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Review: Pull Down the Night

Pull Down the NightPull Down the Night by Nathan Kotecki. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from the publisher. Buy it from IndieBound or Powell’s (affiliate links).

Bruno and his brother Sylvio are the new kids at Suburban High this year, but they quickly make friends with the remaining members of The Rosary, a clique steeped in elegant, dark music and culture. Sylvio has always had those interests, but Bruno finds himself suddenly drawn to them – perhaps because of his powerful attraction to Celia, the protagonist from The Suburban Strange. Through his connection with Celia and his interactions with the school librarian, Bruno discovers that his intuitive understanding of maps has a supernatural source. He has to use these skills and his new understanding of the supernatural realm of the Kind and Unkind to help him solve two mysteries: why students around school are receiving “kiss notes” from a ghost and then discovering loved ones betraying them, and why kids all over the school are suddenly finding themselves deeply depressed.

My relationship with the author:

You should know that I can’t be unbiased about this book. Nathan Kotecki is my friend (see more about how we met in my review of The Suburban Strange). I’m listed in the acknowledgments. So if you’re looking for an unbiased review, you probably want to look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for the honest perspective of the friend of the author who’s also a former high school teacher and school librarian, well, you’ve come to the right place.

What I love:

  • The supernatural stuff starts right away with Bruno mysteriously finding himself in the Ebentwine, a liminal space with a definite Wonderland vibe.
  • The references to dark music and culture flow fast and free, just like in The Suburban Strange. But this time, I didn’t find myself wishing I’d had goth friends to shepherd me around, probably because I got that out of the way in the first book.
  • There sure is a lot of time spent in the school library hanging out with the school librarian, who is so much more pleasant than adults in YA literature often are.
  • Bruno has a geography teacher who won’t let him coast, but gives him the opportunity to work on an individualized project that also helps him expand his supernatural skills.
  • Marco. Marco Marco Marco. He’s a featured player in this book, and I love him, and it makes me so happy.
  • Everybody, Bruno included, seems to love Celia in a way that makes her dangerously close to a Mary Sue, but there is an actual explanation for why everyone loves her so much.
  • Bruno and Sylvio have a very positive relationship. I love siblings who get along most of the time. Of course they don’t get along all the time, but they never seem to deliberately annoy each other or snipe at each other.
  • All the little ways in which you know this book comes from the same world as The Suburban Strange, but it really is its own story.
  • Bruno and Sylvio’s dad, who is a minister, but understands that his sons need to explore faith at their own pace.
  • The whole mythology of this world. There are Kind and Unkind, talented people who have the opportunity to use their supernatural gifts for good or ill. And these aren’t things like super strength or throwing fireballs, but things like literally traveling through the pages of a book, or being able to shape reality through drawing it.

How my wish from last time got fulfilled:

  • I said I wanted to see more menace in the school setting, and boy did Pull Down the Night deliver. This is the eeriest school library since they built Sunnydale High on top of a hellmouth. (We put that in lowercase, since we know there’s more than one of them.)

What I need to warn you about:

  • While this book is much quicker-paced than The Suburban Strange, it’s still not an action/suspense thriller. So if you’re looking for that, maybe pick up a different book, and give this to your goth friend.
  • You’re going to want to find all of the music that goes with this book. But you don’t have to, because Nathan made a Spotify playlist. I highly recommend listening to the playlist while reading the book, if you’re the kind of person who can have music going while you read.

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