The Secret Hour (Midnighters Series #1)
  • The Secret Hour (Midnighters Series #1)
  • The Secret Hour (Midnighters Series #1)

The Secret Hour (Midnighters Series #1)

4.3 367
by Scott Westerfeld
     
 

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Nobody is safe in the secret hour.

Strange things happen at midnight in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma.

Time freezes.

Nobody moves.

For one secret hour each night, the town belongs to the dark creatures that haunt the shadows. Only a small group of people know about the secret hour -- only they are free to move about the midnight

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Overview


Nobody is safe in the secret hour.

Strange things happen at midnight in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma.

Time freezes.

Nobody moves.

For one secret hour each night, the town belongs to the dark creatures that haunt the shadows. Only a small group of people know about the secret hour -- only they are free to move about the midnight time.

These people call themselves Midnighters. Each one has a different power that is strongest at midnight: Seer, Mindcaster, Acrobat, Polymath. For years the Midnighters and the dark creatures have shared the secret hour, uneasily avoiding one another. All that changes when the new girl with an unmistakable midnight aura appears at Bixby High School.

Jessica Day is not an outsider like the other Midnighters. She acts perfectly normal in every way. But it soon becomes clear that the dark creatures sense a hidden power in Jessica . . . and they're determined to stop her before she can use it.

