If the reviews on Goodreads are anything to go by Welcome to Night Vale: The Novel has been met with a mixture of responses. There are night Vale fans who love it because it is so Night Vale and there are Night Vale fans who cannot stand it because it reads too much like Cecil voice on the radio. I’m not here to tell anyone they are right or wrong because they aren’t. Sometimes people love a book, sometimes they hate it, sometimes they are indifferent, sometimes their opinion changes, sometimes it doesn’t. I am here to talk about why it is so important to me and why I’m reading it for the third time in 2017 alone.
I don’t actually have a physical copy of the book [yet] so when I say ‘read’ I mean listen to Cecil Baldwin read it out. The first time I read the novel was August last year. My Original Review. The novel had been out around a year but one thing or another had stopped me from getting it. But suddenly I had an audible credit free and I got it. I listened to it in a couple of days and I loved it. I loved Jackie and Diana and Josh and the use of Old Woman Josie and the Erikas and everything. And I didn’t think much more of it. I rated it five stars on Goodreads and my WTNV experience moved back to the podcast and the fact that episode 100 happened. I mean, I don’t think any of our WTNV fans have gotten over episode 100 and it’s perfect.
The second time I read it was near the beginning of this year. I reread it at night time listening because Cecil has a very calming voice. I relistened to it for the same reason I relistened to episode 100 three times in as many days when it came out. Because night Vale is my safe place. Night Vale is my go to, to calm myself down, to relax, to cheer up, Night Vale is very much a happy place for me. Again, I thought little of it. I loved it and my main thought was that I loved that it was a different take on the stereotypical “teenager searches for MIA dad” troupe. It was all of that with all the weirdness of Night Vale mixed in. It was perfect and I loved it.
It is perfect and I still love it.
The third time I listened to it was the time I realised why I love it so much. I was in a bad place mentally and was listening to it as an opportunity to get out of my head for a while (and it worked, thanks, Joseph and Jeffrey.) It was this time that made me rather defensive about reviews saying that Diana and Jackie were unlikeable and annoying. It was this time that made me realise what makes this Novel so important to me, beyond Cecil voice, Joseph weirdness and Jeffrey insistence in adding spiders to my happy place. It’s that it’s my story.
When I was between 14 and 16 my life was a mess of chronic illness and depression. I was Josh. I was confused, I was isolated and I didn’t know who I was or where anything was going. Unlike Josh, I wasn’t trying to find someone who was missing but rather get rid of someone who was far too present for my liking. I was on this huge journey like Josh is in this novel and it fucked me up. Rather than running away and crashing cars and what have you, I was lying in bed barely able to walk because of the pain and I was a mess. My journey, unfortunately, was going on inside my head for the most part. I was a messed-up teenager trying to work myself out and feeling like people were trying to stop me. I was Josh.
As I got slightly older I got myself slightly more together. That person was technically gone and my health improved enough for me to return to education. My life was no longer sleep and emo poetry, it had become education and hope for the future. But I still didn’t know what I was doing. I changed subjects at my A Levels, I nearly quit them. I went to uni and loved it but also, I got really stressed out there. I was Jackie, I think I still am Jackie. Between the ages of 18 and now (I’m 25) I’ve been on that cusp that Jackie is on. She’s not a child but she is not a properly fletched adult, she’s teetering between needing help and support and advice and needing the space and independence to grow. She is a child and an adult and neither and both and loves it and hates it. I am freaking Jackie.
My mum is Diane. I hear my mum in the things Diane says to Josh, to Jackie, to a lot of people and it makes it very hard for me not to love and admire Diane. Diane is a young woman, it hit me that she is only around 33 when the novel takes place, that’s not that much older than me, and it puts her as the same sort of age as my mum was when I was around Josh’s age. And I get it, she’s doing everything she can alone to try and give her son everything. All she cares about is her son being happy and growing. She’s catty, she’s harsh, she can snap too easily, but she is always coming from a place of love and concern. Parents are human too and this novel shows all sides. It shows Josh teen angst but it also shoes Diane struggling to parent a teenager. And she’s doing so well with the hand she has been given. And honestly, I’ve worked with children, younger than Josh but still, and I can hear myself in her. I am turning into Diane.
I have been Josh.
I am Jackie.
I am becoming Diane.
I love this novel so much because it’s not the story of a kid trying to find his dad, it’s not the story of weird Night Vale weirdness and time not working, it’s my story. And it’s a lot of people’s stories in lots of different ways I bet you. I don’t think everyone should have to love it, no book works like that but there’s a quick post on why I do and will continue to relisten to it. And plus, I love the metaphors. Jackie is a 19-year-old, unable to get older, and honestly, I think most of us around that age feel like we’re stuck, like we’re not moving and nothing is changing. Josh is a 15-year-old who can shapeshift and, most of us, at that age, are trying to put ourselves together and try n different ideas to find the ones that work.
I adore this novel so much and I cannot wait for It Devours to come out later this year.