Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

brightbeforesunriseBRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE
Tiffany Schmidt
Walker Childrens
Publication Date: February 18, 2014

From the back cover:

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.

I was drawn to the twenty-four hour premise of BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE. I loved the idea of two people being thrown together over the course of one night and how it changed not only their perceptions of each other but also of themselves. I’ve made no secret of the fact that realistic, contemporary YA romances are my absolute favorite genre. Add in the dual POV of this book and the way Tiffany Schmidt counts down the hours through the eyes of both Brighton and Josh, and I couldn’t help but love almost everything about BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE.

Brighton is so well drawn, a girl still wading through a sea of grief over her father’s death, trying to figure out who she’s supposed to be now that her “compass” is gone. On the outside, she’s flawless, but inside, she’s falling apart. Enter Jonah, a boy that looks so different on the exterior, but the more readers (and Brighton) get to know him, the more we realize, he’s every bit as broken as Brighton. Jonah can be difficult to like sometimes. He’s a bit of a jerk to Brighton for a big chunk of the book but I felt his motivations were clear enough that I could overlook his attitude problem.

Tiffany Schmidt does a fantastic job of peeling back the layers of both Brighton and Jonah. Every scene reveals something new and brings them closer together. The love story is a very sweet element of the book, however, if I had one quibble to make it would be that I had a hard time believing Jonah could go from being completely in love with his girlfriend to breaking up with her to suddenly falling for Brighton. There are hints of subtext that Jonah and his girlfriend had been on the rocks for a while, but I would have like to seen more…disillusionment…feelings that they’ve been growing apart and not right for each other anymore. Especially on Jonah’s part. Because it almost started to feel more like he was going after Brighton on the rebound and not because he was genuinely falling for her.

Perhaps, the best part of this book doesn’t stem from the love story, even though it is both touching and charming, but from the way both Brighton and Jonah grow as characters just by seeing themselves through someone else’s eyes. My favorite kinds of books are the ones that are not only entertaining but have meaning as well. BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE manages to impart genuine life lessons about overcoming grief, dealing with change, and standing up for who you truly are.

BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE is wonderful and heartfelt, a story of loss, love and identity that manages to be both serious and funny. Highly recommended!