Violet is naive (annoyingly so!) for a 13 year old. The book was published in 2003 and that’s got something to do with it, I think. It was the time when cellphones weren’t ubiquitous yet and people still wrote letters to authors instead of stalking them or talking about/to them online. Violet adores reclusive author Casper Dream, the author of the beautifully illustrated fairy books and writes to him regularly. She loves the fictitious universe created by him. She draws inspiration from his books and sews fairy dolls. As you can see she isn’t your boisterous teen but quiet and artistic. Midnight offers interesting insights into the mind of a writer and on creating imaginary worlds which appealed to me greatly.
Violet has two ‘friends’ but she can’t identify with them. Whereas her brother Will is good looking and the entire school thinks he is cool. She looks up to him and adores him in spite of his snide comments and rudeness. Violet and Will are only a few years apart. It is apparent he cares for Violet but he never let’s a chance to take the Mickey out of her go.
Their father doesn’t like Will’s choices, and he in turn is constantly at loggerheads with him. We see Will after he knows a distrubing secret so there could be something to Will’s recklessness. Will is an intriguing character but I was always wary of him. Their mother is a docile woman and allows her husband to run roughshod over her. He’s taken for granted that his wife will do her job, regardless of how he treats her.
Violet’s life changes when the new girl in the school, Jasmine, who cares two hoots about fitting in, takes a shine to her. She cannot believe her luck. She adores everything about Jasmine – her spirit, her house and her family. Best friends fall in love with each other. It is an intense little place and I know that space well. Violet is an oddball whereas Jasmine is a popular kid. Is Jasmine truly her friend or something else is going on?
As I read I felt uneasy about certain things and I can hazard a guess as to how my teenage self would have reacted. The writing is good and the author is magnificent at building an atmosphere. Though at the heart of the story is Violet, a girl obsessed with fairies and fairy stories and the author who writes them, it’s not for younger readers. People expecting fantasy would be disappointed. This is as real as it gets for the intended age group! I thought it was clever how subtly the author showed bitter realities of the world which won’t affect younger readers but older readers will see it for what it is.
I like the quirky illustrations by Nick Sharratt which match the dark tone of the book.
You’d look at a picture of an ugly old witch and a group of screaming children and first you’d think she was working evil magic and threatening them so they were yelling in terror. But then you’d look again and wonder if the witch was simply a sad old woman cowering away from taunting children intent on playing tricks on her. A painting of a beautiful nymph cradling a little rabbit could also be a hungry girl with her fingers clasped tightly round the rabbit’s neck, ready to strangle it for a stew. A picture of a desperate princess in the clutches of an immensely scaly serpent seemed easy enough to understand, but perhaps she was entwining the serpent willingly, her head thrown back in rapture.