I recently finished reading this book, and really enjoyed it! My friend recommended it to me and let me borrow his copy. I wasn’t sure at first if I would like this book, but I have to say, it grew on me!
From the creators of the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves…no matter where we live.
Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.
Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.
Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.
Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “King City”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.
One thing you need to know before you dive into this book is that it is bizarre. Like, really bizarre. There is a waitress in here who is part tree and serves people the fruit that grows on her tree limbs. That’s how bizarre it is. At first, I was really having trouble not stopping and wondering “How does that work? Is that physically possible? Where in the world does this book take place?” After a couple of chapters, though, I just sort of rolled with the weirdness.
You’ll find more than just bizarre happenings in this book, however. There’s also a lot about family dynamics between a mother and her son, and how they deal with his desire to meet his estranged father. You’ll also see a young woman who is stuck in the past trying to figure out who she is in the present. This book can and should be read for more than the entertainment value its bizarreness provides. You just have to dig beneath the weirdness to find the meaningful things. Once I realized that, I think I enjoyed the book a lot more.
I liked the second half of the book more than the first half. The beginning of this book moves at a slower pace because the author spends a lot of time introducing characters and easing you into the weirdness that is the town of Night Vale. Once Jackie and Diane started conversing, the pace seemed to pick up. There was also a lot more happening in the second half of the book, which is partly why I enjoyed it more than the first half.
The writing had quite a few quirks that I don’t see very often, such as breaking the fourth wall and repeating the same sentence in different ways. I liked how out of the box the writing style was, but it did make it difficult to understand what the author was saying in places. Every once in a while, there would be a sentence that I would have to reread and think about for a bit before I was able to understand the meaning completely. Here’s an example: “She understood the world and her place in it. She understood nothing. The world and her place in it were nothing and she understood that (Pg. 5).” See what I mean?
One thing that bothered me is how much this book seems to bash libraries and book lovers. The library is made out to be a bad place due to the fact that the librarians are monsters who will try to kill you if you dare to set foot in the library. Also, on page 224, there’s a paragraph that says: “The reading area was a beautifully crafted trap set by the librarians, but it was too perfect. Even the dumbest book lover – and anyone who would regularly choose to come in contact with books could not be a bright bulb, Jackie thought – wouldn’t fall for this.” It just seems so anti-library/anti-books. Maybe it’s supposed to be ironic or funny or something, but I didn’t care for it.
I really like how the book ended! It gives you the feeling that while Jackie and Diane’s stories are complete, the story of Night Vale and its other residents is far from over. I also liked how the lens of the reader zoomed out from Lucinda’s back yard all the way into outer space. I thought that was a very creative way to end the story.
Despite how bizarre Welcome to Night Vale was, I really enjoyed it! Every time I set it down, I felt the pull to pick it up and keep reading. I think the weirdness that is the town of Night Vale really impelled me to keep reading time and time again. I give this book a very high three stars.
Quotes I liked:
“Imagine a fifteen-year-old boy.
Nope that was not right at all. Try again.
– Pg. 14
“Mostly we don’t get destroyed,” John said. “Mostly we destroy ourselves.”
– Pg. 155
“Josh is my half-brother.”
“I think you’ll find, dear, that relationships like that don’t come in halves. He’s not at all your brother now, but if you wanted I suppose he could be entirely your brother. It would depend on how you related to him.”
– Pg. 303