’s not the only thing moving in the midnight hour… the world is filled during that hour with darklings, ancient creatures that are the stuff of nightmares, and they all seem to hate Jessica with a bitter malice. She doesn’t have to face them alone, however; there are other people like her who can see the midnight world. A group of fellow students, each of whom has a unique ability during the midnight time, will have to join forces in order to protect Jessica and figure out why she’s so important that the darklings want her dead.

Review: Wonderfully creepy, fantastically clever, and totally addicting. This is not a book to pick up late at night when you should already be asleep; not only is it nearly impossible to put back down again, but when you finally do, you’ll lay there awake, watching the clock creep slowly towards midnight, wondering what shadowy ancient nightmares are prowling just outside your window without your knowledge.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book was Westerfeld’s world-building. In just a few quick-reading pages, he’s able to bring the frozen midnight world to life, and fill it with the wonderful and the horrifying in quick succession. Actually, what I really enjoyed most about this book was the amount of thought that underlies all of the details of the worldbuilding. Even the most innocuous details often have a very specific reason behind them, buried just deep enough that you can feel deservedly clever when you figure it out. For example, who the hell sets their book in Bixby, Oklahoma? (Which, with a little Google Earth sleuthing, turns out to be a real place… although an important nearby location is not the middle of the badlands as it is in the book, but the backyard of a nice-looking suburban Tulsa home.) But Westerfeld’s got his reasons, and they fit impeccably together with the rest of his story in a way that’s very ingenious indeed. It also gives me hope that what I perceived as plot holes in this volume – for example, why are all the Midnighters teenagers? – are actually plot points that will be explained later in the series.

Westerfeld’s prose style has never been my favorite – it’s a little bit choppy and blunt in places, and occasionally the tone slips. (Seriously, at one point he uses the phrase “ouchy stuff” to describe Jessica’s mom cleaning out some of her midnight-acquired scrapes. This is a book about teenagers, for teenagers. They can handle the words “hydrogen peroxide” or “Betadine.”) Mostly, though, I didn’t really notice the prose; I was so sucked-in to the story and the world that Westerfeld had created that I didn’t care about anything else. He also handled the ending well; wrapping up the main plot threads to create a satisfying stopping point, but leaving enough of a teaser to make me anxious to pick up the next book. Overall, I tore through this book like there was no tomorrow, and will definitely be reading the sequels. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of Westerfeld’s other books, or of YA horror/fantasy/sci-fi more generally, will definitely enjoy this one, as will anyone who’s looking for a fast-paced, absorbing, and appropriately creepy fall read.

Hear that, folks? This book would be perfect for anyone doing the RIP challenge, or who’s looking for an easy, quick, and compelling book for the Read-a-thon next week. (Or both!)

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bart’s Bookshelf, Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, A Bit Bookish, Bookshelves of Doom, Everyday Reads, Gamila’s Book Review, The Infinite Shelf, Kay’s Bookshelf,
Stella Matutina, Words by Annie
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The halls of Bixby High School were always hideously bright on the first day of school.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010 1:08 am

    Goodness, I just posted about Westerfeld’s Leviathan a couple or so minutes back! I adore him!

    I reviewed this (and the rest of the series) last year. Here’s my link to the post:

    • October 13, 2010 9:27 am

      Lightheaded – I’ve added your link, thanks! Westerfeld’s had a few books that didn’t work for me, but in general he puts out some really wonderful stuff.

  2. October 1, 2010 9:42 am

    I really enjoyed Leviathan, but I haven’t been as quick to pick up his supernatural material; perhaps once I get through all of the Uglies series.

    • October 13, 2010 9:28 am

      Omni – Uglies is definitely the more popular series, but I think I like this one a bit better – it’s definitely a good fall/Halloween read.

  3. October 1, 2010 10:21 am

    I am so behind with Scott Westerfeld — all these books that everyone thinks are so great, and I never remember to grab one when I’m at the library. I love this premise, actually a lot more than I like the premise of the Pretties series.

    • October 13, 2010 9:29 am

      Jenny – I’ve got authors like that… ones I know I should be reading, but never quite manage to pick up. Guess we all need more time in the day! (How appropriate for this book! :)

  4. October 1, 2010 10:26 am

    My husband’s a huge Westerfeld fan, so I bet he’d love this book!

  5. October 1, 2010 11:41 am

    I love Westerfeld’s writing, but I generally avoid books that are creepy like this. It makes me think if I’m every going to branch out or stretch my reading outside my comfort zone, I know where to start. :)

    • October 13, 2010 9:30 am

      Alyce – I thought this had just the right amount of creep factor… enough to make me look at things askance, but not enough to actually lose sleep or have nightmares.

  6. October 1, 2010 5:14 pm

    Prior to Levithan I think this one is my favourite series by Westerfeld.

    • October 13, 2010 9:31 am

      Bart – I’m reserving judgement until I see how the rest of the Leviathan series goes, but this one definitely edges out Uglies for me.

  7. October 3, 2010 9:12 am

    I thought this one was a lot of fun, too, and agree it would be a perfect choice for RIP V and/or the Read-a-thon. I haven’t gotten back to the series, yet, but I do want to!

    • October 13, 2010 9:32 am

      BIP – The second two books weren’t *quite* as good as the first, but only by a small margin… the series as a whole was great!

  8. October 4, 2010 12:35 am

    Hehe, I just reviewed this book but I hadn’t read your review yet (I wanted to wait until I had put my impressions in words first!) I really enjoyed it too, although having read all three books now, the 2nd was definitely my fave!

    • October 13, 2010 9:35 am

      kay – I’ve added your link, and am looking forward to seeing what you thought about the rest of the books!

  9. October 4, 2010 8:16 pm

    I really need to read the next book in this series. I didn’t enjoy THE SECRET HOUR quite as much as his others, but I still want to see what happens next.

    My review is here:

    • October 13, 2010 9:37 am

      Memory – My gods, how did I manage to miss so many people’s reviews? Added yours.

      I’m impressed you were able to only read the one… I got to the end of the first book and it was one of those cases where I had to know what happened IMMEDIATELY.

  10. October 6, 2010 2:44 am

    Ooh psychic! I love books like these. They always seem to draw my attention. Creepy plot, though.

  11. justin permalink
    November 8, 2010 10:26 pm

    very good book

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