In the Middle of the Night

by Robert Cormier

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In the Middle of the Night is a study in the self-destructive power of the lust for revenge. Two young people have had their parents murdered by unidentified "wise guys" when they were two and three years old. With lives already burdened by this loss, they are involved in a tragedy at a theater where they have gone to see a Halloween magic show that is an annual event for impoverished children. An unused balcony collapses on the audience officially killing twenty-two children, but actually "killing" Lulu too, although she is revived after her near-death experience. She and her brother Dave had settled in to enjoy a show: "Ten minutes later, Lulu was dead. Then the nightmare began." Bitter, crippled, and deranged, she devotes her life to revenge; when the theater owner commits suicide, the only person left on whom she can vent her rage is John Paul Colbert, then only a teenager. Although Jean Paul did something very stupid while on the balcony, it is plain that he was not at fault for the tragedy—but people want someone to blame, and he is vilified by his community. He spends his life thereafter trying to escape the past that haunts him by moving from town to town, but wherever he goes Lulu follows, calling him in the middle of the night to tell him that he is a murderer. Then Denny, John Paul's sixteen-year-old son, who is about the age his father was when the tragedy happened, decides one fateful day to take on some adult responsibility and answers the telephone, although his father has forbidden him to do so, and Lulu discovers a new victim for her sick fantasies of revenge.

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