Title: Night Road
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: Pan Books
Release Date: March 2011
My Rating: 5/10 Begrudgingly Finished
Lexi and Mia are inseparable from the moment they start high school. Different in so many ways — Lexi is an orphan and lives with her aunt on a trailer park, while Mia is a golden girl blessed with a loving family, and a beautiful home. Yet they recognize something in each other which sets them apart from the crowd, and Mia comes to rely heavily on Lexi’s steadfast friendship. Mia’s beloved, and incredibly good-looking, twin brother Zach, finds life much less complicated than his sister. Jude thought she’d never have to worry about her son, that he’d always sail through life easily achieving whatever he, and his family, wanted and expected — but then he fell in love. The summer they graduated is a time they will always remember, and one they could never forget. It is a summer of love, best friends, shared confidences and promises. Then one moment one night changes them all forever. As hearts are broken, loyalties challenged and hopes dashed, the time has come to leave childhood behind and learn to face the future.
I’ll start by saying Kristin Hannah has written two books that are very close to the top of my all time favourite books ever list (The Nightingale and The Great Alone), so I am really struggling to grasp how she got this one so wrong.
I was hooked by the opening chapters. Lexi, a girl who has spent her life shunted between foster parents is finally given a glimpse of hope when she goes to live with her aunt. But as the pages and chapters went on, I started to notice how horrifically edited the book is. There are countless continuity errors, spelling mistakes, muddled sentences that I had to read and reread and then give up on and just guess what the meaning was supposed to be. The story is infuriatingly repetitive and I found myself often thinking ‘yes, we know, can we move on now?’.
The first half of the story drones on and on about Judes obsessive parenting and the dangers of teenage drinking. Lexi, Mia and Zach go to countless parties where they promise they won’t drink and Jude naively gives them car keys and trusts them. Perhaps it’s because I’m young enough to remember my teenage years quite well; perhaps it’s because I’m from the UK where there isn’t such a taboo around alcohol consumption, and our drinking age is much lower. In the UK, Zach, Lexi and Mia would have been drinking completely legally at the age of 18, which they are at the climax of this story. In my late teens it was a given we went to parties to drink, whether our parents liked it or not, and there’s no way anyone’s parents would trust anyone to be a designated driver. We either stayed over or got picked up and dealt with the consequences afterwards. It all just seemed completely bizarre to me, but perhaps that’s a cultural thing.
The second half of the story drones on and on about Judes (quite understandable) suffering following the ‘big twist event’. This is made difficult because Jude was an insufferable character. I get the feeling we were supposed to empathise with her, but unfortunately she just came across as whiney and wealthy, swooping about her huge house and interfering with her children’s lives. This is really the fault of the writing though. So much throughout was just motions repeated. I felt as if the book could have been half the length without losing any plot at all.
Both Lexi and Aunt Eva are the only decent characters in this book (apart from Scot later on), but they were sidelined for the more ‘desirable’ Jude.
Finally, the ending. The final few chapters are spent flirting back and forth between decisions, and the one made in the end just felt far too convenient and ‘happily ever after’.
Poor Aunt Eva.
I somehow don’t think I’m the target audience for this. If you’re a 40+ American woman, I think you might really enjoy it – and I’m assuming that’s where the decent Goodreads ratings have come from. If you’re a 20-something from the UK, probably give it a miss and try one of Kristin Hannah’s other fantastic books instead.