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Five Midnights #1

Five Midnights

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Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they'll have to step into the shadows to see what's lurking there—murderer, or monster?

304 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 4, 2019

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About the author

Ann Dávila Cardinal

8 books213 followers
Ann is a Nuyorican, Vermont-based novelist with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). She comes from a long line of Puerto Rican writers, including father and son poets Virgilio and José Antonio Dávila, and her cousin, award-winning fiction writer Tere Dávila.

Ann’s first solo novel, a young adult horror novel titled Five Midnights, was released by Tor Teen on June 4, 2019. Five Midnights won the 2020 International Latino Book Award in the category of Best Young Adult Fantasy & Adventure, an AudioFile’s Earphones Award for the audiobook, and was finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. The story continues in Category Five, also from Tor Teen, released on June 2, 2020. Category Five is a 2021 nominee for the same International Latino Book Award category. Her latest young adult horror novel, Breakup From Hell, was released by HarperCollins on January 3, 2023.

Her first adult novel, the Puerto Rican magical realist mystery The Storyteller’s Death, was released from Sourcebooks Landmark on October 4, 2022. Her second adult novel, We Need No Wings, is scheduled for release in October 2024.

Her stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology from HarperCollins (2022), Lockdown: Stories of Crime, Terror, and Hope During a Pandemic from Polis Books (2020) and the Latine young adult collection Our Shadows Have Claws from Workman Publishing (9/6/22),

Ann lives in Vermont with her husband in a lovely little house with a massively creepy basement.

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5 stars
187 (15%)
4 stars
397 (33%)
3 stars
417 (35%)
2 stars
139 (11%)
1 star
45 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 269 reviews
Profile Image for Tammie.
219 reviews57 followers
March 29, 2019
Five Midnights, a YA horror book, was a solid 4 stars. The book centers around main character Lupe, a teenager from Vermont that travels to Puerto Rico to visit family-including her police chief uncle. Lupe arrives just as her uncle is called to a grisly murder scene-the first of many to occur. Lupe and her new friend Javier, set out to find out who or what is causing these murders.
Five Midnights was an enjoyable read and I liked the supernatural/ urban legend elements that were included in this book. Highly recommend to fans of horror, mystery and YA books. Thank you NetGalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,206 reviews3,218 followers
December 13, 2021
3.5 Stars
Diverse horror? Yes please!

As someone constantly seeking out diverse stories in the horror genre, I was ecstatic to learn about Five Midnights. Written by a Puerto Rican female author, this is an excellent example of #ownvoices fiction. Through the narrative, I learned so much about a country that I previously knew little about. I felt immersed in the culture as the author sprinkled cultural elements of, language and religion throughout the pages. I especially loved the inclusion of the local monster mythology

While this is marketed as young adult fiction, this novel could easily be enjoyed by an older audience. The main characters are teenagers, but otherwise the story lacks the usual markers of the age category. There was some minor romance, but it came across as secondary to the main plot.

I would recommend this one to anyone seeking a diverse or simply just a different horror story.

I received a digital uncorrected copy from the publisher TorTeen via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,796 reviews485 followers
June 9, 2019
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I was pretty impressed with this novel! I thought that this book sounded interesting when I saw it on a blog a few months ago so I was really excited when I got my hands on an early copy. Once I started reading, I knew that I was in for a treat because I was hooked right away. I thought that this book was a really entertained read.

I am ashamed to say that I haven't read too many books set in Puerto Rico so I really liked the fact that this book not only was set there but was based on folklore from the island. I really felt like the setting played a big part in the story and was really well done. Puerto Rico really came alive in this book. Everything from the relationships between the characters, the crime, and general attitudes were vividly described.

This story is told from multiple points of view. Some points of view are used very rarely while others carry the bulk of the story. I thought that each point of view was distinctive and I really grew to like the main characters. Lupe was a really interesting character. I liked the fact that she had Puerto Rican roots but was really more of an outsider. It was nice seeing things from her perspective. Javier's character was equally important. He was really in the center of the story and I liked that he had worked so hard to make his life better. They worked really well together as a team.

I thought that the mystery in this story was really well done. I loved the fact that there was a bit of horror and some supernatural elements worked into the story. I wasn't exactly sure what was causing everything and enjoyed watching Lupe and Javier work to figure it out. There were some pretty exciting moments in the story and quite a few surprises. I found this to be quite the page-turner.

