Title: Midnight at the Electric
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Science Fiction
Release Date: June 13th 2017 from HarperTeen
Format: Library e-book
Pages: 259 (US Kindle edition)
Goodreads Synopsis: Kansas, 2065 Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before Launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.
Oklahoma, 1934 Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called The Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire — and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life — Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.
England, 1919 In the recovery following World War One, Lenore tries to come to terms with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?
While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined in ways both heartbreaking and hopeful. In beloved author Jodi Lynn Anderson’s signature haunting, lyrical prose, human connections spark spellbindingly to life, and a bright light shines on the small but crucial moments that determine one’s fate.
After seeing this book mentioned in a Booktube reading wrap up a while ago, I suddenly remembered it and really wanted to read it. I listened to this last year or so, but put it down after the audio book didn’t help to keep my interest. But I decided to get it from my library’s app and got a Kindle copy and started not long after. I’m SO silly for sitting on this book for so long! This book, while short, really packed a punch and this is definitely one of my favorite books this year. Here are five reasons to read this gem!
1. Really cool layout
This book has 3 different timelines: 2065 with Adri, 1934 with Catherine and 1919 with Lenore. These timelines show three different girls at crucial times in their lives and we see what kind of decisions they have to make. I really think this was a cool idea to not have a single timeline be in modern day! I think that gave the story much power by adding a light sci-fi futuristic one and two historical. That really shows choices impact you across time. Each of the three timelines also felt like their own specific story. Catherine lives during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression era, while Lenore is witnessing the end of WWI and feels some of the war’s consequences. Then you have Adri, whose going to Mars in the future. She doesn’t have much and never has for a long time, having lost her parents at a young age and growing up in a group home. But when the crew helping her prepare for Mars, they discover a distant cousin of Adri’s and Adri stays with Lily while she prepares for Mars.
2. Perfect Pacing
This book is only about 259 pages, which is short for normal YA books. Normal YA books now are about 300 or more. But for how short this book is, it has incredible pacing! We get introduced to Adri as she comes to arrive at Lily’s house in Canaan, Nebraska. Lily is 107 years old and Adri never knew about any family she had left. Adri also isn’t great with other people and can often be blunt and off putting. But that suddenly changes when Adri discovers some old letters and pictures in the room she stays in and her journey begins then. We got a section for each of the three girls, with Catherine and Lenore having 2 parts and Adri having 3 parts. The author doesn’t waste any time with side plots; this story moves brilliantly, as each POV flows into the other. I loved that while the author stays with the plot and doesn’t deviate, she still takes the time in each section to the girl’s desires, fears and also heartbreaks. I was never bored during this whole book. I had to show what happened to each character, especially Catherine and Lenore in the past. From beginning to end, this quiet book had me completely engrossed.
3. Wonderful Characters
This book had fantastic characters that I really grew to love by the end of the book. I did have to get used Adri’s more guarded and blunt personality, but coming from a background with having no family to grow up on and fighting for your own things in the group home, going to Mars was her only dream and she’s taken it. She’s never really been interested in friends or other relationships, but finding those letters and Lily changes that. She’s not sure about these changes at first, but I love seeing her change over time and seeing the feelings and things she’s learned by the end. I also loved Lily; she just cracked me up! At 107, she was a fiery old lady that despite having dementia, really shows Adri what loves really means and being there for someone. Both of them have a funny bond and I liked seeing how they connected to each other. They were what each other needed. Out of the two historical POVs, I loved Catherine’s chapters the most.
Catherine (1934) is growing up in Canaan, Kansas and her family, along with many others, suffer from the Dust Bowl. During this time of the Great Depression, jobs were nearly impossible and these dust storms would cover entire towns. People would also get sick from all the dust, causing their lungs to finally give out over time. Catherine’s mother is determined to stay, despite Catherine wanting to get her younger sister Beezie away from the dust due to her cough. There’s nothing in Canaan except Ellis, the farm hand that Catherine is in love with. I really felt for Catherine’s desperation to not only leave Kansas but finally do something more than just live on a farm. While she does love Ellis, she would sacrifice so much to have Beezie be safe and when the Electric show comes to town, she hopes that will help her sister. The Electric itself doesn’t play a huge role in this story, but I liked is brief appearance.
