Genres: Young Adult
Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.
If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they'll have to step into the shadows to see what's lurking there—murderer, or monster?
*ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
So the second I read the blurb for Five Midnights, I knew I needed this book ASAP. A book based in Puerto Rico and about the legend of “El Cuco”? Yes please. The legends and stories of “El Cuco” is the stuff of children’s nightmares. The Spanish version of the bogeyman, it is used as a warning to kids by their parents to behave themselves or El Cuco would come after them. My own mom used it enough times that I was scared of looking under my bed until I was like 10. So getting to read a YA horror book on this, especially revolving around a place that I call my second home, sign me up. Ann Davila spins the legend of “El Cuco” in a new and interesting way.
First off, the descriptions of Puerto Rico, from the back alleys of Old San Juan, to Isla Verde, teleports the reader to the Caribbean island beautifully. Honestly, I swear I could smell the salt air, feel the warm breeze. The sights and smells are vivid and had me craving a pastelon in the worst way. I may have begun gathering ingredients to make one, just saying. I also bought alcapurrias but mine was made of yuca. 😀
Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Five Midnights revolves around two main characters. Lupe, a half Puerto Rican transplant from Vermont is visiting her aunt and uncle for the summer. Her uncle is the chief of police and when Lupe arrives, he is investigating the death of a young man who was savagely and mysteriously attacked, the only clue some giant claw marks in his chest. We also meet Javier, a young native of the island and an old friend of the murdered boy. He is a recovering drug addict and has been clean for two years, getting his life together with the help of a padre from a local church. When the two meet, they instantly clash. Lupe is very independent and begins to investigate on her own as to what happens while Javier is trying to do the same. They quickly realize that they need each other if they are to ever solve what happened and prevent it from happening again when another past friend of Javier’s also meets the same fate. It becomes a race against time, for El Cuco is coming, and they have to find a way to stop it.
I love that the story touches on a lot of aspects of Puerto Rico, not just a bogeyman story. You get a lot about the problems that are plaguing the island, from the drugs to some of the political issues, to the racism even within our own culture. There is this mentality that if you aren’t born and raised there, are you really that Puerto Rican which is sort of what Lupe has to deal with. At the same time, she’s really strong willed and doesn’t seem to understand that living on the island and just occasionally visiting are very different. It’s nice that she begins to open her eyes to it. I also really loved her uncle as a surrogate father figure as her own father hasn’t really been there for her as much as he could and her aunt plays the motherly role that makes Lupe feel like she’s home.
Javier is dealing with demons that plague him daily and the call of falling back on his old ways and giving into the temptation of drugs makes you really sympathize with the character. Interestingly enough, he feels more light hearted than Lupe is and he’s the one to crack a joke or a smile more than her. Javier was endearing and sweet. I loved his interactions with his friend Carlos and the padre. He’s an endearing character.
With a nice dose of mystery and suspense set behind a colorful backdrop, I enjoyed Five Midnights and can’t wait to read more from the author.