A huge thank-you to the author for this advanced reader copy of The Night Fox by Ashley Wilda.
Every once in a while, you come across a book that’s just completely life-changing and you don’t know what to do with yourself when you’re done. That’s exactly how I felt about The Night Fox by debut author Ashley Wilda.
There’s something really special about knowing someone as children and years later, after life takes you on different paths, finding out that they’re getting ready to have their first book published. Add to that the opportunity to read said book ahead of time and absolutely fall in in love with it and you’ve got precisely what happened with me and The Night Fox. I feel so honored to even know Ashley, let alone read their stunning debut novel.
I began to walk through the most challenging season of my entire life at the end of July 2023 and I started reading The Night Fox on August 1st. Let me tell you something: this book completely changed my life. It was exactly what I needed during the week I spent reading it. There is no question in my mind that it’s going to have such an incredible impact on so many other readers as well.
The Night Fox comes out on October 10, 2023. You certainly won’t want to miss this debut novel, folks. It’s an absolute masterpiece. Keep on scrolling to read my full review.
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My honest review of The Night Fox by Ashley Wilda.
This luminous, haunting debut, alternating between now and then, reality and magic, tells the story of a girl confronting heartbreak while at a mysterious recovery program in the wilderness.
When seventeen-year-old Eli arrives at Raeth, a remote mountain retreat for teens with mental health issues, her mind is made up—she is not interested in participating, and she doesn’t need to “heal.” Still reeling from a breakup that left both her heart and faith shattered, she is determined to fake being “fine” so that the program’s warden will clear her to return home.
But the retreat itself has other ideas. The valley’s magical surroundings transform each time she ventures out, playing with her mind and dredging up her grief-laden memories. Despite the warning signs, Eli explores more of the area than she had ever planned, even venturing into the dangerous night realm.
This spellbinding novel mixes prose and poetry into an exquisite and evocative portrait of love, grief, depression, and the slow path toward healing.
Content Warnings: (Major) Panic attacks/disorders, Grief, and Mental illness, (Moderate) Injury/Injury detail and Toxic relationship, (Minor) Car accident, Death, Self harm, and Suicidal thoughts
Sometimes, you read a book at the exact right time, and it feels like the author looked straight into your brain or saw all the elements of your life and wrote the book specifically with you in mind. That’s how I felt reading The Night Fox. I stayed up late into the night to finish it, wiping tears away and just feeling so thankful I happened to read it during the hardest season of my life.
The Night Fox is truly one of the most hauntingly breathtaking books I’ve read in 2023. It spoke to me on a personal level in a way that very few other books ever have. I found myself highlighting passages over and over because I knew I would want to return to them, not only for comfort but for a sense of belonging and feeling seen.
This book is the definition of atmospheric. From beginning to end, you aren’t just reading about Raeth, you’re living there. You’re experiencing the beauty of the mountains in the distance, the lush grasses, and the quiet of the cottage. You can see the steam wisping from the mug of tea on the kitchen table and feel the morning mist on your skin. The story completely envelopes you with the stunning descriptions and you lose yourself in it entirely.
The dual style of storytelling is magnificent. I’m always drawn to novels in verse and books that include poetry. Ashley did an incredible job weaving the most heartwrenching poems throughout the tale, ones that helped us understand Eli’s backstory even better than I think we ever would have if it had been given to us in another format. These were often the moments when I found myself feeling the most emotional. Stray tears would slip out while I read certain lines over and over again.
There’s a beauty–and even a strength–to Eli’s anger. I’m sure this is something that will affect different readers in different ways, but I connected to this character on a near-spiritual level. The way that she asked questions more like they were accusations, felt things so deeply, and expressed sadness in such unique manners… all while constantly attempting to understand and accept herself better… it was so reassuring. It made me feel like it was actually acceptable to hurt, grieve, and navigate pain in a way that is entirely my own.
In order to write this review, I opened my copy of The Night Fox yet again to look over the quotes I highlighted. Leave it to me to begin crying all over again while trying to make my thoughts clear and concise. Ashley created something phenomenally magical and memorable with this book. If you’ve ever felt abandoned, exhausted by your own self, or ready to just give up, you need to read this book. Okay, so I think you should read it no matter what, but I believe it could be truly healing to so many who are in challenging eras of their life.
The Night Fox is an absolute masterpiece and I look forward to revisiting it time and again throughout my life when I need an extra dose of wisdom or a buoy in the midst of life’s storms.