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Author: J. A. White
Published: 25th of June 2019 – Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Paperback – 320 pages
“And now I realize – so what if I write scary stories? I might hurt someone with nouns and adjectives, but I would never hurt someone for real.” – Nightbooks
Hello Hello! How are you?
Today I’m bringing you a very, very overdue review for a book I read for the Middle Grade Marvels book club in March last year! I wrote the review shortly after and it has been sitting in my Drafts folder, forgotten, ever since, so it’s time to remedy that!
Alex’s original hair-raising tales are the only thing keeping the witch Natacha happy, but soon he’ll run out of pages to read from and be trapped forever. He’s loved scary stories his whole life, and he knows most don’t have a happily ever after. Now that Alex is trapped in a true terrifying tale, he’s desperate for a different ending—and a way out of this twisted place.
This modern spin on the Scheherazade story is perfect for fans of Coraline and A Tale Dark and Grimm. With interwoven tips on writing with suspense, adding in plot twists, hooks, interior logic, and dealing with writer’s block, this is the ideal book for budding writers and all readers of delightfully just-dark-enough tales.
Trigger warnings: kidnappings of children, keeping someone hostage, animal abuse, child neglect, death, poisonous plants.
Nightbooks by J. A. White was one of the two BOTM picks for the Middle Grade Marvels book club in March 2021 and I absolutely loved it! I am so glad it was picked in the poll because I honestly hadn’t heard of it before, but now having read the book, I definitely want to read more by this author.
I’ve been getting into more spooky stuff lately and I’ve just started reading Stephen King books, and I have to say I’m really enjoying all the spookiness. I didn’t find this book scary, but some elements were definitely spooky, creepy and spine-tingly! It was a really great middle-grade that’s on the darker side, and for readers who like a bit of creepy reading! Just make sure to check the TWs mentioned above.
This book is set in an apartment building and then specifically in one apartment. For a middle-grade fantasy/horror, it was a bit of an unconventional setting, but I thought that it really worked. There is some kind of magic linked to the apartment, and I can’t say what, but it is so unique and honestly terrifying. I loved that we had such wild theories about the apartment and the magic when we were discussing it.
I actually really liked the library inside the apartment. I think it is every book lover’s dream and it was described in such a great way. I also really liked seeing the place where Yasmin worked, but I can’t say more, so you’ll have to believe me when I say the whole apartment was very interesting!
Alex: Alex is the main character of this book and I liked him instantly. He writes scary stories and he got bullied for that at school because it was deemed uncool. He wanted to burn his books, but something stopped him and it is really intriguing to see him come to terms with his feelings over his stories. I really liked that he was still portrayed as a kid and even though he is very intelligent, he also has moments when he is less so, which I find a lot more realistic than books that have MCs that are forever brave and never get scared. I loved, LOVED, Alex’s stories, they were so good and they were sooooooo creepy…
Natacha: Natacha is the witch who captures Alex and keeps him locked in the apartment. She is not your usual witch, but I really enjoyed the way the author had written her character. I didn’t like her, but there were times when she appeared more human which was also very interesting because we got an insight into her personality and feelings. I never imagined that ending, and I think J. A. White pulled it off so well!
Yasmin: Yasmin is another character in this book that we see a little later on. At first, I didn’t know what to think of her and I’m not sure I really liked her, but as the story went on, she grew on me and I actually ended up loving her. I particularly liked her relationship with Alex and seeing her open up to him about her life before she was held prisoner and her aspirations for the future.
Lenore: I don’t want to say too much about this character in case I give anything away, but again, another one I wasn’t sure what to think of at the start. But, she is very, very interesting and that’s all I can say! I did like her a lot eventually though.
Friendship: Just like in all great middle-grade books, in Nightbooks, a great friendship appears and I loved reading every moment of it. I don’t really like the family theme in books (and I have no idea why), but I do love reading about friendship. I thought that Yasmin and Alex made a great duo, along with someone else… (I can’t say who) and it was just lovely to see their friendship bloom because I think they hadn’t ever had a real friend before getting stuck in the apartment.
Scary stories: I am a little bit of a wimp, but I’m getting better and not as scared, and I have been reading more dark and spooky stories lately, which I have been loving. I have to say, the stories that Alex writes and those he reads to Natacha are all so good and some were very scary once you understood their meaning. I also loved that you could tell there was a difference between the actual book and the scary stories written by Alex. There was a clear distinction between the author’s voice and prose, and Alex’s, which I found great, and very cleverly done.
Loneliness: I think the main theme in this book is loneliness and you only really see the implications of this at the end. I feel like so many middle-grade books have a lot to say about things that can affect everyone in their daily lives, and this is one of those instances.
A great atmosphere and spine-tingling story: If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you’ll know by now that one of my FAVOURITE things in books is the atmosphere. Nightbooks had oodles and oodles of atmosphere and it was great. There were times when I felt a shiver (TW: insects) and the stories were so spooky. I think this book was done in a way that it’s not necessarily scary for children/teens just getting into reading or this genre, but it is a great place to start if they want to read horror or darker books.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, this was a fantastic middle-grade fantasy/horror that I loved every minute of it. We had so much fun discussing this together and I think it was a great pick.
I loved the writing style and pace which I found flowed really well and had such a great atmosphere. I also loved the distinction between the story and the tales written by Alex in his Nightbooks.
I gave this book 4.5 stars (full ASPECTS rating below) and I adored it. I loved the themes that were present in the book as well as just how great the author pulled off this story. That ending was a little mindboggling, but I loved how it ended, and just everything that Yasmin and Alex accomplished. I thought that Alex also came a really long way during the story, and I loved seeing him grow and create a friendship with Yasmin. Also, loved Lenore as a character. I am definitely going to have to pick up more books by this author.
If you love spooky books with realistic and believable characters that develop throughout the book, friendship, a darker atmosphere, a great writing style and a very unique plot, then this is the book for you. I highly recommend it.
Atmosphere – 6.5
Start – 6.5
Pacing – 7
Ending – 8
Characters – 7.5
Theme – 7
Style – 8.5
Total = 51
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post and will pick up this book.
See you soon stay safe,