Almost Midnight collects two short stories by Rainbow Rowell that have appeared elsewhere, and features beautiful illustrations throughout by Simini Blocker.
In Midnights, Mags and Noel meet one New Year’s Eve and become fast friends. The story follows them on subsequent Eves for a few years and we see that Mags has more than friendly feelings towards Noel. Unfortunately he keeps kissing other girls at midnight. In this latest year Mags decides she’s had enough and hides out so she doesn’t have to witness him yet again choosing someone who isn’t her.
In Kindred Spirits, Elena lines up four days early to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Expecting a massive turnout and a party atmosphere, she instead is greeted by only two others in the queue. Troy, a middle-aged dude, and the taciturn Gabe, who is her age. Elena settles in, her mum driving by regularly to bring her a hot water bottle and try and talk her out of this nonsense. But Elena is determined to stick it out, no matter how depressing it might be. Initially Gabe is silent but after a desperate toilet break adventure he begins to thaw a little and they bond over their mutual love of the films. But they have more in common than just Star Wars...
I don’t usually read short stories. I find it hard to enjoy something that’s going to end very quickly. If I like the characters then I want to spend more time with them. However, I will read anything that Rainbow Rowell writes (must get into Runaways!). She wooed me with Eleanor & Park, charmed me with Attachments, and left me wishing I’d been a fanfic writer with Fangirl. And she didn’t let me down here either. Sure these are bite sized stories you can read in an hour or so (perfect for my babies’ nap time!), but they’re also fun, have (mostly) lovely characters you don’t mind spending that hour with, and offer burgeoning romance. What more could you want?
(Slight spoilers in this bit)
I think I preferred Midnights, but then I probably over related since I may have pined over a friend (or two) of my own as a teenager. Mags has better luck (and better taste) than I did though. Kindred Spirits is still an enjoyable read, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan, and I got a kick out of their film discussions. Because of its length it goes a little easy on the characters’ conflicts, stepping around the possibility that Elena is a Mean Girl. I know we’re supposed to understand that she’s not, but she considers a name-caller one of her closest friends (It’s just what she’s like! Yeah well maybe don’t enable that, Elena!) and doesn’t recognise Gabe even though they’ve gone to school together for years. This is explained by her being quiet/in her own world, she doesn’t talk to many people outside her social circle. And that makes sense, since meeting new people when you’re awkward is tough, but on top of her mean friend it didn’t sit well with me. I think I’d like to see these two in an expanded tale, to get a better feel for Elena. And also explore why she feels beholden to her dad when he seems to have disappeared out of her life. See, I said short stories aren’t my thing!