Review: Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt
Publication date: Feb. 18, 2014
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Gifted
Summary: When Jonah is forced to move to Cross Pointe for the 2nd half of his senior year, he's miserable. He feels like everything about his mother's new life—new husband, home & baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe HS are pretentious & privileged—and the worst is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things popular. His girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to home... until she breaks up with him. For Brighton, she’s relied on one coping method since her father died: smile & pretend to be fine. But she has no clue how to handle how she's feeling. Today is the anniv. of his death & 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's determined to change his mind & when they're stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance. One night can change how you see the world & yourself. (

The good
One of my favorite movies is Before Sunrise, which is about two strangers who meet on a train and spend an entire night together in Venice and how it changes both their lives. So, you can see why a book like Bright Before Sunrise, which not only has a similar concept but nearly identical title, would appeal to me. But that’s where the similarities end. The book alternates between two high school students, Jonah and Brighton, who have completely opposite attitudes towards everything.

Jonah is forced to move from his home in Hamilton to Cross Pointe in the middle of his senior year and unsurprisingly, he’s unhappy about it. He misses his friends, his girlfriend Carly and doesn’t feel welcome in the new home he shares with his mom, her new husband and their newborn baby. Things take a turn for the worse when Carly suddenly breaks up with him. Then there’s Brighton. When her father died, she dealt with her grief by putting a big smile on her face, pretending to be fine and helping everyone else but herself. It’s a method that’s worked for her thus far but today is the five year anniversary of her dad’s death and she’s having trouble keeping up her act. It doesn’t help that no matter how much she tries to befriend Jonah, he just isn’t having it and even goes so far as to tell her he dislikes her. (This is a foreign feeling to her.) They end up stuck together unexpectedly for a night and both are determined: she wants to make him like her and he wants to keep on hating everything about this town including her. Any guesses on who will win? (My money was totally on Brighton.)

No pun intended here but Brighton was the bright spot of this book. As someone who is mostly a people pleaser and who also used niceness and polite behavior to win people over (even the ones I didn’t like much), I understood where she was coming from on many, many levels. Although my mechanism wasn’t for coping but just.. my mom strictly instilling in me this notion that I should never, ever be rude. For me, I enjoyed watching Brighton start to crack and use this night to explore who she really is, instead of what everyone expects her to be.

(Major) Reservations
Which brings me to Jonah, who was the not-so-bright spot of this book. I sympathized with him to a certain extent. I mean who would want to suddenly switch schools in the middle of their senior year? I would be unhappy and probably kind of bratty too. But he definitely took it too far at times and it made it difficult for me to root for him or his reluctant attraction to Brighton. He was just so hard on her when deep down you know he’s just taking out his frustrations.  His actions made me think of the quote: “Don’t mistake my kindess for weakness” and he definitely was making that mistake with Brighton a million times over.  Again, all these things I could understand to a degree but by the end, he felt so one-note. I had hoped to see more layers to his character considering half the book was from his perspective

Do I recommend?
It was okay. There’s a point in the book where Jonah and Brighton hit their stride and there’s an unmistakable chemistry between them thereafter. But it takes a while and once it gets there, it suddenly ends (I know, I know — it’s only one night so I should’ve somewhat anticipated that!) but it felt a bit unfinished. I’ve heard the author say if there were characters she’d love to revisit, it would be them and I kinda hope she does!

1 comment

  1. I remember finding Bright Before Sunrise to be charming, if not exactly memorable! Like you, I found I could relate to Brighton because of the way I was brought up. It definitely made reading her story interesting!


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