Olivia, Bertucci and Codman have been a solid trio throughout high school. Best friends who never had much time for other people, the three are now facing the end of high school and the moment when their lives will diverge.
In a last attempt to keep their bonds strong, Bertucci plans one last escapade the night before graduation. The three will spend the night in the recently boarded up Circle Cinema.
The decrepit movie theater was site to many late night movies and bonding. It will also be their Olivia, Bertucci and Codman’s last chance to talk honestly with each other about what comes next. And everything that threatened to pull them apart over the last year in Last Night at the Circle Cinema (2015) by Emily Franklin.
**Last Night at the Circle Cinema is the kind of book that is impossible to talk about without spoilers so if you don’t like that sort of thing, avert your eyes.**
Franklin packs a lot into this slim novel. With chapters that alternate viewpoints between the three main characters she also offers a well-rounded view of a events that manages to hint at an air of mystery. While attentive readers might guess the big “twist” early on, the revelation at the end does still bring pieces together in a satisfying way.
I must admit, I’m not a fan of this kind of novel. I dislike the recent trend where one character’s suicide is meant to help their friends embrace life or make better choices or whatever. It’s tacky and cheap. It’s also what happens in Last Night at the Circle Cinema where, readers realize by the end, Bertucci killed himself weeks before the trio’s supposed last stand at the abandoned theater.
Last Night at the Circle Cinema is great as a ghost story or a generally spooky read. The atmosphere of the theater is creepy and atmospheric. The idea that Olivia and Codman, as well as the readers, have been duped or might be seeing things ratchets up the creepiness even more.
But then we have the very problematic reasons behind that ghost story. Which definitely bring the story down in a big way.
The other problem here is that because the novel is so short, it’s very hard to care about any of the characters. The trio’s first person narrations feel flat and often sound alike despite efforts to imbue each with some degree of personality. Other conceits in the story–the boys using their last names, a poorly-executed love triangle to name too–further diminish the overall effect of the novel.
If you want an atmospheric story that is a little bit scary and can get past the problematic parts, you could do worse than Last Night at the Circle Cinema. Readers who like their characters with more introspection and layers, however, might be better served elsewhere.
Possible Pairings: Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, I Was Here by Gayle Forman, The After Girls by Leah Konen, Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCullough, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca A. Serle, I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder
*An advance copy of this book was received from the publisher at BEA 2015 for review consideration*