Saturday, February 26, 2011
REVIEW: By Midnight by Mia James
April Dunne is not impressed. She's had to move from Edinburgh to Highgate, London, with her parents. She's left her friends - and her entire life - behind. She has to start at a new school and, worst of all, now she's stuck in a creepy old dump of a house which doesn't even have proper mobile phone reception. Ravenwood, her new school, is a prestigious academy for gifted (financially or academically) students - and the only place her parents could find her a place, in the middle of term, in the middle of London, on incredibly short notice. So she's stuck with the super-rich, and the super-smart . . . and trying to fit in is when the rest of the students seem to be more glamorous, smarter, or more talented than she is, is more than tough. It's intimidating and isolating, even when she finds a friend in the conspiracy-theorist Caro Jackson - and perhaps finds something more than friendship in the gorgeous, mysterious Gabriel Swift. But there's more going on at Ravenwood than meets the eye. Practical jokes on new students are normal, but when Gabriel saves her from . . . something . . . . in the Highgate Cemetery, and then she discovers that a murder took place, just yards away from where she had been standing, April has to wonder if something more sinister is going on. . . . and whether or not she's going to live through it . . .
Aha, when I heard of By Midnight by Mia James, I did think to myself 'not another YA vampire book!' ... and yet, I still wanted to read it. Mia James is a pseudonym for a husband and wife writing team and I absolutely love that they are British. That everything takes place in By Midnight is a stone's throw from Highgate Cemetary. I thought that the atmosphere of the book was wonderful, with a creepy old house, a spooky cemetary and a mystery to solve. The elite school, Ravenwood, and the minor fashion elements to the story give this story a slight edge with the spooky factor with a dash of glamour.
We start the novel with April Dunne and her parents moving from Edinburgh to Highgate in London. April's father is a writer, previously for the Scotsman in Scotland, but he also writes books about conspiracy theories and other off-the-wall subjects. The only school April is able to attend at such short notice is the Ravenwood Academy, school for the academically gifted as well as more financially well-off. When April first arrives, she's not sure where she fits in, neither being super-intelligent nor rich. Luckily for her, she is befriended by the quirky conspiracy-nut, Caro and easily falls into her studies. She seems surrounded by good-looking boys, but it's Gabriel Swift, mysterious and dark who catches her eye.
When people start dying in mysterious ways, and April is a witness at one of the crime scenes, April decides she must to get to the bottom of things. Are the murders coincidental or linked in some way? How is her father's book research tied into everything? What was Gabriel doing at the murder scene and how is he tied into everything?
While I did very much enjoy the mystery aspect of the novel and the subsequent information that we learn about vampires and the puzzling information surrounding Ravenwood Academy, my favourite part of By Midnight were the relationships that April has with the other people in the novel. The wonderfully sweet relationship she has with her father. This strong friendship she maintains with her best friend from Scotland, Fiona. Her new friendship with odd Caro. And finally, her relationship with Gabriel.
I love how April and Gabriel have so many misunderstandings, just like any two teenagers who might like each other. The uncertainties after one doesn't call, the jealousy when Gabriel is linked to another girl. I'd like to have seen a touch more tension between them, but I'm not complaining much. I did quite enjoy this tentative beginning to April and Gabriel. By Midnight is a very readable and engaging book and I'm glad that I gave it a chance!
Thank you to Tina from Gollancz and Orion books for sending this book for me to review, I really appreciate it.