I would recommend this book to others. I thought that this book was really well written with a fantastic premise and wonderful characters. I will definitely be looking out for future books written by this talented author.

I received a review copy of this book from Tor Teen.

Initial Thoughts
I really liked this one! I was hooked by this story from the very start. I loved the horror and supernatural aspects of the story. The fact that this book includes cultural folklore and really does a great job with the Puerto Rican setting. I liked the characters and thought that the mystery was really well done. So glad I read this one!
Profile Image for Wilmarie.
144 reviews39 followers
August 19, 2019
Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal was so disappointing it hurts. When we finally have a book with Puerto Rican main characters, by a Puerto Rican author, set in Puerto Rico it turns out to be, well, not good. The more I think about it, the more I hate this book.

Independentista aren’t hate-filled people that can’t stand gringos.
Yes, many independentista blame gringos for the gentrification that’s going on but I studied in a university where most people were independentista and I can tell you that they don’t hate gringos. They just believe in the separation of Puerto Rico from the United States of America aka the independence of Puerto Rico. Actually, a lot of their leaders did their postgraduate studies in the mainland.

That’s not how we Puerto Rican born, raised and currently living in Puerto Rico are.
That’s not how we are, that’s not how we act, we (or most Puerto Ricans) aren’t religious enough to be doing the sign of the cross every five minutes, and that’s not the Puerto Rican version of Spanglish.

And now to the ones that truly, truly pissed me off.

3) We don’t hate mixed (half gringos half Puerto Rican) Puerto Ricans

There’s a scene on this book where a character makes hate-filled comments aimed at Lupe because she’s half white. This character made it very clear that he believed that Puerto Ricans and gringos shouldn’t mix. I’m pretty sure that if he could, he would make it illegal.

For the entire post please check out the post on my blog.
Profile Image for Rereader.
1,325 reviews98 followers
August 5, 2019
Dropped at 35 pages.

Wow, I just keep striking out on YA books lately, all thanks to the FUCKING OBNOXIOUS CHARACTERS. Lupe, HOLY FUCK, Lupe is INSUFFERABLE. She's sixteen years old but thinks she can act like a twenty-something because "she's traveling to Puerto Rico alone". Yes, she traveled there alone, but she's not STAYING by herself. And traveling somewhere by yourself doesn't make you an adult, it just makes the grown-ups in her life irresponsible. That last bit is hilarious because Lupe LOVES to take shots at her alcoholic father, but LIES to a police officer so that she can visit a crime scene, then while at the crime scene, LEAVES HER UNCLE AND THE OTHER OFFICERS because "she has a lead" and follows some strange woman IN A CROWDED SLUM FILLED WITH GANGS AND DRUG DEALERS. Yeah, I guess the apple didn't fall very far from the irresponsible tree.

But that's not the worst of it. What made me officially drop this book is that Lupe tries to BARGE INTO A CHURCH AFTER A FUNERAL, back-talks the DEAD KID'S SISTER when the sister refuses her entry, and when her uncle asks what's going on and tries to intervene, SHE PUTS UP A HAND TO STOP HIM AND SAYS, "I'LL HANDLE THIS". Oh, and on top of that, when Javier intervenes to protect her from Marisol, she tells him TWICE "I don't need you to fight my battles for me". BITCH, YOU ARE SIXTEEN YEARS OLD, SIT THE FUCK DOWN. I am SO FUCKING DONE with "strong female characters" that are effectively assholes. Guess what, guys? Writing a female character that lies to get what she wants, doesn't respect authority, and gets pissed when someone tries to help/save her DOES NOT MAKE THEM STRONG. Yes, "strength" can be fairly subjective, but Lupe is not a "strong female character," she's a spoiled little brat who's bored of her life in Vermont and is looking for excitement in Puerto Rico. Yeah, looking for excitement by disrespecting authority and pushing herself into any situation because she feels like it. A literal quote in the scene at the church:

"Look, this is a public place and I have a right to go into any church I damn well please."

WOW, REALLY?! They just finished a funeral for this poor kid and you feel its your RIGHT to go there?! And don't tell me she doesn't know that's the church where they held the funeral, why else would she have chosen this specific church? I don't care if you're religious or not, this was so fucking disrespectful.

