Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski
Putnam, 2015 346 pgs.
Marin and her twin brother Kana live on an island where the sun stays up straight for fourteen years and then sets for another fourteen. Once twilight arrives the residents of the island pack up, hop on trading ships, and move to a desert community until the sun rises again. But what actually happens during Nightfall? The townsfolk, especially old-timers, are terrified by it and follow the strange instructions on how to leave their properties to the letter. When Line, friend to the twins and Marin's love interest, disappears into the woods at the last minute, the siblings risk being left behind to rescue him. The worst happens when they finally locate an injured Line, but do not make it back to the boats on time. Once the sun sets weird things start to develop. Monsters appear, who are systematically hunting all remaining human creatures. Even more disconcerting are the changes Kana begins to undergo. His feet begin to grow talons and his senses begin to sharpen in unnatural ways. One of the monsters begins to communicate with Kana. Is she friend or foe? And what is her connection to him? These answers are revealed as the three teenagers fight for their lives to try to escape from the island before they become breakfast for the recently reawakened creatures.
Halpirn and Kujawinski offer their contribution to the dystopian genre. Nightfall isn't pure dystopia or end-of-the-world, but it will appeal to that readership who can appreciate an action story in a dysfunctional society where survival is a hard-scrabble. More horror movie than fantasy, the teens battle against the stuff of nightmares, proving that sometimes knowing the truth is worse than remaining in the dark. Kana's transformation into a monster is pretty cool and keeps the reader guessing as to its cause and his connection to the whispering female monster. Line and Marin share an innocent romance, which involves some kissing, but nothing inappropriate for the intended audience. The plot moves quickly and the characters do a lot of dashing about, which will appeal to a certain kind of reader. The characters do not get overly developed and the story reads a bit more like a comic book than a standard novel, but this will also appeal to young readers. The island society is well conceived and the concept is very interesting, making the book an easy sell to teens. The story ends a bit too abruptly and neatly, but this will also satisfy its readership, who will appreciate no dangling threads. Nightfall is a cut above average horror with an interesting setting and cool concept that reluctant readers especially will enjoy.