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.
I loved Schdmit's debut, Send Me a Sign, not only for the strong voice and solid writing, but the incredibly realistic characters, and Bright Before Sunrise delivers just as well. Jonah and Brighton are so easy to understand and relate to, so easy to root for, even when they are on opposite ends of an issue. There is something so effortless at the way Schmidt's characters appear on the page, and she's an auto-buy author for me as a result.
Jonah and Brighton are enemies of a sort to start. Jonah's the new kid at this ritzy school, with no desire to fit in or be part of clubs/events. He just wants to get back to his old town and see his girlfriend. He wants to get away from his mom and new stepdad, and he doesn't know how to handle his mom's decision to have another baby. Brighton is the most popular girl in school, nice, caring, pretty, and that person everyone wants to know and be friends with. But she's still in constant pain over her father's death and now, the day before a memorial for her father, she's determined to get Jonah's participation in a school volunteer thing to be able to have 100% participation, an achievement her father had years ago. This is what starts the enemies type element, and what comes after is so, so wonderfully done.
I loved Jonah's character so much. This sweet, kind boy who now, is bitter, frustrated, and, after his girlfriend breaks up with him at the start of the book, lonely and a bit broken. He doesn't know where he fits in life anymore, he's quit baseball, and he's an outsider in his own family. A girl like Brighton, someone who seemingly has everything, who's the rich, popular girl, is the last person he wants to be around. Jonah is snarky and a bit standoffish to start, but there's truly just something about him that I really connected to. There is so much to like about him, though, despite how grumpy he might seem at the beginning, and I melted so hard for him multiple times.
And Brighton. She's such a multifaceted character, this girl who has taken on so much and does it with grace, yet is carrying so much pain due to her father's death. It's not even a super recent death, but it's still effecting her constantly all the same. I loved her by herself, and I loved with her Jonah, watching her soften him up and watching her own walls slowly be taken down.
This book is a romance, but I would say the stronger story line is two people in bad places fixing themselves and fixing each other. It certainly ends on a sweet and romantic note, but especially considering it takes place only over the course of one night, it's a softer side of romance. And despite being only over one night's course, I so wholeheartedly believed the changes these two went through, the connection the formed, and the depth of their budding relationship. I'll always believe that sometimes that right person comes along at exactly the right moment, and forget logic and everything else, it's truly just right in that moment and bridges something to strong to carry on - and this is what happens with these two.
The voices are spot on for each, distinct and easy to differentiate. The story is one that is seemingly slow, it's two people going through stuff during one night, clinging to what happens in the darkness before a new day rises and things might be set back to "normal". And yet, this is one I read in one sitting, I couldn't put it down or get enough of these two characters. They're characters I connected to so strongly and emotionally. This is everything I love in YA contemporary, and even if it sometimes did feel a bit slow, it still just utterly captivated me.
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Publication Date: February 18, 2014