Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2015.
Welcome to Night Vale is a book of everyday conspiracies, non-existent and heavily regulated dog parks, life threatening librarians- and two women.
The dog parks are the most normal part of this book, as expected.
Welcome to Night Vale.
Jackie is an eternally 19 pawn shop owner, with a piece of paper reading KING CITY suddenly and permanently attached to her hand. This makes operating her business impossible, and disturbs her endless days of making trades and writing out slips of paper for the many items (like single tear drops) that come through her door.
Diane is a PTA mom of a shape shifter son who is just trying to get a glimpse of his estranged father, no matter how many eyes he will have to grow to do it. When she begins to catch glimpses of the father around town, looking exactly as he did when he left years ago, she knows nothing good can come of their meeting.
A mysterious man with a deerskin suitcase weaves in and around the desert town they call home- a man no one can seem to remember, not even the angels that city officials would like to remind you do not exist.
Inspired by the podcast WELCOME TO NIGHTVALE, this book personifies the phrase “A wild ride from start to finish.” Embroidering the impossible fabric of a town with its own radio station but no way to leave, are points of discussion and emotions that seem a bit more everyday- Why should you grow up? How do you warn your teenage child about a bad influence in their life? When should you take the risk of accepting a little adventure into your life? And why on earth would you ever risk your life by going to the library?
(Side note- as a library worker, I would like to reassure you that, outside of Night Vale, libraries are NOT populated by tentacled eldritch horrors. However, just like inside of Night Vale, libraries do absolutely hold answers to many of life’s questions.)
This book is a joy to read, and a creative feat. Between bouts of laughter and mysterious exclamations of “ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD” you just might catch yourself thinking deeply about what constitutes a “normal” community, and how you might interject a little healthy weirdness into your neighborhood. After all the talk of mysterious, sentient, glowing clouds (not to mention a dog park that is under 24/7 surveillance by individuals in dark hooded cloaks) this book is, at its core, about Jackie and Diane exploring their town, interacting with their usually harmless neighbors, and trying to solve their respective problems while hanging on to whatever shred of routine and normalcy they can muster.
And really, can’t we all relate to that?
Cyna A. Woodard is Library Assistant I at Graham Public Library, and can be reached at email@example.com