I hate dropping this book because I love horror and this sounded really interesting, but Lupe is a fucking obnoxious piece of shit and I am not willing tolerate her shitty personality for the rest of this book. And no, I don't care if she gets better throughout the book, she's insufferable now and that's all that matters. If anybody else wants to read this, be my guest, but I'm not torturing myself trying to finish this.
Profile Image for Katie Gallagher.
Author 5 books217 followers
May 16, 2019
Read this review and others on my blog!

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??
Profile Image for Kelsea Yu.
Author 8 books135 followers
June 4, 2019
Out TODAY from Tor Teen!

The blurb for Five Midnights caught my attention immediately. YA horror set in Puerto Rico? Myths and legends coming to life? Hells yeah!

What I was expecting: this will be really cool and different and probably diverse, since it’s a Tor Teen title.

What I was NOT expecting: a story this rich, powerful, and full of depth! Darkly beautiful descriptions. A thought-provoking story packed full of themes, written in a way that’s smart but not didactic. A setting that leaps from the page. Distinct, relatable characters that face vastly different, yet very-realistic feeling struggles.

In short, I was unprepared for the sheer brilliance of this story. Five Midnights isn’t a trick. It includes everything you’d expect from YA horror. It’s creepy, gritty and atmospheric. There are teenagers struggling to find their place in the world. There are overprotective parents. There’s a light romance element.

It’s just that the story also contains SO. MUCH. MORE. Drugs, drug culture, and addiction. The downward spiral of impoverished neighborhoods and the effects on kids who grow up in them. Morality and personal responsibility. Loss. What it’s like to approach a culture from the outside. A taste of Puerto Rico - and really, I could almost taste it through all of the delicious food descriptions!

The story isn’t particularly gory. The horror lies in so much more than the legend of El Cuco (though El Cuco is pretty shudder-worthy too). It’s in the realization of what each kid in the story has gone through. What it’s like for the mothers in the neighborhood, watching and desperately trying to keep their kids away from the temptation of drugs and drug money. It’s in the terrible understanding of what happens when kids are forced to grow up too soon.

I loved this story and highly, highly recommend it! Seriously, ready for more Ann Dávila Cardinal books ASAP - sign me up for anything she writes!

Thank you to Tor Teen and Netgalley for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Wilmarie .
121 reviews28 followers
March 26, 2020
This is and probably will forever be my most hated book.
Puerto Ricans aren't racist toward white people.
The real Puerto Rico is not the murder, gang, and drug-filled part of Puerto Rico.
Profile Image for Lucy.
106 reviews43 followers
Want to read
January 27, 2018
"A twist on a Caribbean boogeyman myth set in contemporary Puerto Rico..."

Say no more.
Profile Image for Alicia (A Kernel of Nonsense).
532 reviews101 followers
May 26, 2019
**Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review.**

What I Liked:

The concept – I love the concept for this one. Cultural myths coming to life in a modern setting and two teens desperate to solve the mystery with a body count that continues to grow.

Javier – I love reading about a teen character who didn’t always make the best decisions, but who is doing their best. Javi has been clean for two years, but he still struggled with his drug addiction on a daily basis.

A too curious for her own good MC – I’m fondly referring to Lupe as the Latina Nancy Drew. She is driven by her insatiable curiosity and doesn’t easily back down. When there is a mystery to solve, she is going to do whatever it takes to solve it.

Family – Lupe doesn’t have a lot of good adult role models in her life, so her relationship with her uncle is so important. I loved scenes between these two and loved that so much of Lupe’s drive to solve mysteries was nurtured over the years by her uncle.

Puerto Rican myths – I need more horror books in my life that explore more Latinx myths. I loved the monster in this one, the concept of retribution, and that the past can sometimes come back to haunt you.

What I Didn't Like:

Lupe – As much as I enjoyed Lupe’s stubbornness, I found her need to argue about everything grating. Any time someone tried to help her or maybe got in her face, Lupe was ready for a fight and/or argument. I was never sure if the author meant for this to be an example of a teen sorting out who she is in the world or if Lupe’s behavior was meant to somehow “prove” what a feminist she was. If the latter, the text completely missed the mark. While I could appreciate how much Lupe longed to feel validated as Puerto Rican, she never fully acknowledges her privilege as white-passing and expected everyone to immediately make her feel accepted. This made me root against her more than anything else.

