A riveting, poignant family drama perfect for readers of Defending Jacob and The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which explores the power of the secrets people keep-the darker, hidden facets of our lives, and what happens when they come to light.
Diagnosed with XP, a rare medical condition which makes him lethally sensitive to light, Tyler is a thirteen-year-old who desperately wants just one thing: to be normal. His mother Eve also wants just one thing: to protect her son. As Tyler begins roaming their cul-de-sac at night, cloaked in the safety of the darkness, he peers into the lives of the other families on the street-looking in on the things they most want hidden. Then, the young daughter of a neighbor suddenly vanishes, and Tyler may be the only one who can make sense of her disappearance…but what will happen when everyone's secrets are exposed to the light?
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2014)
ISBN 0345535243 (ISBN13: 9780345535245)
About the Author
Carla Buckley was born in Washington, D.C. She has worked as an assistant press secretary for a U.S. senator, an analyst with the Smithsonian Institution, and a technical writer for a defense contractor. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, an environmental scientist, and their three children. She is the author of The Deepest Secret, Invisible, and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a Best First novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. She is currently at work on her next novel.
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Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, so Eve plans a party.Tyler is just turning fourteen, and he has been living those 14 years with a rare genetic condition called xeroderma pigmentosum, or "XP" for short. Wikipedia says that XP individuals lack "the ability to repair damage caused by ultraviolet light".
In extreme cases, all exposure to sunlight must be forbidden, no matter how small; as such, individuals are often colloquially referred to as Children of the Night. (Wikipedia)Tyler is one of these extreme cases. And given another startling statistic on Wikipedia...
XP is roughly six times more common in Japanese people than in other groups....this may explain the inclusion of a young Japanese girl by the name of Yoshi as Tyler's good friend via webcam.
The majority of individuals suffering from XP don't live past the age of 20. It is a heartbreaking condition.
So enter Tyler, who is suffering from this condition, but doesn't seem to really see the big picture. His family does what they can to protect him, so I don't think he was really clear on his long term prognosis, which was death before age 21. His mother has created a safe haven for him in their home, where the entire second floor has been renovated as a fortress for Tyler, safe from sunlight and all UV rays. Their family lives by a strict routine, designed to keep Tyler safe. He's permitted out of his fortress minutes after sunset, and must return to it minutes before sunrise. Even at night he must be cautious, as even the flash of headlights could burn his skin or sear his corneas. He is truly a child of the night.
His mother Eve has made him her total focus since his diagnosis as a toddler. She spends all of her time obsessing over his schedule, whether his health has been jeopardized by something like an unexpected flash of lightning, assuring that Tyler is safely absconded before sunrise, and all of her free time is spent looking for possible medical advancements and clinging to any hope for a cure. She is so focused on Tyler that she doesn't realize she has neglected everyone else in her life. Her husband David is essentially estranged, working in another state during the week and flying home weekends, and finding himself tempted by another woman who is close at hand and emotionally accessible. Eve's daughter Melissa is drifting aimlessly, at a difficult stage in her life without anyone to ground her.
David doesn't understand how Eve does it. How she can live constantly in this threat of losing her son, while he chooses to try and hide from it?
...it doesn’t matter what they do. They could move to Alaska where the sun barely shines, and live in a cave in the middle of a forest, but eventually the disease would win. It always does. Every time Eve tells David about another XP child whose condition has worsened, a buzzing starts in his ears, blocking her out. He doesn’t know how she can do this, stand in front of the inferno and let it scorch her skin. (p 137)
Tyler spends his evenings wandering the cul-de-sac they live on. The neighbors all know about Tyler's condition, and they've all agreed to use special lighting that doesn't emit UV rays, in order to not jeopardize Tyler's safety. So, clothed in his protective hoodie and armed with his camera, he slinks around the neighborhood, spying through people's windows and taking covert photos of them. If anyone else were doing these things, it would come off as really creepy. But with Tyler, it's all he has in his isolated life. Everyone else is indoors at night, and night time is his only chance to live and explore and enjoy life. And in peeking through people's windows, he gets to know his neighbors better than most, learning their secrets.
Add to this the fact that a young neighbor girl goes missing and is later found dead from an apparent hit and run, and you have one vibrant young girl dead, and this young boy who lives under the constant pall of impending death. Contrasting and yet the same in a way.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:
Monday, March 3rd: Jen’s Book Thoughts
Tuesday, March 4th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, March 4th: Great Imaginations
Wednesday, March 5th: girlichef
Thursday, March 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, March 7th: Not in Jersey
Monday, March 10th: She Treads Softly
Monday, March 10th: Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, March 11th: Knowing the Difference
Wednesday, March 12th: The Best Books Ever
Thursday, March 13th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Friday, March 14th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, March 17th: Daily Mayo
Monday, March 17th: Julz Reads
Tuesday, March 18th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, March 19th: Book Dilettante
Thursday, March 20th: A Bookworm’s World
Friday, March 21st: Simply Stacie
Monday, March 24th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, March 25th: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, March 27th: Ageless Pages Reviews
My final word: This was a curious story. The inclusion of a rare chromosomal condition like XP, which results in a boy that lives in the dark of night, voyeuristically exploring his neighbor's lives, gives the story an offbeat feel. It reminded me a little of the movie Powder, and came off feeling part Powder, and part Gone Girl. There is a feeling that this family is living in a separate world. The book focuses around their neighborhood cul-de-sac, and the families that live there. You get glimpses into the lives of these people, through the eyes of Tyler during his nightly outings. The cul-de-sac lends a sense of isolation and a feeling that they are alone in this. About three-quarters in I was dreading the end of the story, and yet compelled to keep going. I couldn't see any way to have a satisfactory ending to the story. It was going to leave me miserable and unhappy any way it played out, from what I could figure. But I was driven to see whether the author could find a way to leave me happy when it was all over.
In the end, the story didn't leave me miserable at all, but I was left with the nagging feeling that it was a little bit of a cop out. But it was believable, and didn't destroy all hope and leave me heavy and depressed and wondering why I just allowed myself to become emotionally invested in these characters for that. Although the final 10 pages or so fell slightly flat for me, the author did indeed find a way to end the story satisfactorily, and I loved this book overall. This one is bound to be a favorite of 2014 for me!
Barnes and Noble
I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book I received was an uncorrected proof, and any quotes could differ from the final release.