Race the Night
by Kirsten Hubbard
” The space between them doesn’t matter as long as they exist. “
Eider lives in a state of total, yet quiet confusion. Ever since the rattlesnake bite things haven’t been the same. And even before then, things were never quite normal — even if it is all that she’s ever known.
She’s noticed things; little things that have compounded into the total methodology of control over her days and her nights. Each moment of her waking hours are set to a softly-put but exact structure : Free Play. Circle Time. Lunch Break. Extrasensory Lessons, where she attempts to tap in to her supposed natural ability for telepathy. Her sleeping hours are spent in a state of equal parts exhaustion and on the edge of dreamlike nightmares.
” ‘Does everybody have their lights?’ Teacher asked.
The kids all nodded. Their penlights lit their faces from below, making them look slightly ghoulish.
‘Good.’ Teacher closed the shelter door behind her. ‘Now turn them off.’
Five clicks and then darkness. Total darkness. Eider couldn’t see Avis beside her, or Teacher before her, or even her own hand in front of her face. She could have been anywhere at all. That was a strange thought.
‘Darkness is an interesting thing,’ Teacher said. ‘Technically, it’s just the absence of light. Right, Finch?’
‘Right,’ Finch replied, his disembodied voice somewhere to Eider’s right.
‘It feels like more than that, though, doesn’t it? Almost like it has a presence. A power of its own.’ “
Memories of worn down ballet slippers and classical music haunt her. A fairytale book well-hidden in floorboards, full of visions of pumpkin coaches and fairy godmothers. Hazy pictures of another dark haired, olive-skinned little girl who would lay with her on the slabs, side by side, their shoulders touching as they looked up into the night’s offerings and whispered furtively . . . these thoughts make up her dusty circadian rhythm.
Dreams. Eider has them in spades. A family of her own, one that doesn’t consist of bossy kids like Avis or mean kids like Jay. Someone to hold her and brush her hair from her face. A mother to draw her bath. A father to play catch with. What does a family look like? Does it look like the papers she’s found, the flying snapshots of life Beyond that somehow make their way down the desert to her little patch of existence? The Beyond that doesn’t matter anymore, because it’s been destroyed?
As one of the Chosen Ones, she doesn’t have the option of family. She was one of the lucky ones . . . she survived the end of the world. And now, with the rigorous mental and physical training provided to her by Teacher and the everlasting health supervision by Nurse, she will be able to achieve her full potential. She will able to become a true leader. But Eider wonders — the leader of what?
” One question stood out the most:
Do you know about the Other People?
And if Teacher did know, had known this whole time . . . why hadn’t she told them?
As Eider watched Finch’s clumsy stumble through the obstacle course, she tried to remember what Teacher had told them. It wasn’t easy. She’d told the kids there was nobody left, though.
Hadn’t she? “
Kirsten Hubbard‘s Race the Night is part dystopian-world and part adolescent-cult, all wrapped in a multi-colored blanket bearing the question — What exactly happened? A mid-grade mystery novel full of clues and hints as to what is lurking right outside the gated walls of the desert ranch, where the Other People live amongst the dead sea and reckless evils. Inside the desert ranch, the five children have been carefully curated and with the help of Teacher, they will become the future leaders of the world — but, is there even a world left for them to lead? Young readers will be drawn into the character of Eider, a young girl caught between the reality of right and wrong and desperate for the truth, and will follow her through a transition of forced blindness into the blossoming of a cleared mind.
In a lot of ways, Eider is a normal twelve-year old girl. She is fascinated by mermaids and loves to explore nature. Yearning for an escape from the rigors of her daily life, she discovers a weakness in the structure; a gap in the fence that allows her a brief chance to escape into the outside, and it is here that Eider is able to be her true self and silently sort through her mind. While the memories floating around inside of her seem to come from something akin to a murky underwater source, Eider continues to persist at the pesky feeling she has deep in her gut — was Robin real?
She scours the outside desert for signs of life from the past, coveting the papers that the wind so generously blows her way. A postcard from a lover, with wishes for companionship. A flyer from a housing development boasting gazebos and large front yards. An advertisement boasting the mouth-watering taste of something called sushi. Grocery receipts for foods she has never heard of. Where do all of these treasures come from? Swept along the endless span of desert from the far away lands that have been decimated?
But is the outside world really as obliterated as Teacher would have the children believe? When Eider is traipsing along the rocks and the cacti on another adventure, she comes across someone she did not expect — a hiker. The man seems normal enough, he seems friendly and happy. He has a family, or so he says. And he shows her pictures on a strange glowing device that fits right into his hand. Questions begin to take a firmer root inside of Eider, but she will have no answers unless she goes searching for them herself.
Readers who enjoy Race the Night will find more to the story in Watch the Sky, set in the time before Eider’s adventure. Giving Race the Night 4 out of 5 stars, I recommend it to readers 10+ who enjoy a good mystery and a dystopian atmosphere.