A Hundred Hours of Night
A Hundred Hours of Night by Anna Woltz, translation: Laura Watkinson
(Scholastic, 2016, 242 pages)
Tension and psychology are perfectly balanced in this cinematic young-adult novel. Emilia, a 14-year-old Dutch girl, flies to New York all on her own when it comes out that her father, who also happens to be her school headmaster, has been sending inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old female student.
Emilia is disgusted – not only with him, but also with the vicious Twitterers who are threatening her family online, which lends the book a dramatic, contemporary impact.
When Emilia arrives in New York, which Woltz describes so evocatively, she discovers that the apartment she booked online doesn’t actually exist. It turns out that teenager Seth and his precocious nine-year-old sister Abby – who seems to have stepped straight out of a book by Jenny Valentine – live at that address with their mother, who is out of town. They take pity on Emilia and allow her to stay the night, along with handsome high-school dropout Jim.
The sleepover doesn’t turn out quite as expected, though, as Hurricane Sandy hits New York. Author Anna Woltz experienced the storm herself and conjures it up in chilling images: rain lashes horizontally against the windows “as if we’re driving through the carwash (…) Sandy tugs at the walls and pounds on the windows (…) How can that light be swaying to and fro? Suddenly I understand. It’s not the light that’s moving. It’s the house.”
There’s a lot happening in this book, but Woltz skilfully ties everything together. The hurricane and the subsequent days of power failure bring about changes for all her characters. Seth is struggling to cope with his father’s death, Jim with his future, and Emilia with her serious phobia of dirt, her loneliness and her mixed feelings about her father.
The power blackout puts these young people beyond the reach of Twitter and parents, forcing them to rely on one another. They find out what it really means to connect and to feel united. “Friends? That’s those little square pictures on Facebook, isn’t it?” Jim wisecracks, but in the aftermath of Sandy, they form a friendship that goes much deeper.