Book Review: Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal


Review by Mimi Rankin

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?

MY TWO CENTS: As soon as I read about Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal (Tor Teen), I was determined to get my hands on a copy. YA horror-crime set in Puerto Rico? Everything about this called my name.

Lupe Dávila is a “Gringa Rican” spending her summer in Puerto Rico, leaving her alcoholic dad in Vermont to explore his homeland on her own for the first time. The niece of the police chief, Lupe finds herself attempting to solve a mysterious murder case when it seems like her missing cousin, Izzy, might be the next victim. One of Izzy’s oldest friends, Javier, is trying to make peace with himself and his sobriety, but when his old pals, Los Congregitos, keep being murdered in gruesome and inexpiable ways, all on their 18th birthdays, he fears as his own draws near. Can Javier and Lupe track down a vicious murderer before it’s too late?

First things first: I could not put this book down. I seriously considered taking a personal day from work to finish it (I tweeted this and both Cardinal and Tor Teen told me I was allowed to). The book combines mythology, crime, and a stark look at addiction, all set in the greater San Juan, Puerto Rico area. Each page sparked a new question in the best way possible. Is El Cuco real? What’s the deal with the ominous abuelita? I was pulled into the stories and backgrounds of the various characters and could not inhale the book quickly enough. The last few chapters felt slightly rushed, but there is so much action and detail packed into the climax, the racing could have just been from my own heartbeat.

One of Cardinal’s greatest strengths came through her characters. In particular, Marisol was one of the most fascinating and complex characters I’ve encountered in YA literature. She is bold and electric and passionate about her country and community. There is a sincere depth to her, and I would love nothing more than to see her succeed. Another character who I truly felt like I was getting to know as a human being was Javier. His struggle and battle with his addiction, his relationship with Padre Sebastian, and even his relationship with his family, all felt whole. The text even went as far to explain the socioeconomic misunderstanding of addiction; a favorite line is “My dad is a g—d—n lawyer.”

The world that Cardinal has created in San Juan was so tangible, painting both the stunning aspects of the city like the Spanish blue bricks of Old San Juan and the harsh realities of an island struggling to come back from a devastating hurricane and a corrupt government. Five Midnights invites readers to the captivating supernatural realm of an island just as mystifying with the resilience and heart of its people. I fully plan to champion Tor Teen to pick up a sequel—there is more havoc for El Cuco to cause and more stories to be told from Puerto Rico.

Photo by Carlos Cardinal - 2018ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Dávila Cardinal is a novelist and Director of Recruitment for Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). She has a B.A. in Latino Studies from Norwich University, an M.A. in sociology from UI&U and an MFA in Writing from VCFA. She also helped create VCFA’s winter Writing residency in Puerto Rico.

Ann’s first novel, Sister Chicas was released from New American Library in 2006. Her next novel, a horror YA work titled Five Midnights, was released by Tor Teen on June 4, 2019.

Her stories have appeared in several anthologies, including A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (2005) and Women Writing the Weird (2012) and she contributed to the Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, And Society in the United States edited by Ilan Stavans. Her essays have appeared in American ScholarVermont WomanAARP, and Latina Magazines. Ann lives in Vermont, needle-felts tiny reading creatures, and cycles four seasons a year.




file-2ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Mimi Rankin received her Master’s Degree with distinction in Children’s Literature from the University of Reading. Her thesis, on which she received a rating of First, centered around claims to cultural authenticity and representation in Hispanic Children’s Literature. She currently works in the publishing industry as a marketing manager. Her reviews do not reflect the opinions of her employer.

Book Review: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

First, a a few words from debut author Goldy Moldavsky:

Goldy M.

From Goldy’s Twitter account

New York is my hometown. It’s the place where I grew up, the place I love like a person. But the first time I set foot in New York, I didn’t know a word of English. My family immigrated to New York from Peru when I was five, leaving behind my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Lima. I can’t imagine how hard it was for my parents to move to a new place, and obviously it was infinitely easier for a five year old to adapt, but still—the culture shock was no joke. I remember crying as a kindergartner because I could not understand anything that my teacher was saying. Luckily, there was a girl in my class who spoke Spanish and translated everything for me.

Eventually, I picked up the language quickly enough, and it was this new culture—and specifically pop culture—that taught me to speak English. When I showed up in Brooklyn, neighborhood kids were singing along to New Kids on the Block and everyone was quoting Steve Urkel. I soaked it up. I guess it’s only fitting that my debut novel, Kill the Boy Band, is infused with pop culture references. While my parents were out working hard, I was learning a new language watching episodes of Saved By the Bell and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air after school. Though, I would still watch telenovelas with my family after dinner. I was just as hooked on episodes of Full House as I was on the melodramatic struggles my favorite childhood actress Thalia had to face on Maria del Barrio.

As a Jewish Latina girl who has confounded Jewish people with my Latinaness and Latino people with my Jewishness, pop culture was my great equalizer. And now I have a book that will hopefully be a part of that pop culture, written in a language that I adopted. As corny as it may sound, for an immigrant like me, getting Kill the Boy Band published is my very own version of the American Dream.