A story of courage, shadowy perils, and unexpected destiny, the secret hour is the first volume of the mesmerizing Midnighters trilogy by acclaimed author Scott Westerfeld.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Westerfeld (The Risen Empire) begins this inventive contemporary fantasy-first in a planned trilogy-as a new-kid-in-high-school story; he quickly introduces a few surreal bits and then begins revealing his secrets in careful increments. Jessica Day has moved to the odd town of Bixby, Okla., where the water tastes odd and, she is told, "gives you funny dreams." The misfits at school, Dess, Rex and Melissa, see a kindred spirit in Jessica: like them, she was born at nearly the exact stroke of midnight, giving her the ability to experience the 25th hour of each day, which is "rolled up too tight" for the rest of humanity even to notice. This lost hour has its own breed of predators ("darklings") who don't exist at any other time and who are terrified of stainless steel and 13-letter words; but ever since Jessica arrived in town, darkling activity has been on the rise. The story moves quickly, and the structure is satisfying-the author answers all the questions he highlights in this initial volume while leaving room for the plot to develop in the sequels. A devilishly unraveled loose end on the last page will ensure an audience for the next installment. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
A cross between the modern scenario of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the old-fashioned magic of Tom's Midnight Garden (Oxford University Press, 1958), this first in a series is set in a modern high school, with a newcomer discovering that those who dress in black and act like outcasts really do know something that mainstream American teenagers do not. Jessica arrives at Bixby High School as the new girl, facing crowded hallways and hostile lunchrooms in a new town just as any other teen would—with fear. The normal trepidation is compounded, however, by odd dreams and her growing perception that something is amiss in Bixby, Oklahoma. When she meets a group of teens who dress in black and are held as outsiders by the school, they advise her "don't drink the water" and only serve to confirm that Bixby is different. One night, Jessica awakes exactly at midnight to find time frozen, and that she has become one of the Midnighters. The Blue Time, as it is called, is not full of fun, however. She is rescued by Melissa, Rex, and Dess, who reveal that the laws of physics and nature do not work at this time. In addition to having the power to walk at midnight, they each possess a special gift that sets them aside in the ordinary daylight as weirdos. These teens have psychic powers, and they protect the real world from threat. The ending both promises Jessica a place in normal high school society and future adventures in the Blue Time with her new friends. This novel presents a promising start to a series for Buffy book and television fans and more sophisticated readers of Stephen King or Margaret Mahy. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YAappeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, HarperCollins, 304p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Hillary Theyer
KLIATT
As the new girl in Bixby, Oklahoma, Jessica Day is more concerned with adjusting to her new surroundings than making friends, but Dess, a Goth girl hiding behind dark glasses, strikes up a strange conversation with her, hinting that something in Bixby might give her bad dreams. That night, Jessica thinks she must be dreaming when she wakes up to blue diamonds glittering in the air outside her window, only to realize that the gems are rain suspended mid-fall. The next night, "dreaming" again, she ventures out of the house to explore a time-frozen world that seems to be hers alone. On the other side of town, however, Dess along with Melissa and Re senses Jessica's presence. They find her just as she is about to be attacked by a shadowy panther and tell her this is no dream. Jessica learns that they all share a special commonality. Each one was born at midnight and as a result experiences a 25th hour in the day when real time stops, blue time starts, and the darklings come out. Since Jessica's arrival, though, the darklings have gotten aggressive, and the Midnighters have to find out why. They each have special powers, but until they discover what Jessica's talent is, and why she has become the darkling's target, their midnight hour is in jeopardy. In Westerfeld's first Midnighters tale, he concocts a unique and fresh fantasy setting just beyond the edge of our consciousness. Readers will certainly be pulled into the blue time and eagerly await the next volume. (Midnighters #1). KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, HarperCollins, 296p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Michele Winship
KLIATT - KLIATT Review
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2004: As the new girl in Bixby, Oklahoma, Jessica Day is more concerned with adjusting to her new surroundings than making friends, but Dess, a Goth girl hiding behind dark glasses, strikes up a strange conversation with her, hinting that something in Bixby might give her bad dreams. That night, Jessica thinks she must be dreaming when she wakes up to blue diamonds glittering in the air outside her window, only to realize that the gems are rain suspended mid-fall. The next night, "dreaming" again, she ventures out of the house to explore a time-frozen world that seems to be hers alone. On the other side of town, however, Dess and a few other teens sense Jessica's presence. They find her just as she is about to be attacked by a shadowy panther and tell her this is no dream. Jessica learns that they all share a special commonality. Each one was born at midnight and as a result experiences a 25th hour in the day when real time stops, blue time starts, and the darklings come out. Since Jessica's arrival, though, the darklings have gotten aggressive, and the Midnighters have to find out why. They each have special powers, but until they discover what Jessica's talent is, and why she has become the darkling's target, their midnight hour is in jeopardy. In Westerfeld's first Midnighters tale, he concocts a unique and fresh fantasy setting just beyond the edge of our consciousness. Readers will certainly be pulled into the blue time and look for the next volumes in the series: Touching Darkness (978-0-06-051956-8) and Blue Moon (978-0-06051959-9.) Age Range: Ages 12 to 18. REVIEWER: Michele Winship (Vol. 42, No.1)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Moving when you're in high school is difficult enough, especially when your parents can't seem to hold their own lives together and your younger sister is being more obnoxious than usual. However, for 15-year-old Jessica Day, these concerns pale when bizarre things start to happen and she discovers that she now has unwanted magical powers. Part science fiction, part horror story, this novel is the first in a series about the midnighters, a select group of individuals whose birth at the stroke of midnight gives them the special ability to move about in a mysterious 25th hour. As Jessica takes her place among these extraordinary teens, she must battle the increasingly dangerous slithers and other darklings that have suddenly become more violent and aggressive. The story is exciting and the writing compelling. Gaps in the account will not bother readers, who will be totally absorbed by the paranormal elements as well as the intriguing characters, and who will be eagerly awaiting the next book.-Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A thrilling series starter brings Jessica to Bixby High, where she gains mysterious powers. Though Jessica quickly becomes popular, she fascinates the light-hating school outcasts. Rex, Dess, Melissa, and Jonathan watch Jessica carefully until she awakens as a midnighter: one born at the stroke of midnight, free to move about in Bixby's magical 25th hour. In this blue-lit time, when all normal life is frozen, the midnighters enjoy their special abilities and easily avoid the dangerous darklings and slithers that roam the town. But when Jessica arrives, the midnight creatures increase in number and viciousness, and must be fought off with steel and 13-letter words. If the night children do not solve Jessica's mystery, midnight might never be safe for them again. A satisfying conclusion to Jessica's mystery leaves open intriguing interpersonal questions and the potential for a possible conspiracy to lead into the next volume. (Fiction. 12+)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060519513
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/02/2004
Series:
Midnighters Series, #1
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.01(d)
Lexile:
740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour

Chapter One

8:11 a.m.

Rex

The halls of Bixby High School were always hideously bright on the first day of school. Fluorescent lights buzzed overhead, their white honeycombed plastic shields newly cleaned of dead insect shapes. The freshly shined floors dazzled, glinting in the hard September sunlight that streamed in through the school's open front doors.

Rex Greene walked slowly, wondering how the students jostling past him could run into this place. His every step was a struggle, a fight against the grating radiance of Bixby High, against being trapped here for another year. For Rex summer vacation was a place to hide, and every year this day gave him the sinking feeling of having just been discovered, caught, pinned, like an escaping prisoner in a searchlight.

