Review: Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal
Did you grow up with the legend of El Cuco? It’s a shadowy monster that mothers used as a threat to get their kids to behave when nothing else worked. “You better stop talking back or El Cuco will get you”. In my over imaginative mind, El Cuco lurked in the shadows, in the corners of my room at night, or under my bed. As a childhood myth I never would have imagined it as an inspiration for a young adult mystery novel. Thank goodness for Ann Dávila Cardinal, who expertly created just the right story to bring El Cuco to life.
In Five Midnights, five Puerto Rican teenagers are being haunted by a shadow they can’t describe. All five grew up sharing birthdays in the month of July. This summer as they are all in the cusp of their eighteenth birthdays, members of the group start being murdered and their bodies either disappear completely or are left in such a state that the chief of police doesn’t know what to make of these strange incidents. In the middle of this mystery are the protagonists Javier, one of the five teenagers who is counting down to his 18th birthday, and Lupe, the “Gringo-Rican” girl who is not only drawn to the mystery surrounding these disappearances, but is also constantly questioned for not being “Puerto Rican enough” as a half-white/half Puerto Rican Vermonter.
Tied to the paranormal mystery are the real-life monsters of drug addiction and American corporate encroachment that threaten the everyday lives of these teenagers and their struggling communities in Puerto Rico. The story grabbed me from the very first chapter and didn’t let go, pushing me way beyond my bedtime into the wee hours of the night. Luckily the Cuco stayed within the pages of the book. If you want an engrossing read that you just won’t be able to put down, read Five Midnights, just don’t blame me if you start feeling haunted by shadows.