Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor
Rating: 4 stars
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Age recommendation: Young Adult and up
Genre: Adventure, Dark, Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Supernatural
Opening excerpt: “Pawnshops in Night Vale work like this. First you need an item to pawn. To get this, you need a lot of time behind you, years spent living and existing, until you’ve reached a point where you believe that you exist, and that a physical item exists, and that, improbable as all those are, these absurd beliefs line up in a way that results in you owning an item.”
Favorite excerpt: “Something in me says that this is only the start. The moment after which all other moments will come. And looking back at the point we are at now, we will know that this was before and that all of our nows from here on out will be after. This is the only way we know time works.” (Chapter 49, pg. 393)
There are two women. Not dissimilar to any pair of women you’ve seen walking down the street, thoughts filled with love, hate, ignorance to the cameras and surveyors watching their every move. Yet completely different. Utterly and totally different. You’ve never seen these women before. You’ve never imagined them. (Well, now you have. Good job.) You don’t know these women. And they don’t know you. They don’t know a lot of things. They don’t know why the sun rises or why the planets orbit or why the sky turns green every other Tuesday. They just don’t. Neither do you. But that’s not the point. The point is about the fact that there are two women. Driving down a dusty road, towards something terrifying, new, unknown. They’re going somewhere, somewhere you’ve never been and never will go. They’re going somewhere not knowing what will happen. Will they find what’s lost? Will they return the unwanted? Will they answer the question that’s banging inside their head like an angry warthogs nest? I don’t know. I don’t know, dear listeners. I don’t even know why you’re asking me. Please stop asking me. Please stop.
Welcome to Night Vale follows the emotional and physical journey of two women, who live in a very abnormal town in the desert. One only worries about her growing teen son and the other leads a literal monotonous life running a pawn shop. Their lives cross in pursuit of a common irritant, them first meeting with great distaste, but as their goal appears both closer yet so inescapably far, they work together and forge an incredible admiration and support for one another, resulting in the answer to all their questions.
The novel follows the style of the bi-monthly podcast called, Welcome to Night Vale, focusing on two new main characters, Diane Crayton and Jackie Fierro, with features of the admired Cecil Palmer and Carlos the Scientist, alongside other favored characters. One can expect the same antics from the podcast, voids, time traveling flamingos and bleeding to open doors, to be pervasive throughout the novel.
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Now for my take on the book. Personally, I am a fan of the podcast, so I may be swayed in my review, but I think Welcome to Night Vale was a really good read. There are so many themes and aspects of this novel that many people can relate to. Jackie, a teenager, is stuck in a world where she is both an adult and a child. After her world is shaken, she really begins to feel this, as she’s adept and lauded in some areas, while confused and castigated in others. Diane is a biracial single mother, taking care of a teenager by herself. She feels the pressures from society to look and act a certain way, to be a mother and a woman in the way society deems okay. There’s also the very powerful theme of female friendship towards the end of the novel that is beautifully healthy and well written.
I will admit, the resolution to their problems, in the end, was a bit weak, but it really doesn’t take away from the book. There are far too many astounding lines and themes to let that damage it as a whole.
Is the novel weird? Yes. But does it captivate you, make you laugh, wonder, and smile? Yes. For people unfamiliar with the podcast, it may be hard to follow, but the plot and storytelling are phenomenally done and something you wouldn’t want to miss out on. It will be a read different from any other book you’ve read and hopefully quite memorable. For me, it’s a thumbs up.