I bought the “Welcome to Night Vale” book as a preorder at last year’s Bookcon, which was in New York. My primary impulse towards buying it then rather than waiting was because I would be given a bag if I ordered it then.
I also waited almost a year after buying the book (and more than 7 months after receiving it in the mail) before reading it. There are a few reasons for this, the primary of which being that it was at my mother’s house and not at my dorm, and also because the first time I started reading it, I kept losing my place.
It took a few restarts before I could actually get into the novel, which was kind of a bummer, but happens with a few books. I think part of it had to do with the way the book starts from the perspective of Jackie, who I initially didn’t like. She struck me as the kind of dudes-trying-to-write-teen-girls character, which I don’t like at all and is a difficult situation to explain, but I’ll try to anyway. Sometimes, when adult men who were never teen girls try to write characters who are teen girls, they come off as untrue to people who have had that experience of being a teen girl. They feel not flimsy so much as not real, which, okay, it’s fiction, but we all want to be convinced of the “truth” of fiction, and when a teen girl appear in a book isn’t really like a teen girl but rather like the impression of one as described by someone who hasn’t engaged anywhere other than on a television screen. I always want to see more girls in media, since we’re a relatively underrepresented population in terms of “Who Gets to Be the Hero,” but at the same time, when men are writing these girls, I tend to get critical.
Luckily, I warmed up to Jackie eventually.
Something that was enjoyable immediately while reading “Welcome to Night Vale” included the interspersed radio segments narrated by Cecil. If you’re picking up the novel “Welcome to Night Vale,” you are most likely familiar with the podcast “Welcome to Night Vale,” so it’s nice to get to see the voice that you know best from the quiet, desert community.
As such, you can expect the typical and enjoyable Night Vale humor throughout the book (it is written by the same guys who created the podcast, after all). For the most part, Fink and Cranor are able to maintain the suspension of disbelief throughout the novel, though at times even the typical “Night Vale” weirdness felt like it was too much.
One thing that has been praised with the podcast has been its character diversity, and that’s still a trend that carries in the novel. The two protagonists are women, and they are played as though they’re the flawless heroes or that they’re Strong Female Characters. I do wish that Old Woman Josie functioned a little better; she seemed redundant and unnecessary, and then later contradictory in her radio appearance.
Some other downsides to the book include the fact that if you’re not familiar with Night Vale, this book has a great possibility to be inaccessible, even though you do not technically need to listen to the podcast in order to read the novel. It ended on a long sentence that felt very weird in a bad narrative way, not a good Night Vale way, and it seemed like it was just long enough to almost feel clumsy. There are a few other moments like that in the novel, but the last one sticks out the most–because it’s the last one you see.
That said, I was a fan of the book, and I’d recommend it to the following people:
- Horror fans
- Surrealism fans
- People looking for family narratives
- Teenagers who don’t otherwise read.
“Welcome to Night Vale” (the novel) by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor can be purchased at any major book retailer (I bought mine through Amazon).
“Welcome to Night Vale” (the podcast) by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor can be listened to (for free!) through iTunes and Soundcloud.