More banter – I love banter and the synopsis promised banter. What I got was a couple of teens arguing maybe once and one making some poor decisions because she had to prove she was tough.

Marisol – I had high hopes when this character showed up. I pictured Lupe and Marisol forging an important friendship, but this character was so mistreated. We aren’t supposed to like her, but she made a lot of sense and most of the characters were so dismissive of her. Her interactions with Lupe especially bothered me because all they seemed to do was tear each other down.

Final Verdict:
Ann Dávila Cardinal’s Five Mightnights is refreshing when it comes to its monster, but suffers from overplayed tropes like girl-on-girl hate and a protagonist that mistakes combativeness with strength.
Profile Image for Rayne.
862 reviews288 followers
May 20, 2020
- every single young puerto rican guy of any importance to the story was a drug addict and/or a gang member.
- all the fathers were absentee and/or drunks, abusive or cheaters.
- the only puerto rican girl of any importance to the story was impulsive, explosive, violent and called crazy by everyone.
- the island was described as a depressing, crumbling hole of economic and cultural disrepair.
- the very first spanish words in the novel were incorrect.
- every puerto rican character was extremely superstitious and religious. the only haitian character happened to know a lot about voodoo, so make of that what you will.
- most of the puerto rican characters were disgustingly racist, especially against the half-white, half-puerto rican protagonist. just because some puerto ricans recognize and reject our state as an american colony it does not make us hateful against whites and/or americans. you will never find a freaking professor in the most important university on the island and the caribbean openly telling a girl that her blood is sullied because her mom is white. you won't see us turning around to stare and whisper about a pale-skinned person on the street because 1) pale people are ridiculously common here (my own paternal grandma is pale-skinned, white-blonde and pale-blue eyed) and 2) it's not weird in the slightest to see white tourists in Old San Juan.

moreover, the characters were insufferable, especially the mc, the plot near nonsensical and the pace all over the place.
Profile Image for exorcismemily.
1,265 reviews335 followers
October 11, 2019
"But he'd better andar con cuidado, be careful, or he'll come for him, too. He'll come for retribuciòn."


Five Midnights is Ann Davila Cardinal's debut YA novel, and I enjoyed reading it! This book is Cardinal's take on the legend of El Cuco (as he is known in Puerto Rico - since Texas is closer to Mexico, I've heard of him as El Cucuy, and learned that the name has differences in different areas).

I was intrigued by Lupe and Marisol, and the path of their relationship. I wish more time would have been spent on them instead of Lupe and Javier. I know, I always get tripped up on this in YA books.

I wish there would have been more horror. I felt like the potentially spooky scenes were pretty spread out, and I was interested in seeing more creepiness from the story.

I loved the setting, and this is the first time I've read a horror story set in Puerto Rico. I hope to see more horror stories in different environments.

Although I was a little let down by some of the aspects mentioned above, I liked Five Midnights, and I'll definitely be checking out the sequel once it's out.
Profile Image for Sandra.
294 reviews627 followers
June 12, 2019
Check out my full video review: https://youtu.be/SGgtTo6vVyE

Five Midnights is a horror novel set on Puerto Rico, where in a group of five childhood friends, some of them has started getting killed. We follow Javier (one of the five friends) and Lupe, who travels to Puerto Rico every summer to visit her uncle and aunt. They team up trying to figure out what that is happening.

While this is pitched as a horror novel, not once in the book did I feel scared or creeped out. The plot was too predictable for me, where it was never a question “if” something would happen, but “when”. It was therefore very boring and not that entertaining. The book also dives into themes like drug and gang activity, but not as deep as I would want. I did however like the setting and the questions Lupe brings forward about identity. 2/5 stars.
Profile Image for Emily Kestrel.
1,110 reviews64 followers
January 4, 2020
Young adult horror novel set in Puerto Rico about the boogeyman (El Cuco).

I found this to be a solidly entertaining book, although I would have liked more horror elements (I think there was only one scene that I found a bit creepy; otherwise, El Cuco seemed more silly than anything else). I really liked the descriptions of Puerto Rico; I've never been there, but it's on my wish-list of places to visit and the author did a good job with the setting. I also appreciated the deft way she handled serious themes in the story -- characters struggling with drug addiction, family problems, finding their identity.