Rex squinted in the brightness and pushed up his glasses with one finger, wishing he could wear dark shades over their thick frames. One more layer between him and Bixby High School.

The same faces were all here. Timmy Hudson, who had beaten him up just about every day in fifth grade, passed by, not giving Rex a second glance. The surging crowd was full of old tormentors and classmates and childhood friends, but no one seemed to recognize him anymore. Rex pulled his long black coat around himself and clung to the row of lockers along the wall, waiting for the crowd to clear, wondering exactly when he had become invisible. And why. Maybe it was because the daylight world meant so little to him now.

He put his head down and edged toward class.

Then he saw the new girl.

She washis age, maybe a year younger. Her hair was deep red, and she was carrying a green book bag over one shoulder. Rex had never seen her before, and in a school as small as Bixby High, that was unusual enough. But novelty wasn't the strangest thing about her.

She was out of focus.

A faint blur clung to her face and hands, as if she were standing behind thick glass. The other faces in the crowded hall were clear in the bright sunlight, but hers wouldn't resolve no matter how hard he stared. She seemed to exist just out of the reach of focus, like music played from a copy of a copy of an old cassette tape.

Rex blinked, trying to clear his eyes, but the blurriness stayed with the girl, tracking her as she slipped further into the crowd. He abandoned his place by the wall and pushed his way after her.

That was a mistake. Now sixteen, he was a lot bigger, his dyed-black hair more obvious than ever, and his invisibility left him as he pushed purposefully through the crowd.

A shove came from behind, and Rex's balance twisted under him. More hands kept him reeling, four or five boys working together until he came to a crashing stop, his shoulder slamming into the row of lockers lining the wall.

"Out of the way, dork!" Rex felt a slap against the side of his face. He blinked as the world went blurry, the hall dissolving into a swirl of colors and moving blobs. The sickening sound of his glasses skittering along the floor reached his ears.

"Rex lost his spex!" came a voice. So Timmy Hudson did remember his name. Laughter trailed away down the hall.

Rex realized that his hands were out in front of him, feeling the air like a blind man's. He might as well be blind. Without his glasses, the world was a blender full of meaningless color.

The bell rang.

Rex slumped against the lockers, waiting for the hall to clear. He'd never catch up with the new girl now. Maybe he'd imagined her.

"Here," came a voice.

As he raised his eyes, Rex's mouth dropped open.

Without glasses Rex's weak eyes could see her perfectly. Behind her the hall was still a mess of blurred shapes, but her face stood out, clear and detailed. He noticed her green eyes now, flecked with gold in the sunlight.

"Your glasses," she said, holding them out. Even this close, the thick frames were still fuzzy, but he could see the girl's outstretched hand with crystal clarity. The Focus clung to her.

Finally willing himself to move, Rex closed his mouth and took the glasses. When he put them on, the rest of the world jumped into focus, and the girl blurred again. Just like the others always did.

"Thanks," he managed.

"That's okay." She smiled, shrugged, and looked around at the almost empty hall.

"I guess we're late now. I don't even know where I'm going."

Her accent sounded midwestern, crisper than Rex's Oklahoma drawl.

"No, that was the eight-fifteen bell," he explained. "The late bell's at eight-twenty. Where're you headed?"

"Room T-29." She held a schedule card tightly in one hand.

He pointed back at the doorway. "That's in the temps. Outside on the right. Those trailers you saw on the way in."

She looked outside with a frown. "Okay," she said hesitantly, like she'd never had class in a trailer before. "Well, I better get going."

He nodded. As she walked away, Rex pulled off his glasses again, and again she jumped into clarity as the rest of the world became a blur.

Rex finally allowed himself to believe it and smiled. Another one, and from somewhere beyond Bixby, Oklahoma.

Maybe this year was going to be different.

Rex saw the new girl a few more times before lunch.

She was already making friends. In a small school like Bixby, there was something exciting about a new student — people wanted to find out about her. Already the popular kids were staking a claim to her, gossiping about what they'd learned about her, trading on her friendship.

Rex knew that the rules of popularity wouldn't allow him near her again, but he hovered nearby, listening, using his invisibility. Not really invisible, of course, but just as good. In his black shirt and jeans, with his dyed-black hair, he could disappear into shadows and corners. There weren't that many students like Timmy Hudson at Bixby High. Most people were happy to ignore Rex and his friends.

Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour. Copyright (c) by Scott Westerfeld . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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