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Together at Midnight

Review

Together at Midnight

TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT follows two lost teenagers through a self-exploratory weekend in New York City leading up to New Year’s Day. Both Kendall and Max, the dual protagonists, feel stuck in their current places in life. Kendall, the free-spirited artist, has just finished a semester abroad in Europe and flees to New York with her older brother in an attempt to prolong her adventures and meet up with a boy she has been falling for throughout her year out of the country. Contrasting Kendall, Max has spent the last six months of his life in a rut. After delaying college to stay near his girlfriend, he found himself purposeless when she ended their relationship. Due to his seemingly aimless existence, Max ends up getting assigned to take care of his harsh grandfather while his family searches for a new caretaker, placing Max in New York City at the same time as Kendall.

Kendall and Max’s paths awkwardly cross in the streets of New York when Kendall’s new crush turns out to be Max’s best friend. Max and Kendall aren't strangers --- in fact, they had shared a kiss before Kendall left for her semester abroad, a contributing factor to Max’s breakup with his girlfriend. Things are only further complicated when Max and Kendall are both witness to a horrific accident, one they both believe they should have been able to prevent. They are soon compelled to spend time together to reason through what they witnessed. While out on one of their bonding sessions, they meet a woman who proposes a challenge: to commit seven Random Acts of Kindness (or RAKs) during their time remaining in the city. This seemingly jovial suggestion quickly turns serious for Kendall and Max as they begin to seek out people in need of compassion and quickly realize the potentially huge impacts of their actions. Taking their experiences with kindness and honesty with each other in the streets of New York, both Max and Kendall seek to improve their personal lives and define their futures using the lessons they learn through their experiences.

"Perfect for fans of the anthology MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT highlights the importance of selflessness and caring in a world that seems to ignore individuals’ needs the majority of the time."

Together, Kendall and Max travel around the city searching for potential RAKs while spending time and growing closer to each other. Their adventures take them from department stores to the zoo, introducing them to failed actresses, spoiled children and mentally ill homeless people and opening their eyes to the impact that even a tiny act of kindness can have on the trajectory of someone’s life. Perfect for fans of the anthology MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT highlights the importance of selflessness and caring in a world that seems to ignore individuals’ needs the majority of the time.

The lasting message that this book portrays is an important one: that everyone is fighting their own battles and that being kind and thoughtful is key in generating a better world and positively affecting society. The chapters immediately following each random act of kindness are the highlights of the novel as they show the impact of every act of kindness on the person that the act was directed towards. These chapters were poignant; some showed people in harsh places in life being lifted out of depression by a tiny act of kindness, and others simply showed people in need of a pickup to improve their day, but no chapter seemed inconsequential. These chapters were the best part of the novel and since reading them I have actually found myself reserving judgement when I see other people acting harshly. It is extremely difficult to comprehend just how much of an impact a tiny act of compassion from a stranger can have, but this book does it perfectly. Throughout every act of kindness, I was reminded of the impact a single person or a second of kindness can have on someone’s life, which is a reminder many people are in need of. The novel is worth reading simply to be reminded of the importance of empathy.

The main flaw that I take with the novel comes in the narration style. The book, written from (mostly) the alternating viewpoints of Max and Kendall, became confusing to follow because of the similarities between their character’s voices. Max and Kendall ended up sounding the same and I would not notice when a point of view would shift until a few pages into the chapter which at times made for choppy reading.

The other downside to the novel was the underdeveloped character backstories. Both characters felt hollow at points in the book, referencing past emotional trauma that was unfamiliar to readers. Individually, neither Kendall nor Max felt multidimensional. They were both constantly discussing their difficult pasts, but nothing substantial or specific was ever disclosed to readers. Max spends much of the book lamenting over his devastating breakup, but readers are never completely introduced to his ex, Eliza, and she comes off feeling flat when she enters the book towards the end. Similarly, Kendall talks constantly of her transformative months in Europe, but never tells readers why they were so impactful and how she changed throughout them. Even Max and Kendall’s history was never fully explained which, after being continuously referenced throughout the story, felt like a crucial piece of the story that was not available to readers. The holes in the background of Kendall and Max’s characters made it difficult to connect with them and put up a barrier between readers and the characters. The lack of backstory development felt like untapped potential to make the novel more layered and engaging.

TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT blends light-hearted romance with deeper and lasting messages. It is, at the same time, a light holiday read while carrying a powerful message about the importance of compassion and the dangers of being self-centered.

Reviewed by Anna Kate L. on February 14, 2018

Together at Midnight
by Jennifer Castle