ARC Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Posted September 27, 2016 by Jamie in Reviews // 0 Comments

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ARC Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah PorterVassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Published by Tor Teen on September 20th 2016
ISBN: 0765380544
Pages: 304

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In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students, Vassa in the Night weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl’s search for home, love, and belonging.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion of the book.

Jamie’s Review

Okay look, this was a weird book. I enjoyed reading it, but it was weird. If you really like weird books where a lot of it doesn’t quite make sense if you overthink it, then this is the one for you. I found that the first 20% was good, the next 10% was like “wtaf”, but then the rest kind of made sense? It’s almost like you had to go over a hump in the book to get back to the “logical” parts again. Because there is a bit where my face was just confused the entire time I was reading. But I did actually enjoy this one. My review is just going to be … well, weird.

But Night, which hides everything in folds of shadow, is not in the habit of honesty.

I think my biggest complaint in this one is that the magic system and world building didn’t quite live up to par at certain points. I feel like we were just expected to believe in whatever premise we were being told about magic and the people who use magic rather than having an actual explanation for why there was even magic to begin with. And I mean, at the beginning it was almost as though everyone was like “well the nights are getting super long, but maybe that is just something I am imagining even though there are dancing stores” and I didn’t understand why more people weren’t adamant about the fact that magic existed. It sort of becomes more clear as the story progresses but I truly believe that there needed to be more of it at the beginning so that we the readers could feel like we were there alongside Vassa rather than separated from her.

I really liked all the characters. I thought they were all pretty well developed (except maybe Tomin who I thought was only there to show Vassa View Spoiler ».) I think that through Vassa we had a good look at what it means to be different and how you want to define yourself outside of your family and whatever decisions they make.

Once I stopped “thinking” about how any of these things could be happening, I started to really get into it. You kind of have to just go with the flow with this one to appreciate what it does. And by the end I guess I “understood” what was happening even though I still didn’t have a perfectly clear view. It’s like when my glasses are dirty — I can still see but the view is distorted until I clean them again. As I said earlier in my review, I think it would have been just a bit better to have more of an explanation of the magic earlier.


I would recommend this to you if you really like weird, mind tripping books or if you’re a HUGE fan of more obscure fairy tale retellings. As well, if you read the summary and were like “EFF YES THIS IS MY JAM,” I would say you will also probably enjoy it. I thought it was a little weird at points and I was confused during some of it, but overall I found myself enjoying the book.

About Sarah Porter

I’m a writer, artist, and freelance teacher. I teach creative writing workshops in the New York public schools via Teachers and Writers Collaborative; I’ve worked with kids in grades K-10, but I’ve focused on junior high and high school for the last several years. I don’t think I would have written a YA novel if it weren’t for that experience! Reading my students’ intense, passionate poetry and stories recalled my own emotions at that age. Lost Voices was my attempt to write the book I most needed as a twelve-year-old struggling with what it means to be human: a book I never really found.

I live in Brooklyn with my wonderful husband Todd, an artist and fabricator of electronic art, and our cats Jub Jub and Delphine. I have an M.F.A. from City College.

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