For some reason, despite the scary premise of a story that begins with a huge child harvest leaving a town with only eight kiddos afterward, I couldn't help but pick up Bump in the Night when I found out this was a fighters versus boogymen sort of tale. I've never really read any books that were purely and simply about the battle between forces of darkness and those who protect children from them.
In his first novel, Michael Johnson manages to scare, humor, amaze and sadden me -- all in 260 pages.
Bump in the Night follows the story of the eight children who survive the harvest. They then make it their mission to save some of the adults who have been silently fighting the boogymen in the shadows. Not just a few valiant adults, but other children who've been inducted, and most importantly the sentinels of all child-kind: teddy bears, action figures, and all manner of toys that keep them company at night, have been fighting the good fight for years and years.
I mentioned before that this is Johnson's first novel. That being said, I have a few things I should mention that I enjoyed about his writing.
First, the writing style is visual. Johnson is also a theater instructor so it's easy to assume that being able to visualize everything is an important element to the story. Though Bump in the Night largely takes place in the real world, Johnson also does a bit of world-building when the main cast inevitably experiences passing through other-worldly realms in which time runs differently and all the creatures of folk and fantasy can be found. This is where the visual storytelling shined brightest.
Second, Johnson isn't afraid to "abuse" or kill off his well-crafted characters. I'm not necessarily a fan of that kind of drama (I don't look for it, so to speak), but I can appreciate when a creator has the guts to let go of a dear friend. It caused me grief while reading -- and I'm sure that's exactly the reaction the author intended. It was even tougher to read through some of the rough parts of this book because most of the protagonists are young kids.
Finally, I like it when stories are complete (I have closure) but still leave room for expansion. Bump in the Night can stand on its own as a story of bravery and more than anything, adventure, but there is still much more that could be written. That is, if the author wants to. If not, then Bump is still a more-than-satisfying read for any fantasy/adventure fan.
this is kind of a "know your kid" book. It isn't too scary, but if your child easily freaks out at night, believes in monsters, or is rattled by mild horror, you should probably either give this book a pass or read it to them yourselves to keep their fears in check. The novel sends a very positive message, though: knowledge is power, but children's creativity, imagination, and kindness are even more powerful. That and, of course, the teddy bear keeps them safe at night.
For adult readers that like to dip into YA fantasy and the like, Bump in the Night is a delightful read with plenty of adventure and heart. Some of the themes could be predictable, but I can't say that's a negative thing when so many other good stories aren't necessarily the most surprising. If you can remember some of your childhood adventures with imaginary friends, your awesome plush, Star Wars action figure or plastic weapons collections, or tromping around outside searching for ninjas or cowboys with your best friend, you should have a pretty good idea of the kind of adventure this book contains.
Bump is full of that and so much more. Thank you to Michael Johnson for providing me with an eBook review copy of Bump in the Night! See my link below if you're interested in buying it for yourself or someone else: