By: Tom Weston
Publisher: tom weston media
Publication Date: December 2008
Reviewed by: Pamela Victor
Review Date: April 9, 2009
Alex and Jackie, two seemingly stereotypical California blonde teenagers, are visiting their aunt and uncle in Boston for their winter break. Reluctantly, Alex accompanies her sister to the city’s traditional New Year’s Eve festivities, called First Night. Before they can take in a single show, the sisters get caught up in a puzzling mission when they encounter the ghost of Sarah Pemberton, a Puritan girl who died in 1688. The girls go on wild adventures in an effort to help this lost soul, who is on trial for witchcraft by the Court of Spirits. On their quest, the girls visit many historical landmarks in Boston, such as the Granary Burying Ground, The Old South Meeting House, and The Union Oyster House, in an effort to untangle the web surrounding Sarah’s predicament. How will these two modern girls succeed in defending poor Sarah Pemberton in order for her spirit to be laid to rest? That is the mystery at the heart of First Night.
Weston utilizes the girls’ adventures in an effort to impart a great deal of historical facts about the Colonial American era to young readers. The author’s affection for Boston’s landmarks shines through this tale, and the hope is that the readers become caught up in his enthusiasm. However, at times the story gets bogged down in ancillary historical details, and risks losing the readers’ interest along the way. Nevertheless, his placement of this mystery within a historical context is a great vehicle for learning about the past in an entertaining fashion. Readers can’t help but to learn plenty of facts about life as a Puritan as well as contemporary Boston geography when reading First Night. The great photographs of Boston add to the appeal of this book as well. In addition, the author’s passion for his topic certainly makes one want to take a special trip to Boston in order to attend the next First Night celebration.
The sisters, Alex and Jackie, seem to go through an evolution of sorts as they mature from superficial and ambivalent girls in the beginning of the story into serious, dedicated friends willing to risk everything for a friend by the tale’s end. Over the course of the story, the girls learn an appreciation for history as well. But even more importantly, they also learn to have faith in their personal capabilities and gain increased belief in themselves. That said, I wish the author had provided more depth to his characters’ personalities. The voices of Alex and Jackie feel stilted and lack verity and detail. Also, Weston has the girls make references to popular culture that is decades before their time. For example, he has these contemporary teenagers referring to Perry Mason and Humphrey Bogart. Even if Jackie is described as an old movie buff, the readers of this book most likely won’t relate to the references.
The first pages of First Night read, “Everything is connected…Figure out the connection later.” Indeed, young readers might enjoy connecting the dots on this mystery from history.
Quill says: First Night presents a tricky mystery in an historical context for pre-teen and teen readers.
For more information on First Night, please visit the author's website at: Tom-Weston.com