In Bo Mitchell’s country town, a ‘White Night’ light-show event has the potential to raise vital funds to save the skate park. And out of town, a girl from a secretive off-the-grid community called Garden of Eden has the potential to change the way Bo sees the world. But are there too many secrets in Eden? As Bo is drawn away from his friends and towards Rory, he gradually comes to believe that Eden may not be utopia after all, and that their group leader’s goal to go off the grid may be more permanent – and more dangerous – than anyone could have predicted.
White Night was always going to be a book I had to read, given how much I enjoyed Ellie Marney’s Sherlock-inspired Every series. Cult-like secluded community in rural Australia? You had me at hello and I was not disappointed.
Rory is the new girl at school. In a small town where everyone knows everyone else, this doesn’t go unnoticed. When Rory’s bullied for being part of an isolated off the grid community, Bo stand up for her and their relationship blossoms. As some major news rocks Bo’s home life, he is drawn deeper into the small community where Rory has grown up. The Garden of Eden seems idyllic at first: self-sufficient, no waste, almost no environmental footprint. But there’s a simmering darkness to this community which may be dangerous.
While Eden certainly fits the bill, White Night isn’t a book about a cult. Rather, it explores how teenagers can start to form independent views about the world around them. In principal, there’s nothing wrong with Eden. But good values descend into paranoia and extremism. The focus of Bo’s experience isn’t a warning against cults, though. The teenagers in White Night have great discussions about ethical issues, but it never feels preachy (well, except when Eden leader Ray is pontificating over dinner).
Bo was an immediately loveable character; your average footy-loving teen. What made him even more attractive was that footy wasn’t his only interest. Bo has a secret passion for cooking, but feels his dad in particular won’t approve of a career with food when he’s such a talent with a Sherrin. White Night explores these gender issues beautifully, again without sounding preachy. In the typical teen boy way, Bo is drawn to new girl Rory, and was a perfect example of respect and kindness, one I would hope male readers may learn from.
Family was a large element of White Night. There were several different types of family situations and woven perfectly throughout the story. Bo’s family is pretty much your average, but the way they deal with a crisis is refreshing. Most of all, their response emphasises love and communication; it was wonderful to see Bo not ashamed of his emotions or discouraged from talking about the toll the family situation was taking on him. His best mate Sprog isn’t blessed with the same home life, but this abusive situation is handled delicately. Likewise Rory’s unusual upbringing in Eden .
White Night combines fast-paced writing and loveable characters with a nuanced exploration of how teenagers can start to form their own opinions about complex ethical issues. Already I’m excited for Marney’s future projects because if White Night is anything to go by, they’re going to be excellent. If you’re in a cult, call these teenagers because they’re not letting anyone stand in their way.
Sounds like: Bloodstream || Ed Sheeran