” Are you a Christian?’ Ilonka finally asked.
‘No, I am dying.” Anya turned a page. “Dead people have no religion,'” (Pike 4).
Ilonka Pawluk has checked-in to Rotterham Home, a hospice for teenagers, typically state wards, who are soon to die. But Ilonka is different, she’s taking better care of herself, and once her hospital tests prove that she’ll be out of Rotterham and back to living. Until then, Ilonka meets with her roommate Anya and other Rotterham residents Spence, Sandra, and Kevin at midnight for the Midnight Club where the teens regale great stories of mystery, horror, and tragedy to each other. After one frightful story the teens make a vow to whichever one of their group dies first has to come back and show them a sign. But then one of them does die…
I watched Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of The Midnight Club before reading this and was curious about how similar the two were considering that I knew most of the teens stories in the show version were based on Pike’s other novels (and considering Mike Flanagan revealed how the series would have ended if Netflix hadn’t axed it after the first season). After reading it, it’s obvious why Flanagan would adapt this one of Pike’s works because it’s so very Flanagan (said with lots of love and care obviously, this was the perfect project for him).
I haven’t read much of Pike aside from a strange short story about twins and body switching and a white dog in an obscure short story collection, but even back then that story was my favourite so I was excited to see what The Midnight Club was like. And honestly? It didn’t disappoint. It isn’t a perfect story, the original summary is pretty misleading since a lot of the novel isn’t about waiting for a sign from beyond the grave but rather coming to acceptance with death, and the importance of loving and living while we are still here to do it. The writing is fairly simple, but it also reads like other books that were written in the 90s so I can’t really blame it for that either. It’s a short book that takes place over a few days, maybe a week or two at most, and because of that short time period there really isn’t a lot of character development. I think Flanagan did a much better job fleshing out the characters than Pike did, and I was shocked by the queer representation that was present considering when it was written, even if it may not have been the most accurate (
though being written in the 90s, AIDs was still a death sentence to many people, so again I can’t really blame him for that).
As I mentioned, the characters aren’t all that fully fleshed-out, though it was a comfort to see that Ilonka is just as annoying in the book as she is in the show. Anya, Kevin, and Spence are all next for more well-rounded, and Sandra is in dead-last place with almost no personality at all. The stories the teens tell each other were alright, definitely some better than others (I’m so happy that Dana story was in both the novel and the Netflix series), but even the bad stories sounded like ones that teens would actually tell each other, overdramatic, bloody, and not always making sense, but still fun to hear.
There’s some good foreshadowing throughout, and I do think if I read this as a teen I would have been absolutely shocked at some points. What surprised me the most though was how emotional this story is, how heart-aching, which really shouldn’t be surprising since all these characters are in a hospice. Despite our hopes, we know how their stories end. It’s a beautiful story which isn’t full of extreme horror or scares, it’s more about confronting the truth for all of us: that someday we will die, which is probably the scariest and hardest truth to accept.
The Midnight Club is a wonderful novel full of heart and hard truths. I hope to read more of Pike’s work because I know he has some scarier works (and some vampires!) and I’m ready to get started!
Pages: 224 pages (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Young Adult
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.5
Rotterham Home was a hospice for young people—a place where teenagers with terminal illnesses went to die. Nobody who checked in ever checked out. It was a place of pain and sorrow, but also, remarkably, a place of humor and adventure.
Every night at twelve, a group of young guys and girls at the hospice came together to tell stories. They called themselves the Midnight Club, and their stories could be true or false, inspiring or depressing, or somewhere in-between.
One night, in the middle of a particularly scary story, the teenagers make a secret pact with each other, which says, “The first one who dies will do whatever he or she can do to contact us from beyond the grave, to give us proof that there is life after death.”
Then one of them does die…