Reviews for Nightbooks

by J. A. White

Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Alex, a boy imprisoned by a witch named Natacha, must tell her a spine-tingling tale every night. Alex's journals--his "nightbooks"--are full of spooky stories he's written, but when his material runs thin, he becomes more desperate to escape and starts planning to with fellow prisoner Yasmin. Themes of writing and storytelling, friendship, and self-acceptance are woven throughout this satisfying modern twist on Arabian Nights. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Imprisoned by a real-life witch, horror addict Alex's only hope for survival lies in his ability to spin his own nightly tales of terror.Alex Mosher knows that there is something wrong with him. Normal kids don't obsess over creepy things, and they certainly don't keep "nightbooks" full of their own scary stories. In an attempt to lose the label "weirdo," Alex sneaks out of his own apartment in the middle of the night, down the elevator to the basement boiler in order to destroy his work. But when the elevator stops on the fourth floor, Alex is beckoned into a bespelled apartment and trapped by the witch Natacha. Aided by fellow prisoner Yasmin, Alex is given the task of storyteller, reading nightly from his nightbooks for the witch's pleasure. He spends his days exploring the apartment and planning an escape even as he begrudgingly finds that he enjoys having an appreciative audience. When Alex discovers that his stories serve to appease an ancient evil that even Natacha fears, escape becomes even more urgent. White (the Thickety series) presents an engrossing and creepy tale that blends elements of "Hansel and Gretel" and The 1,001 Arabian Nights, explores the storytelling craft, and addresses perceptions of normalcy. Interwoven tales will thrill middle-grade horror fans. Alex is white, and clues indicate that Yasmin is Arab-American, while Natacha is depicted as having dark skin and spiky hair.A thrilling tale of magic that is just scary enough. (Horror. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

In this clever synthesis of One Thousand and One Nights and "Hansel and Gretel," a boy captured by a witch must tell a different spooky story every night if he wishes to stay alive long enough to escape her clutches. But even though he has notebooks full of nightmare-inspired tales, Alex needs to come up with new material to appease his captor, whose impossibly large apartment is filled with lurking terrors. He finds a reluctant ally in Yasmin, a fellow captive, but even she may not be able to help him outwit the witch and return to the real world. Too bad he's suffering from writer's block. White (the Thickety series) skillfully interweaves Alex's peril with the stories he tells, which possess a juvenile gotcha horror in their own right. (Possessed teddy bears, ghost-filled playgrounds, and vampires who steal reflections all make appearances.) The blend of folk and fairy tale elements works extremely well under the circumstances, and the protagonists share an enjoyable camaraderie as they attempt to thwart their common enemy. Despite the dark premise, the narrative never quite crosses the line into horror, making it a safe bet for younger readers. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners. Ages: 8-12. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 4-6-A spine-tingling dark fantasy about the power of facing down fears and choosing your own fate. Alex loves horror stories, but the night he sets out to destroy his beloved "nightbooks"-notebooks full of his original tales-he finds himself trapped by a witch in an enchanted apartment. Natacha, the capricious witch, requires Alex to tell her one of his horror stories each night, or else. As Alex runs out of stories, he enlists the help of the apartment's other trapped occupants, a cautious girl named Yasmin and the witch's begrudging cat, Lenore, to find a way to escape. White has crafted a chilling fractured fairy tale mash-up of "Hansel and Gretel" and "One Thousand and One Nights." The book is full of horror tropes such as bone keys, disappearing rooms, an unhinged but sympathetic villain, and a child-eating witch. But it's more than just a grisly fairy tale. Alex and Yasmin are never reduced to caricatures, and they react to their imprisonment in believable and nuanced ways. At its heart, it is a coming-of-age story about kindness and friendship and the importance of choosing to use one's own power for the good of others. VERDICT Fans of gloomy fare such as Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," Adam Gidwitz's "Grimm" books, or Neil Gaiman's Coraline will find an equally twisting and terrifying tale here. An excellent addition to any middle grade collection.-Bridgid Gallagher-Sauter, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

White leaves the dangerous forest of his Thickety series for an unassuming but equally perilous setting in his newest endeavor. Horror-buff Alex has always been kept at arm's length by his peers, and late one night, he decides he's through with not fitting in. To kick off his campaign for normalcy, he sneaks out of his apartment to burn his nightbooks, journals where he writes nightmarish short stories. On his way to the furnace, Alex is inexplicably drawn to another apartment, where he becomes magically imprisoned by the witch Natacha. Assured that escape is impossible and surviving is far from guaranteed, Alex buys time by reading to story-hungry Natacha from his nightbooks each evening. A tense and creepy atmosphere shrouds this intriguing blend of Baba Yaga and Shahrazad, but intrepid readers will revel in the enchanted apartment's secrets and whimsical touches, such as Natacha's grumpy feline familiar. As Alex plots escape, he bonds with fellow prisoner Yasmin, permitting kindness, self-confidence, and bravery to sprout in their dangerous confines. Readers who prefer their magic dark will be spellbound.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2018 Booklist