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Together at Midnight Hardcover – January 2, 2018
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From School Library Journal
POPGr 8 Up—Set between Christmas and New Year's in New York City, this novel centers on friends Kendall, Max, and Jamie who witness a quarrel that turns into an accident in which a woman is severely injured. Kendall and Max continue to stay in New York—Kendall with her brother and his boyfriend, who may be on the brink of a breakup, and Max with Big E, his curmudgeonly grandfather, who has scared away yet another caregiver. Feeling guilty over witnessing the quarrel and doing nothing, Kendall and Max accept a kindness challenge in which they will perform seven random acts of kindness by New Year's Day. Separately and together, the pair start looking at situations in terms of how they can positively intervene. The work is told in alternating chapters and readers are privy to not only the main characters' actions, thoughts, and emotions, but also to those of the people they are helping. This adds a powerful nuance to the novel. Participating in this challenge helps not only the people they meet but also the protagonists as they deal with personal challenges in their own lives. Although relationships and romance play a part, the scenes are appropriate for younger teens. VERDICT Recommended for collections where realistic fiction such as Eleanor & Park or Jennifer Castle's other novels are popular.—Erica Thorsen Payne, Albemarle High School,VA
“Castle expands the story from a feel-good romance into a reflection on what makes us human.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Castle’s easy prose alternates between [the characters’] perspectives and is interspersed with brief, poignant insights from the strangers they help along the way... Feel-good holiday fare.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A heartwarming, tender, and wistful look at the power of goodwill.” (Booklist)
“Castle crafts relatable, endearingly flawed characters that readers will love. This book captures the magical essence of winter in New York City... It is a story that builds empathy and encourages teens to connect more with those in their own world but also with the world as a whole.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
“Recommended for collections where realistic fiction such as Eleanor & Park or Jennifer Castle’s other novels are popular.” (School Library Journal)
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When Max and Kendall witness a terrible, tragic accident, they’re at a loss. They don’t know how to move on from such a quick yet monumental moment, and to make matters worse: they feel as if they could have prevented it. Thus begins their random acts of kindness across New York City, and from that moment starts an incredible journey – one that changes Max and Kendall’s lives for the better.
When it comes down to it Kendall and Max are in an incredibly similar place: they’re at a crossroads in life, not sure of what to do next. Kendall has recently returned from a semester abroad, and she's feeling incredibly unsure in her skin. How she can she return to normalcy after being so happy with her adventures? Max, on the other hand, has chosen to put off college for a year. On the surface, he says he did it for his ex-girlfriend - she needed him around - but deep down he knows he did because he's afraid, afraid of the future and what it might meant for him.
I loved them both equally. They were so incredibly easy to relate to it. I admired Kendall for his kindness as well as loyalty. She's the kind of person you'd be lucky to have as a friend. What I loved even more was the fact that Kendall was her own person. She didn't always do or say the right thing - sometimes she would stop randomly to write something important for her future novel down - but she so completely embraced it. She was more fearless than she gave herself credit for. Max, on the other hand, I feel was the more cynical out of the two, and I think most of it had to do with being afraid. I could relate to that - change is scary, especially when you're in that weird time between high school and college.
Together Max and Kendall were a dynamic duo. I loved watching them explore New York City together and perform random acts of kindness. Better yet, I loved the changes that resulted from their adventures. Both became more confident and daring as well as helped each other find comfort in the unknown.
Another aspect of Together at Midnight I enjoyed was the multiple POVs used. Jennifer included perspectives from Max, Kendall, and all the people they helped or tried to help on their journey. All the POVs flew perfectly together, and I especially loved seeing the viewpoints of the strangers. It added such a personal touch to the novel, and I especially liked when it gave more clarification to a situation, i.e. why wouldn't that woman accept help?
I also enjoyed the slow-burn feel of the romance. When the novel begins, Kendall has been flirting via email with a guy she previously knew and Max is somewhat still tied up with his ex-girlfriend. Over the course of the book, however, Kendall and Max begin to see something in each other, something that begins to change their feelings towards their other relationships. Honestly, at times I really wondered if they would or wouldn't, but in the end, I was so incredibly happy with the conclusion.
In all, Together at Midnight is another stellar release from Jennifer Castle. I said this when I first finished this book and it still rings true: my heart is so incredibly full from this novel. Seriously, it's beautifully written, thought provoking, and hopefully...it's actually inspired me to start my own random acts of kindness in 2018.
I only expected to read a cute, heartwarming holiday romance but Together at Midnight proved to be a whole lot more. It definitely had a lovely will-they-or-won't-they romance, but the core of this book is about kindness and human society - unexpected but a pleasant surprise. As Max and Kendall performed random acts of kindness, I started to wonder if I could be as kind and brave as they were to the people they encountered. It also caused me to ponder the same question they brought up: what does it truly mean to be kind?
The story is mainly told in Kendall and Max's alternating perspectives, but there are also single chapters in between, told in the point of view of the people they affected with their kind acts. Normally, I don't really enjoy multiple POV's in contemporary novels but in this story they actually added a nice touch. It gave us more insight into the lives of these strangers and made them feel more genuine and whole, something we wouldn't get in real life.
Kendall and Max were my favorite characters because I could relate to certain aspects of both their personalities. I admire how adventurous Kendall is (she studied abroad) and how she is able to make up characters for random people she passes by on the street. With Max, I can relate to his tendency to prioritize others first, usually to the detriment of his own aspirations. Although I wish the ending had been a little bit different, it made sense and left me feeling hopeful.
Moving, charming, and full of heart, Together at Midnight is a perfect story for the holiday season, but also for when you're looking for a lovely, heartwarming read.
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