Finally, there’s Lenore who lives in England in 1919 just after the World War I. Lenore lost her brother Teddy and her friend Beth moved to America a few years back. Lenore’s POV is through letters to Beth. Lenore is trying to be happy in life after her brother died in the war, as well as keep that friendship with Beth. There’s other things that happen in her timeline that do connect with the other two and I liked seeing how it all played out. I didn’t love Lenore as much as Catherine or Adri, but she was still written well and I understood her loss, uncertainty but also trying to be brave. While I do wish that something had happened in her timeline (her not being abandoned), it’s a personal preference.
But what connects these three timelines is a large tortoise called Galapagos. This tortoise is about 150 years old and Lily keeps her at the house when Adri comes to temporarily live there. While I’m not sure what the symbolism of Galapagos actually is, but I felt like it was a physical bond to all three periods in time. This turtle is the link that Adri has to this past that she never knew existed and I liked the psychical representation of that. Lily’s bond with the creature is also very sweet and made me nearly cry. Each character had their own strength, fears, hopes and also the drive to find purpose and peace in their lives and that was what made the book so special.
4. Masterful Writing
Jodi Lynn Anderson really captured me with her writing in this book! This was the first book I’ve read by her and definitely won’t be the last. There comes a book once in a while that really speaks to the deeper part of us and that book did it for me. I do feel like these days, many YA books subconsciously fight for reader’s attention and plots are fast paced to keep people entertained. But Midnight at the Electric doesn’t try super hard to keep your attention. The author gives us a story that she wanted to tell and it’s told in a natural, quiet but powerful way. These are some of my favorite quotes.
“All along the waterfront, buildings stood stark and abandoned. Neighborhood by neighborhood, the ocean had crept into the city, making it look like a kingdom from an old fairy tale, like Atlantis disintegrating into myth.” (6% mark, first page, Adri’s POV)
“Mama is full of faith, but recently mine has been running through my fingers, dribbling out. I can’t seem to catch it.” (19% mar, Catherine’s POV)
“I know I’ll never see England or China and never have Ellis and never be rich. So I want to hold that ball of lightning in my hands. I want my chance at living too, and this is as close as I can get.” (27% mark, Catherine’s POV)
“Mama paces and looks out the windows and barely does any work. What is there to do anymore? No crops to harvest, our clothes are getting too thin and worn out to wash. There’s always dust to sweep, but it will always be there.” (34% mark, Catherine’s POV)
“grief isn’t like sadness at all. Sadness is only something that’s a part of you. Grief becomes you; it wraps you up and changes you and makes everything—every little thing—different than it was before.” (52% mark, Lenore’s POV)
“I think all my life my heart’s been broken,” Adri whispered, “and I didn’t even notice. And I don’t even know by what.” (68% mark, Adri’s POV)
“No one wants to disappear. Words made things real, and they last so much longer than we do.” (96% mark, Adri’s POV)
A book really becomes special when it speaks to our emotions and who we truly are. Some moments had me near tears, which was not only a special experience, but also made this an important book. We need books that speak to the true part of us and not always just entertain us. This did both.
5. A Modern YA Classic
Yep you heard me right. This book should be considered a modern classic in young adult fiction. While there are great contemporaries, science fiction, fantasy and other genres with fun stories, this should be a classic for all the reasons I mentioned. This book doesn’t get distracted, try to tackle a ton of topics, doesn’t have a love triangle and there’s even NO love interest for Adri. This book is telling a story about three girls in three different time periods and how they face their choices and how they are all connected. It’s as simple as that and it is beautifully told. This explores the themes of loneliness, found family, hard choices, determination, grief, fearing the future and different forms of love. These are themes that teens that to experience so they can prepare for the real world ahead of them. I wish I had this book when I was a teen a long time ago. This is one example of how the written word reaches parts of us that are very hard to reach and also how the written word lasts so long after people are gone. I highly recommend this book for teens, especially in the 14-18 age range and I hope that teens will try and hopefully get something from this book.
Overall: While I wish that I had a tiny bit more closure and that Lenore hadn’t been abandoned, this book is completely a gem and one of the best books from the 2010’s. While it may not be for everyone, I think that someone could really get something out of this book if you look for it. This book stole my heart and I’m so thankful that it did. I can’t wait to see what Jodi Lynn Anderson writes in the future and I have two other YA books by her to go try.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!