My biggest dislike about the book was the character of Lupe, who is from Vermont and visits her family in Puerto Rico every summer. Lupe had the biggest chip on her shoulder, argued with everyone, and was disrespectful to her aunt and uncle. I would have been more sympathetic towards her if the author had depicted her as lashing out due to her own problems, but I got the impression we were supposed to admire her for being "spunky." People like that are so exhausting to be around; I don't need them popping up in my fun reading, too.

Despite Lupe's abrasive personality, I would definitely recommend this book for people looking for something a bit different in YA novels.
Profile Image for Mary ♥.
450 reviews105 followers
March 31, 2021
3.8/5 stars

TW: addiction (very interesting rep!), drug abuse, gang violence, death, some gore, racism, toxic family members

When I first learned of Five Midnights, I was very excited to read it during Halloween and follow another page-turing mystery by a Latine author, one ya this time. Unfortunately, a reading slump hit me during November, and I finished it in almost a month. However, it was still quite an enjoyable. I believe I would have enjoyed it more if I read it when I was younger, truth be told, because the writing was not my favourite thing, but it was still spooky and interesting.

This book follows a different cast of characters who have their lives all tangled in the murders of a mysterious presence who might or might not be El Cuco, and who might or might not be threatening to tear a community apart. But more than this, it is the story of a mixed race girl who loves adventure, stands up for herself and faces everything with kindness and bravery. There are many interesting ideas in this book, about forgiveness, addiction, retribution, taking back your life and making up for past mistakes. There are also many instances of folklore being masterfully woven into the plot, which were handled perfectly by the author, in my opinion, because even when the mystery was uncovered, there was a lot of turmoil and questions to be answered.

I loved the addiction rep in this. I loved that it showed how difficult it is to step back from its harmful embrance, how it is an all-going fight, mixed with guilt and pain and darkness. I believe the author handled it really well, and the story gave a voice to characters who went through this. I also really appreciated the fact that romantic love did not cure these characters but just gave them another reason to fight, and so did family and friendship. Speaking of the romance, I did not really like it, because I found it very insta-lovey and kind of useless for the continuation of the story, but I was still happy for the chatacters getting together, because they did have chemistry.

What I probably loved the most in this was the family relationships, and the way strong bonds affected the main character's actions. I was pleasantly surprised by the way affection was shown in this novel, and it warmed my heart multiple times.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this for readers of ΥΑ mysteries and thrillers who want to read something that mixes mythology and reality and plays along the lines of human vs monster hororr ♥ Until the next review, please stay safe and strong ♥ You all are wonderful ♥

~Mary ♥
Profile Image for Jessica {Litnoob}.
1,194 reviews88 followers
October 14, 2019
This books was one hell of a journey and I wanna y’all about all I liked and the couple things I disliked about it. The dislike list is small so I’ll start there.

1. Their biggest stars stage name was Papi Gringo, what in the colorism is that?
2. Lupe confuses feminism with being rude because she doesn’t like taking help from people. Instead of being able to say thank you she barks “I can do it, feminism” which is counter to feminism entirely. (Nobody called her on it in the text and it bothered me.)
3. The Spanglish didn’t feel organic to me. In places you can tell it’s used not as an organic thing but as a way to translate the spanish being used and I know why that’s needed for an English speaking audience but it still didn’t fluidly.

Now what I loved??

1. Lupe and her struggle with being accepted as Puerto Rican spoke you my very soul. It was such an important conversation especially for those of us who’s family hails from PR but are born in the states.
2. The whole mythology and use of El Cuco was perfection. It took my childhood and made it something more, bigger and other to my adult mind.
3. The real conversation about substance abuses and the way they effect friends and family.
4. The conversation about gentrification of the island and how that effects natives and well as it’s relationship as a colony and the conversation about independence vs statehood. (Super damn important.)
5. The food!!!! I was so damn hungry by the end of it omg. Every mention of food made my hungry.
6. The use of reggaeton as a legitimate music genre which is isn’t always given the credit it deserves.
7. The focus on real PR vs tourist PR is a valid thing and I was happy for the mentions of that. Appreciation for the second should erase the first and the people who live there.