Now, the review of Kill the Boy Band by Zoraida Córdova

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: From debut author Goldy Moldavsky, the story of four superfan friends whose devotion to their favorite boy band has darkly comical and murderous results.

Okay, so just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near The Ruperts, our favorite boy band.

We didn’t mean to kidnap one of the guys. It kind of, sort of happened that way. But now he’s tied up in our hotel room. And the worst part of all, it’s Rupert P. All four members of The Ruperts might have the same first name, but they couldn’t be more different. And Rupert P. is the biggest flop out of the whole group.

We didn’t mean to hold hostage a member of The Ruperts, I swear. At least, I didn’t. We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that’s what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.

How did it get this far? Who knows. I mean midterms are coming up. I really do not have time to go to hell.

MY TWO CENTS: Fandom is a complicated culture. ~Goldy Moldavsky, Kill the Boy Band

I loved this book. It’s a refreshing feeling when you find a book that stands out the way Kill the Boy Band does. The book boasts it’s “The most shocking debut of the year,” and I think it might be right. This isn’t the YA novel we’re used to. It’s like a fangirl version of Scream Queens and Mean Girls. And it’s an unapologetic satire, which you need to keep in mind while reading it. It follows four fangirls who idolize a British mega pop band called The Ruperts. They are named so because each of the four boys is named Rupert. They end up kidnapping Rupert P, the least talented, “ugly” one. Every boy band has one. (Chris Kirkpatrick, anyone?) What was meant as an opportunity to get as close as possible to the Boys ends up with girls committing a felony. Things get out of hand. Like, way out of hand. Pause for suspension of disbelief, Weekend at Bernie’s style.


Zoraida reading Kill the Boy Band on a beach in the Dominican Republic

The girls are at various stages of fandom. There’s Isabel: The Tough One. She’s Dominican and curses in Spanish when she’s mad. She runs a fansite dedicated to The Ruperts, online harasses people who hate The Ruperts, and blackmails her way into being the #1 source for The Ruperts. She’s seen them so often that she’s really at the end of her fandom and more in it for the hits she gets on her website. There’s Erin. She’s like Emma Roberts in every role she plays. She’s the Beautiful, Mean One. Her role is “The Mastermind” of the layers to this scheme. Her story arc and twist are compelling and shocking. There’s Apple. “The Simple One” by a long shot. She doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on reality, and her whims are totally dictated by The Ruperts. She’s Chinese and was adopted by an elderly wealthy couple who gives her everything she wants. They have funded her obsession with The Ruperts, including concerts and Apple’s own Latin nanny (who is an honorary Rupert’s fangirl at this point). Without Apple, the girls wouldn’t be able to secure the super expensive hotel room they need to carry out their plans. Trigger warning: Apple is the target of fat shaming from the other girls. This is where the “friendship” between these girls unravels. They’re friends, but not. This trial is what forces them to remain a unit, even if the only thing they truly have in common is The Ruperts. Once that tie is broken, what do they have left when it comes to friendship?

Finally, there’s our unreliable narrator. She goes by many names, usually plucked from popular 80s movies. The final and most prominent identity is Sloane from Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. “Sloane” is the “Innocent One.” She’s the voice of reason and law in this slice into crime and murder. The best part of this novel is the use of the unreliable narrator. Do we trust Sloane? We shouldn’t, but she frames the story to make herself come out as the “Good One.” Even she tells the reader, breaking the fourth wall constantly, that she very well could make herself as the “Innocent” when she should be or could be the “Crazy” one. There’s a very real moment when Sloane wonders what is the truth in her web of lies. She is a writer of fanfic, after all. What if this is just one more of her elaborate stories she makes up?

Another wonderful aspect of the narrative is the use of modern dialect and internet slang. Gosh, saying that makes me feel a tad old, but it’s true. Sloane speaks the way the internet does. She offers a reflection on fandoms, the mad frenzy of loving someone you only know through music or film, the rush that comes with knowing the intimate details through gossip websites, Twitter, and stolen photos. (I did learn a new term: Citizen Pap. No that kind of pap. It’s Citizen Paparazzi. Duh.) Sloane slowly comes out of her fangirl craze and sees other fangirls through the eyes of their critics. The entire time I think, Why is it that when girls love something, it is easily dismissed? There’s a pivotal moment that summarizes my takeaway from this book. It’s when Sloane is speaking to an adult male:

“You girls…”

Are never taken seriously.

“…should find a nice hobby.”

But we should be taken seriously. We can be amazing. And dangerous.

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky is a crazy, ultra modern ride into the world of fangirls everywhere. With ROTFL moments and girls who are as smart as they are mean, as cunning as they are unreliable, it is a must read.

*Bonus points for cleverly threading in boy band lyrics throughout the novel. #ItsTheHardestThingIllEverHaveToDo.



From Goldy’s Tumblr

Goldy Moldavsky writes YA fiction from her hometown of Brooklyn. She studied journalism in college, where she got to interview some cool celebrities for her school paper. After a bit she realized it’d be more fun making up stories about celebrities, so that’s what she does in her writing. Some of her influences include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the esteemed works of John Irving, and the Mexican telenovelas she grew up watching with her mother. Follow her on Twitter @GoldyWrites and visit her website.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N