The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld
Published by HarperTeen on January 2nd 2008
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 297 pages Source: Borders
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Strange things happen at midnight in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma. Time freezes. Nobody moves except dark creatures that haunt the shadows and the few people who are free to move at midnight, Midnighters. Their different powers strongest at midnight are: Seer, Mindcaster, Acrobat, Polymath. All changes when Jessica Day comes to Bixby High with a hidden power.
For all the love and praise people give The Uglies, it would be a lie to say I wasn’t expecting more from this book. It was good, but it didn’t blow my mind, the way I was expecting. Of course, this series isn’t The Uglies and maybe that was the problem altogether.
Jessica Day isn’t an unlikable protagonist. She’s pretty typical, as far as protagonists go, and a little too friendly for my tastes, but not too disagreeable. Her new friends are generally all angry, pessimistic people who act like they are better than everyone else because of their secret – including her. I think that Westerfield did that by design, but I didn’t like it. If I wasn’t frustrated with Jessica’s arrogance and frivolity, I was irritated with the rest of the character for being uppity. The exception to this would be Jonathan. While I can’t say that Jonathan’s character was any more realistic, he was likable, and I think maybe I even envied him a little for his sense of freedom. However, even his fallen hero redeemed storyline ran a little too close to annoying. The characters didn’t feel real to me, and since Westerfield was trying to present a dangerous fantasy world, the groundedness of the characters is important.
The concept of the story was interesting, though. In the realm of fantasy and lore, “midnight” has always had its connotations, but it is infrequently called upon in modern fantasy. The world Westerfield has created is almost there, right on the edge of magical. The first midnight that Jessica experienced left high expectations for me, and everything after that first magical experience seemed a little lacking. The creatures were too easily intimidated, and the characters seemed to be able to travel incredible distances too easily, in just an hour.
All in all, the book wasn’t bad. Just, for something presented as “dark,” it seemed too light and easy. It’s a good quick read, and would probably be better for readers younger than myself.