Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

Title: Bright Before Sunrise
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Publication Date: February 18, 2014
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Source: Netgalley

From Goodreads

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.

Bright Before Sunrise takes place in less than a day, which also happens to be the amount of time it took me to read the book. It’s told from two different points of view, a senior boy named Jonah and a junior girl named Brighton. I really enjoyed getting to see both of the narrations. The reader is able to see things about both of the characters before the other does. We get to know about their pasts, their inner thoughts, and most importantly we get to see the misconceptions both of them have about each other.

What I Liked

Different points of view. Having different narrators is a tricky thing to do and writing it successfully is really hard. Schmidt was able to do this very well and it added so much to the story. It is a natural and everyday part of life for people to immediately form misconceptions about others without fully knowing them. I thought that it was fantastic that Jonah assumes that Brighton’s parents are divorced, and that Carly thought that Jonah was cheating, and that Brighton thought he was a lost cause. These are completely normal assumptions that these characters would have had in real life. It was frustrating at a reader to know that Jonah hadn’t been cheating and heartbreaking that Brighton’s father was dead. Schmidt was able to make the different narrations work to her advantage and make this book very realistic in those plot points.
Honesty is a big issue in this book as pointed out above. I liked that by the end of the novel not only were Brighton and Jonah being honest with each other and those around them, but also they were being honest to themselves. It was such a great moment to finally have Jonah admit why he keeps his two lives separate.
The dynamic of Brighton’s family was also really well done. Her father died five years prior to the start of the book and the portrayal of a grieving family was spot on.

What I Didn’t Like

While I loved Brighton’s family I disliked Jonah’s family. It is really hard to believe that Jonah’s mother could change so much. He mentions that his mother used to make nachos and dress in sweatpants and not care what she looked like. Jonah deeply misses those times in his life because since becoming pregnant with his therapists baby she has completely changed. Jonah’s stepfather has a lot of money and suddenly her entire personality changes. She cares about her appearance and through what we were able to see of her, she seems selfish and self-centered. I would like to have believed there would be part of her that would have remained the same as she was before and because she was so different the only conclusion that I can come up with is that she was faking everything until she met her new husband. It just wasn’t a character that I was fond of.
The same thing rings true for Jonah’s stepfather. Throughout the entire story we see him treated Jonah poorly and like he was just a thug kid who was not looking out for his sister at all. Then at the end of the book the reader learns that the stepfather is actually a good person. It was like whiplash almost making Jonah into an unreliable narrator. The only thing that saves Jonah’s narration and allowed me to know that he was reliable was his revelation to Carly at the end of the book.
This book reminds me slightly of Romeo and Juliet in that the romance or potential for romance happens very quickly. In twelve hours Jonas endures a break up, heartbreak over it, the realization that he doesn’t care anymore, and the revelation that he has feelings for a girl he used to despise. I understand that some people have love at first sight, but it was sad for me to see this happen so quickly. There were some aspects of the book that were so realistic and then there was this.

Overall this book was okay. It definitely was not my favorite book, but that was more because of a lack of personal connection on my part than the author’s fault. The writing was very good and I like Schmidt’s style. This is a book that fans of contemporary should pick up and read to form their own opinions on it.