Bethany's Reviews > The Midnights

The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana
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really liked it

The Midnights is a moving story about family, grief, music, and finding yourself. Set in Southern Califonia, there is a strong sense of place. The Los Angeles area is captured beautifully, and not as a glitzy Hollywood stereotype, but rather in a richly nuanced way that could only come from someone who has lived there. Nature is almost personified at times in the Santa Ana winds, earthquakes, and wildfires. As someone who lived for many years in Southern California, I really loved that aspect of it. But if you are less enthralled with that than I am, don't worry! There is much more to like here!

Susannah Hayes is the daughter of a washed out musician who loves the craft of song-writing and imparts that love to his daughter. It's clear that he struggles with some kind of mental illness, but in Susie's eyes he can do no wrong and she is desperate to connect with her dad through music. When he dies in a car crash, her life changes completely and everything she thought she knew is turned on its head. A senior in highschool, she is thrust into a new school and new home while trying to cope with grief and unanswered questions about her father's past.

I think this book does a really great job of exploring the complexities of family relationships and how teenagers often don't know their parents as well as they think they do. Susannah loves her father, but she comes to understand that he was also flawed and deeply damaged. Meanwhile, she eventually develops a new understanding of her mother that brings them closer together. But along the way, she makes some less than ideal life choices in terms of drugs, alcohol, and boys.

It's interesting to see Susannah begin to mirror her father in a number of ways when she joins a fairly damaged, relationally unhealthy, but musically talented friend group. Throughout the book we do see her process her grief and grow as a person, but things definitely get rough before they get better. In the midst of her own pain, she sometimes ends up hurting others.

Be aware that there are instances of teen drug and alcohol use, sex while intoxicated (unclear whether any protection is involved), and sneaking out. I was kind of uncomfortable with the fact that alcohol was always a pre-cursor to sex and nothing about that was really addressed. In terms of drug and alcohol use, it seemed like a realistic path of experimentation that made sense for the story, but it was balanced by examples of negative outcomes when left unchecked in the long-term. I particularly mention this because the audience for the book is primarily teenagers.

I also want to note that while I am not a musician, there is a lot of focus on music and musical craft. Parts of this brought me back to my own teen years, but I think this might really resonate with musicians. Overall, I thought this was a very strong debut novel that is sometimes dark, but ultimately hopeful. Susannah is not always likeable, but she is certainly relatable and she is willing to recognize her own mistakes and try to change. If the premise interests you, I definitely recommend it!
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Reading Progress

February 21, 2018 – Shelved
February 21, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
March 10, 2018 – Started Reading
March 11, 2018 –
page 198
47.6% (Kindle Edition)
March 12, 2018 – Finished Reading

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