A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Bloomsbury USA in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.
I figured it out: I’m pretty sure I dated Jonah Prentiss.
Finishing Bright Before Sunrise was a slightly uncomfortable experience for me, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. I blew through the book in just a little over 24 hours, and I liked the story quite a lot. I was completely swept up in Tiffany Schmidt’s ability to write real characters–they’re flawed, vulnerable, with authentic teenage problems and concerns. I know these kids. I’ve been to their parties and met their friends, and had those same arguments and awkward moments. I’ve had those late-night talks when it seems you really know each other, and anything is possible. This is fabulous realistic fiction.
The genius, though, of realistic fiction–any good writing, really–is that it forces us to relate, somehow. If we identify with the characters, the situations, the emotions, we might just find ourselves dredging up some very real memories, and that can trigger unresolved issues.
I found myself entirely charmed by Brighton. Her desire to please and make everyone happy, despite and the stresses it placed on her made her such a lost and fragile character. I felt a same kind of maternal compassion for Jonah, in the beginning: his parents alternatively ignore and emotionally abuse him. He’s lonely, angry, defensive. He’s a different kind of lost soul, and he needs tender care. Watching his world and Brighton’s collide is spectacular–and it is excellently written. I was pleased with the ending, and there were all kinds of lovely moments. I walked away from it, though, feeling shell-shocked, and I couldn’t figure out why.
I’ve spent the last week agonizing over how to rate this book and how to start writing this review, and as I sat down to finally write today, it FINALLY hit me between the eyes: Jonah is ______–that guy I dated one summer. He is SO Jonah! It didn’t end well, and there really wasn’t any closure, and that’s why I’ve been feeling so unsettled, ever since I hit a certain point in the book. This, I’ve concluded, is a testament to Schmidt’s ability to write so fabulously. Those scenes are REAL. Those characters? REAL. They’re so real that they’re dredging up little moments that are 15 years in my past! And really, they were lovely moments. It just took me a while to figure out why a novel as lovely and fun as this one was making me feel so weird and unsettled. Now that I’ve figured it out, I’m much happier.
Verdict? As long as you don’t have a weird, unresolved issue in your past that directly parallels this book, that you just can’t identify (chances of that? Slim!), I think you will adore Bright Before Sunrise. It’s a charming, authentic, emotional love story, written from two distinct perspectives, both of whom are sympathetic and kind of fantastic. I think this one will stick with me for a long time.
4 stars. Some sexuality (Jonah is very much an older teenage boy). TV-safe language.