All in all I would recommend to any and everyone.
Profile Image for Christy.
1,505 reviews261 followers
September 30, 2019
This would have been a 5 star read for me except for the language around substance use disorders. In a time when we are working to destigmatize the work, it's important we use people centered language and also avoid inappropriate labels (like "clean").
Profile Image for vic.
308 reviews
May 10, 2020
actual rating: 1.5/5

phew chiLE
Profile Image for Xiomy's Book Tales.
343 reviews26 followers
October 26, 2019
Five Midnights was a novel I was so excited for knowing that it took place on my home island of Puerto Rico and that the premise surrounded the folklore of El Cuco (the Puerto Rican bogeyman).
I can say that I enjoyed the use of our traditional food, the description of certain places in San Juan, and the take on El Cuco were all fascinating portrayals, but that is as far as it goes.

There were many and one issues that I had with Five Midnights and I speak from experience knowing that I currently reside in the Enchanted Island know as Puerto Rico.

First, I do want to make clear that I know I’m not the intended audience for this YA novel and take my review with a grain of salt, but there are many factors that contributed in not enjoying this book to the fullest. Also, many of the issues I had with Five Midnights are spoilers so tread carefully when reading this entire review.

An issue I had that won’t include spoilers is my resentment for Americanizing the island of Puerto Rico. The misconception of the thought that Puerto Rico is an English-speaking community or in the case of Five Midnights a Spanglish-speaking community is just mindboggling. The island I live in Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking community with minor people who do speak English; but stating that we are an English-speaking community is just wrong on so many levels. This is stated as being own voices and the only thing that comes to mind is that the author has only ever visited San Juan, PR. Maybe even Rio Piedras but not much was stated from there that I can recall.

Trust me I do see the nostalgic factor that many Puerto Ricans who currently don’t reside on the island and can only experience it through pictures or videos might feel that this book feels homie to them. But for me personally, Five Midnights just rubbed me the wrong way when an author tries to depict the island I live-in in an incorrect manner. At times the Spanish in the story felt like it was woven in as an afterthought.

Another situation I can’t get out of my mind is that Lupe the MC kept on stating that she wished she looked Puerto Rican. Um, is there a certain way that Puerto Ricans should look like? As islanders we come in all skin types from light to golden to a deep dark brown skin color, is there something I’m missing here? While I’m on that depiction why is it that when the MC ate Puerto Rican soul food, she was then deemed Puerto Rican? Like I know Puerto Ricans that don’t eat “arroz con habichuelas” (rice and beans a staple in our meal) or other traditional food and are still known as Puerto Ricans.

While on the topic of Lupe Dávila, she is presented as a 16yo feminist who is going to visit her family in Puerto Rico, a place she visits I think it was once a year if I’m not mistaking. I for one did not enjoy her representation of what a feminist is supposed to be like as a 16yo. Lupe was rude, lied to get her way, spoke down on ppl, and acted downright childish. If this is the portrayal of what the author thinks a feminist should be, then I don’t think I would ever want to read another of her books. Being a feminist is about being on equal terms, about voicing your opinions in a respectful manner, about showing that you are independent but also accepting aid when it is provided instead of brushing ppl off in an impolite manner. If you want ppl to visualize you as strong, independent person that you can handle your own, just state hey no worries I got this or thanks uncle but I can put my luggage in the trunk.

You might be asking yourself, is she nitpicking? I might be. But I find being rude as a negative trait and not one that should be thrown around like it’s confetti and excusing it as a quality of a feminist and everyone should accept that conduct. Plus, it was so frustrating to hear Lupe’s defense as ‘Hasn’t anyone ever seen a feminist?’ constantly sprinkled throughout the book.

Another instance that just baffled me was that nearly everyone that Lupe encountered either didn’t appreciate Americans or just downright despised them. I’m here like WTF! I know that everyone’s situations are different, but I came to PR as an American with P. Rican parents and never once did I feel hated or discriminated on. Marisol, the professor (was extremely mean) and some parents depicted a negative take on having an American on the island.

If you told me this was the 1900s to 1950s then yeah, I might have believed you because of the history that the US has had in PR. Heck the connotation of gringo comes from “Green Go” which is the uniform of the Army and learning those words eventually over time turned into gringo. But this does take place in modern day Puerto Rico which is why I’m so troubled by it and of course there are exceptions. On another afterthought why did Puerto Ricans do the cross sign every few seconds something evil was mentioned? Many of us are religious but tossing the cross sign every instance something evil is stated was just too much.

