Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt
Published: February 18, 2014 by Walker Childrens
Source: From the publisher via Netgalley
When Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, "miserable" doesn't even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother's first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real... until she breaks up with him.
For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she's really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She's determined to change his mind, and when they're stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.
Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?
One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself. [goodreads]
There's something about young adult fiction set over the course of one day, especially into the wee hours of the night, that instantly draws me to it. I love a good story that materializes over a shortened period of time. One would think not a lot could happen in just under 12 hours, but it is the attention to detail that produces just enough oomph to give it a solid story.
The beginning of BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE starts out giving the reader a depiction of two characters. Brighton is your Miss Popular welcoming committee extraordinaire who appears to have it all together. While Jonah is the loner who just arrived at a new school wearing a scowl and keeping everyone at a safe distance. We follow their stories on Friday afternoon, just as their school day is ending. They collide a few times, but for the most part their stories are carried down separate paths.
At first I felt the story was dragging and I was missing something crucial. Schmidt did a good job of setting up these characters and the situations they were in, but things were progressing a little too slowly for my liking. I knew Brighton wore this facade of having it all together, but that she could break at any moment as she counted down the hours until her father's memorial the following day. Something that her mother, sister, and herself have not fully grasped even though it's been five years.
I could also see that Jonah was having a tough time at accepting the new life his mother forced him into when she married someone new and uprooted them to the fancy new neighborhood, leaving all of Jonah's friends behind. I saw the picture Schmidt was painting, very vividly, but I just didn't quite connect with where it was headed.
Then things changed.
I don't know if I've ever experienced a novel where I felt so unsure of it, only to completely flip gears and steer me in the direction to where I didn't want to put it down. As the day followed through into night, Brighton and Jonah's paths collided once more, bringing them down a path that would shake things up before it got better. This is when I became really focused on the story and was determined to see it through to the end.
Jonah's character took on a life of its own and he became someone that I could see, coming off the pages. His development as he opened up and allowed Brighton in really surprised me, but in a good way. I was drawn to their interactions and didn't want to see it end. That is truly my only complaint once I finished. I wanted more. As much as I love a story being told over the course of one night, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Brighton and Jonah.
There's just enough fluff to keep things sweet and comfortable, adding a deeper pull that will attract readers who appreciate depth mixed in with their contemporary YAs. If you're like me and on the fence due to a slow start, give it a chance, and I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised as I was.