Review: Midnight at the Electric, Jodi Lynn Anderson


One story becomes three in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric, but all three remain engaging, and the book balances them well.

The three narrators of Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric all share something: a connection to a tortoise named Galapagos. At first, the book seems like it’ll simply be Adri Ortiz saying good-bye to Earth in Canaan, Kansas. But her discovery of some items connected to the house her cousin is staying in really opens the book — and the stories of the other two main characters in this story.

Lenore Allstock and Catherine Godspeed had their own tales in the post-World War I and Dust Bowl eras, and both have ties to that Canaan farm, too. Anderson weaves them together and makes them fascinating. Midnight at the Electric snags 4/5 stars. In order to adequately describe how the book works, there will be some slight spoilers here.

The Good

Anderson does not shy away from making Lenore in particular quite complex. Her story revolves around meeting James, a young man who has some secrets of his own and a lot of facial disfigurement thanks to a bomb. Certainly she’s witty and bright, but she has a fantastic growth arc. She may show up last of the three narrators, despite having the earliest story. Anderson doesn’t shy away from showing her less likable moments. That makes Lenore all the more interesting.

That doesn’t mean that Catherine or Adri are bad by comparison. Indeed, Anderson allows them both to have their own moments where they don’t shine. Adri, in particular, seems quite boring by comparison to start, even though her storyline actually involves her going to Mars in 2065 of all things.

At first, actually, Adri’s cousin, Lily, ends up more engaging. At over a century old, she’s not above using her super-senior status to say things, and that injects some humor. However, Adri quickly takes over, and she’s the anchor for the three stories. We discover things as she discovers them.

The mix of genres, between historical and science fiction with some not-unexpected romantic developments, also works well, again held down by the character work that’s being done. Things don’t get too sci-fi or too romantic; there’s not really such a thing as too historical.

The Not-So-Good

Catherine’s sections might be the weakest of the three, as she starts out more than a little like a standard wistful teenager despite her difficult circumstances living during the Great Depression. But, even then, she also gets her growth arc, and that turns this criticism into a smaller quibble than it could have been for the most part. The last section Catherine has, however, feels somewhat rushed, as if Anderson suddenly realized she needed to wrap up quite a few plot points.

Sometimes, the dialogue also feels not stilted so much as it’s trying to seem a little profound. This is where Lily in particular falters, but it happens here and there in the other sections as well. It’s not a common occurrence, though. It’s just enough to be noticeable.

The Recommendation

Due to its multiple lead characters, Midnight at the Electric has something for quite a few different audiences. The unfolding narratives will draw a reader in quite easily. If we had to pick, it’s more for historical fiction fans than for sci-fi fans, due to two-thirds of the book revolving around characters in the past.

Next: Review: Eliza and Her Monsters

You can find Midnight at the Electric at booksellers now.