Another perspective was Javier Utierre and while I did enjoy the portrayal of a struggling teenager in El Barrio with the economical shift currently happening in our island, I never gained a connection with him. I must praise Javier’s need to be better and not become another follower in a gang but a leader in his own right was a great representation.

As a character driven reader, I need to feel a connection with any of the characters unfortunately, I never felt a single one. Personally, the characters felt two-dimensional and the plot was just lackluster for me.

(I heard the audio book at 2.5x speed.)
Profile Image for Jen.
620 reviews266 followers
June 30, 2019
The premise of Five Midnights is set around the legend of El Cuco. Going into Five Midnights I expected it to be heavier on the horror elements. I think this book will appeal most to those who enjoy mystery/thrillers with a supernatural element.

I’m new to the legend of El Cuco, but I enjoyed what Ann Dávila Cardinal did with the legend. I got a real sense that she made it her own.

I loved the Puerto Rico setting and the way Cardinal wove in the culture and a lot of (very accessible) Spanish language throughout the story.

The ending of Five Midnights had a slower mystery oriented unveiling of what was occurring than a punchier horror climax. This will work well for YA readers who are moving into darker books.

Review copy provided by publisher
Profile Image for Veronica.
697 reviews14 followers
September 5, 2019
I was intrigued by this YA horror novel because it seemed original and unusual to me. Let's just say I was not disappointed. The novel takes place in Puerto Rico and was written by a Puerto Rican female author.
Five friends are being killed one by one and it is up to Javier Utierre who is one of the five, and Lupe Dávila who is the niece of the police chief investigating the murders to work together to solve the murders before Javier becomes one of the victims.
Ann Davila Cardinal utilizes the legend of El Cuco and skillfully interweaves the culture of Puerto Rico in the narrative. This is the first book I have ever read that takes place in Puerto Rico and the author put so much marvelous detail that it came to life for me especially the food.
The book is marketed as horror but I did not find it frightening but more of a very developed exploration of human nature, society, and myths. It did not detract from the novel at all but actually made it a more interesting read for me. It is a YA horror novel and it is written exactly the way it should be. It is a wonderful introduction to the horror genre for YA, and also rocks in the sense that the author is not only female but from Puerto Rico. All in all, I really enjoyed the writing and will be looking for more books by this author.
Profile Image for Jamie Canaves.
862 reviews271 followers
June 22, 2019
This is a horror novel mixed with a mystery novel which is a great way for horror fans to dip their feet into the mystery genre and vice versa. Also, it’s a great read! Lupe Dávila is visiting Puerto Rico from Vermont for the summer to spend time with her family but it’s anything but a vacation considering her tío is overseeing a murder case that links the victims to their family… I loved the characters and how their struggles unfold and unite them, the tour of Puerto Rico and its cuisine (yum!), and how El Cuco is brought to life. (TW addiction)

From What's Up In YA: https://link.bookriot.com/view/56a820...
Profile Image for Samantha.
161 reviews
October 8, 2019
This cover? Amazing. The idea? (Caribbean boogeymen!) Even better.

The execution? Nah.

I really disliked a lot of the characters and overall this was more of a predictable mystery novel than a urban fantasy horror story. And the writing style was just hard to read.

*sigh of disappointment*
Profile Image for Michelle.
241 reviews58 followers
February 24, 2021
Holy hell that was a good book. The audiobook narrator is superb. I loved the struggles with ethnic identity. Abandonment issues. The powers of belief and the interesting questions of at what age are you held fully responsible for your own actions. Does your environment or circumstances play into that if so how much?
Author 1 book56 followers
January 14, 2019
I couldn't put it down! It's fast, fun, scary, with some achingly lovely scenes, too.
Profile Image for Time Ferrell.
207 reviews35 followers
August 30, 2019
Ok story. I don't like endings that wrap up in the last five pages.....
Profile Image for Horror DNA.
1,134 reviews98 followers
September 23, 2020
Take everything you think you know about the themes and levels of darkness and brutality you can find in a YA novel. Okay, now throw all of it away. We’re going to talk about Ann Dávila Cardinal’s Five Midnights, and whatever you think you know about YA horror doesn’t apply here.

You can read Gabino's full review at Horror DNA by clicking here.
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