Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Publication date: February 14, 2014
Publisher: Walker Children's (Bloomsbury)
Source: an e-galley provided by the publisher for an honest review
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.
First line: "You've dropped something."
I don't know what I was expecting, but the plot turned out to be what I was and wasn't expecting, all wrapped up in one. These types of plots—where two people are stuck together for a night and their opinions about each other change in less than 24 hours—are tricky. It balances on a thin rope of being unrealistic and involving insta-love. But Bright Before Sunrise succeeded in not being annoying or too implausible.
What makes this work:
Connection. It's an overall cute story, alternating between Jonah's and Brighton's narratives, displaying the times at the beginning of each chapter. What impressed me was that I was able to connect with both of these characters, even though they were vastly different. Jonah comes from Hamilton, which is represented as the projects, and has an extremely frustrating home life as well as a toxic girlfriend. Brighton, on the other hand, is the poster child for the sunny Cross Pointe and never lets herself have a break. I looked forward to both of their narratives, but I think I favored Jonah's more, partly because he had a backbone.
Humor. There can be different layers of cute, from a cute that can seem a bit patronizing (like a pat on the head) to a cute that makes me smile. This was the latter. Since I did connect with both characters, they easily made me smile because I got it.
Having him in my bathroom seems way too intimate. I get naked in that shower every morning. The way-too-flimsy-but-neverseen-in-public bathrobe Evy gave me for Christmas is hanging on a hook behind his head.
Realism. You know where most stories with these kind of plots tend to go south? It's when their feelings suddenly change or when the whole story is focused on their romance. This is a contemporary novel and many contemporaries have romance as a focus, but it shouldn't always be that way. The author does a great job in making their relationship progress at a nice pace. It's only 12 hours, I know. But it doesn't feel like 12 hours. Whenever they found themselves more comfortable or reached a new hour or new step in their relationship/friendship, it was done with ease and realism. THAT is how it's done. What helped was that they were both working towards separate goals: Jonah with his achy-breaky heart and revenge, Brighton with her can-do attitude and participation goal. While Jonah hesitated with his plan to show his newly ex-girlfriend the truth (simultaneously embarrassing her), he developed feelings for Brighton. Not overpowering love that so many books seem to do, but slowly developed care.
Another great example of realism in the book was the ending. Since it's the ending, I can't tell you why, but believe me, it was refreshing.
Flaws. With Brighton as a main character, the story easily could have followed down a doomed path of "perfect" characters. I thank the author for not ruining her book that way. At one point, Brighton chose poorly, and stupidly didn't act as she should have. But before it became too late for the situation to be fixed, she wised up and had a tiny payback of her own. That's what should happen. Characters are supposed to be flawed. Who wants a Mary Sue? Brighton was overwhelmed with the night's events and emotions, which made her not make the smartest decisions. But she fixed it. She made me go from helpless to proud. I'll repeat myself, that's how it's supposed to happen. Flaws are involved. Brighton has a hard job of keeping up with her Miss Perfect image. Jonah deals with his crappy home life and a situation he hates being in. Both of them deal with irrational choices and overcome their own personal flaws. All of those "imperfections" come together to make a great book with dimensionality.
Looking back, I don't know what I was expecting. It doesn't matter though because I got what I needed.
Verdict: A fast-paced story involving cuteness and depth as well as a natural relationship progression.
Note: Quotes may change from ARCs to publication.
Note: Quotes may change from ARCs to publication.