Kyle Mackey has a secret place in the woods, somewhere out of the way where he can be undisturbed, yet a late-night visit to the Old Shack doesn’t go as planned – for the first time, other people are there. Kyle can’t help but watch a gruesome murder, the culprit someone he once trusted. Fearful and confused, he struggles with how to deal with the knowledge that a killer lives so close to home.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
Diving into a small town in the ’70s, Midnight Rain was an engrossing coming-of-age that centred around the rather depressing town of Midnight, North Carolina. Newman’s first novel, it opened with a memorable line that has stayed with me since: Do you remember the exact moment your childhood ended? Probably around the time I was told Santa wasn’t real, to be honest. The story of Kyle was, however, a great deal more disturbing, his harsh and premature initiation into adulthood involving murder, his innocence abruptly shattered. It was something he couldn’t fully comprehend, and I thought it did a great job in conveying his turmoil, which progressed and only became more tragic over the course of the book – first-person can be great in that respect, it’s why I love it so much. It also didn’t shy away from heavy topics such as addiction, racism and corruption, made all the more horrific from a twelve year old’s point of view. What was scary was how much it encouraged me to recollect my own youth, when such a thing as law and order was a straightforward concept.
I liked the writing style, and how introspective it was at times. There were moments that made me nervous, even shocked, the twists coming unexpected, and despite having the knowledge that Kyle would survive the ordeal, I still worried for him. Granted, things would’ve been over much quicker had Kyle not made some bad decisions, but then I just needed to keep in mind how ill-equipped he was to handle the situation. Something that struck me as a bit odd was Kyle’s distinct lack of friends; usually a significant ingredient of coming-of-age is the gang or traditional best friend, yet the topic of friendship or fellow children of his age weren’t even mentioned. It wasn’t a bad thing, but definitely different, his loneliness made more apparent by his relationship with his bicycle. Was his mother’s illness responsible? In any case, Kyle’s existence was miserable, as was the novel in general.
I had just a couple of issues, minor as they were, mostly to do with the lack of information regarding some aspects – the death of a certain character, for instance, just seemed to be glossed over fairly quickly – and I feel there were some little snags in the plot that appeared borne of convenience rather than logic. I was still able to enjoy it regardless of these small complaints.
In conclusion: Suspenseful and thought-provoking, Midnight Rain sucked me into the life of Kyle Mackey, a young boy who, by chance, witnessed an appalling crime. It explored the ugliness that can run underneath the facade of a small community, especially the blind trust put in figures of authority, as well as how damaging it can be to young people. I was surprised by some of the revelations I didn’t see coming, my sympathy for the protagonist persisting until the end. All in all, I’m glad I picked this one up as it satisfied my love of coming-of-age stories, but even though I enjoyed it very much overall, I believed some elements could’ve been better explored.
I was the King of Midnight, back then.
© Red Lace 2021