Stories within a Story
Alex describes himself as a kid who plays with "what ifs" while other kids are playing with dogs, and that feeling of not fitting in anywhere leads him to sneak out of his family's home one night so that he can burn his secrets. While making his way to the basement of his building, Alex is enticed into an enchanted apartment where he's then held captive by a witch. While trapped, Alex has to tell a story each night to keep the witch appeased. While there, Alex finds a friend in his fellow prisoner, Yasmin, and the two of them earn the trust of the witch’s familiar that is tasked to watch over them while the witch tends to her day-to-day business.
NIGHTBOOKS by J.A. White is spooky and frightening and has stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Harkening to One Thousand and One Nights and with tie-ins to other folk stories and fairy tales, NIGHTBOOKS is what I think of as "safe" horror: perfect for kids in middle grades who want to be scared by a book, but who also want to feel grounded and safe while reading the tales of terror that pull at them. All of the stories imbedded in NIGHTBOOKS are intriguing and scary (as is the main story), but none should push the reader too far into the nightmare zone. They aren't gruesome; they’re brief and full of suspense, and the key to their ability to frighten the reader is in hitting close to home in their settings and topics for the age group at which they're directed.
Alex and Yasmin are affable characters, and they’re well developed through the narrative, as is their friendship. Kids will be drawn to Alex’s feeling of otherness as he ponders his place in the world, and Yasmin has a relatable backstory as well. The writing is great, and the plot moves well. As the book catapulted toward the climax, I couldn’t flip through the pages fast enough.
I really enjoyed NIGHTBOOKS, and it is exactly the kind of book I would have loved to read in my younger years, too.
My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.