Review: Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

It appears as though I am on a contemporary YA kick these days, which is funny (probably/definitely only to me though) because I’ve been reading all the fantasy/sci-fi/historical YA fiction I can get my hands on. I’ll credit my new favorite author, Melina Marchetta, for helping my rediscover my love for contemporary fiction. Thinking back, ever since my heart and soul were destroyed by Jellicoe Road I’ve read a string of similar books. Well, let’s be clear, nothing it similar to Jellicoe Road because that is is a league all its own. Actually, in my mind, it’s in league with the likes of everything by Elizabeth Wein and Ruta Sepetys.

………

I don’t know when this post became this neurotic librarian’s tribute (again) to Melina Marchetta and Jellicoe Road. I need to stop now because people need to know what I think about Bright Before Sunrise. This is assuming that anyone at all reads my somewhat infrequent ramblings that masquerade as legitimate blog posts. Whatevs.

Back to the point.

Bright Before Sunrise

Mini Summary

It’s been five years since a heart attack took Brighton Waterford’s father from her, and Brighton has spent that time being the perfect daughter and student. She is involved in every activity possible because she needs to please everyone and has the worst time trying to say “no,” therefore she is liked by everyone. Except, not really. New student, Jonah Prentiss has recently moved to the unofficially gated community of Cross Pointe with his mother, stepfather and new baby sister. Jonah does not find himself drawn to Brighton like everybody else on the planet, and actually finds her to be annoying. By chance, these two people are thrown together one evening and find themselves unable to get rid of one another, so they are forced (but how “forced” are they really?) to spend the rest of the night getting to know each other. Maybe, just maybe, Brighton and Jonah can let their guards down long enough to discover that they like and need each other more than they know.

My Thoughts

Honestly, I didn’t think I would enjoy this book as much as I did. However, it was so fantastic that I ended up starting and finishing this book over the course of one day/night. Seems fitting considering Brighton and Jonah’s story unfolds in the same length of time. So basically I was living their story. Kinda. I really enjoyed that this was almost a “boy from the wrong side of the tracks meets girl from right side and they fall in love against everyone else’s wishes” story. I say almost, because yes, Jonah was originally from a rougher town than Brighton, but they didn’t fall in love right away. And no one was against their “friendship” anyway. As I stated in my fabulous summary above, these two didn’t even really like each other at the start of the night. Neither one had a clear idea of the life lead by the other, and it was through learning about how the other lives that they finally began to understand, then like, then fall for each other.

Although I did not read the book, I have seen the movie version of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and based on that experience, I can tell you that this book has a similar feel to it. Side note: I did not actually enjoy Nick and Norahfor whatever reason. Schmidt does an excellent job keeping the book at a good pace, never keeping these two in one place for an extended period of time because they would have taken away from the physical journey of getting to know each other as well as the emotional one. I particularly enjoyed the potion of the night spent at a gross house party, because it was fantastic to see A) Brighton being more than capable of taking care of herself, and B) Brighton being a character who genuinely had no interest in drinking because everyone else was. <—— This was (is) my entire life, and it was nice to see a contemporary YA novel that did not write it in as part of the “good girl’s character.” I mean, yeah, Brighton was a typical “good girl,” but she admitted that, despite drinking with her close friends, drunken house parties just weren’t her thing. Sometimes, people, that is just the truth.

Other elements I enjoyed:

  • The minor characters. This was really Brighton and Jonah’s story, but Schmidt created other minor characters that helps us gain a better understanding of both Brighton and Jonah. Evy and Amelia- Brighton’s sister and best friend- were two of my favorite minor characters because they could easily have existed as merely a way to highlight Brighton’s quiet and serious disposition by being loud, outgoing and flirtatious. Instead, they acted as pillars for Brighton to lean on, and I found myself wishing they were real people.
  • The scene in the baseball park. Adorable. It totally made Jonah’s story and his athletic background come full circle. Plus, now I want to go play catch at like 2 am. (Jonah has to be there).
  • The love story. I was totally skeptical of the whole “two people falling in love by the end of the night” thing, but, Tiffany Schmidt, you and your beautiful writing and characters won me over. I was afraid that it was going to be some cutesy story where two characters meet and then go on a series of cute adventures throughout the night as they fall more in love. Thank GAWD that was not the case. I probably would have vomited. Instead, these two develop feelings over the course of the night and end up acknowledging them by the end. Adorable.

In conclusion, everyone should read this book. There is obviously a lot more to the Jonah and Brighton than I’ve discussed, but I don’t want to spoil everything. If you want a book that you can devour in one night and feel like you were right there with the characters, then definitely check out Bright Before Sunrise.

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Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking Normal

Mini Summary

Faking Normal, written by the lovely Courtney C. Stevens, tells the story of two broken teenagers and how they tentatively begin to heal after being thrown together. Alexi Littrell harbors a secret that claws at her from the inside out, causing her to retreat to her closet where she no longer has to fake being normal. A family tragedy sends kool-aid kid, Bodie Miller into the Littrell household for an indefinite stay. Together these two forge an unlikely friendship and slowly help each other to “channel their brave.”

My Thoughts

It was this book’s total honesty that kept me turning page after page. I was privileged enough to see/meet Courtney C. Stevens and hear her speak at two different author events. Each time she emphasized how this story was one that she needed to tell, and it was clear to me (and everyone in the audience) that every word she wrote was deliberate and packed with raw emotion and honesty.

Alexi was fantastic as the book’s main character. She is not forthcoming with her secret right away, but from the beginning, you get a very strong idea of what happened to her over the summer. Everything about her is tense. Stevens’ writing made me feel like I was seeing the world through Alexi’s eyes and feeling everything she was at the same time. This makes for a very intense reading experience, because Alexi is so tortured by her assault back in July, and so every time her thoughts take a darker turn, I also felt as desperate and helpless as she did.

Bodie Miller was just as heart-breaking a character. The book begins with his mother’s funeral (she was murdered by his abusive father- which Bodie witnessed) and Bodie leaving the church as he was unable to speak about her. He is grappling with the fact that he is basically an orphan, while coming to terms with witnessing his father murder his mom and being unable to stop him. While you never get inside Bodie’s head the way you do Alexi’s, Stevens still made me feel like I knew who Bodie was, and Alexi’s relationship with him is definitely what makes that possible. Because we are constantly aware of Alexi’s thoughts and emotions- and at such a gritty level- we get to know Bodie through Alexi.

In spite of the trauma these two have endured, the relationship they form is one of the most beautiful and real bonds I’ve ever read about. Each becomes a confidant to the other, and even without speaking their secrets out loud, there is a true sense of understanding between them, and Bodie always knows when Alexi needs his support, and vice versa. Their eventual love story totally makes sense within the context of the larger narrative.

There is much more going on in this book; more characters, subplots, secrets, etc., but in order to avoid re-typing the entire novel, I’ll let you read it on your own. Though Stevens takes on tough subjects, Faking Normal leaves you with a sense of relief and hope, and what more could you ask for?

Happy Reading!