15 yr old Genna lives in a one bedroom apartment with her mother and three siblings. Her mother struggles to make enough money so the family can move to a better neighborhood. Genna does her part by staying out of trouble, getting good grades, looking after younger brother, Tyjuan. She finds solace in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Genna befriends another Garden regular Mr. Christiansen an older white man. Mr Christiansen seemed like a nice man at first I couldn't understand why his appearance was so short. Then I remembered this isn't a book about a troubled black girl who needs a nice old white man to teach her importance of dreaming. I believe Elliott includes this character, hoping the reader will learn from Genna to judge individuals on their merits not their race, gender or other things they can't control.
Genna is not poisoned by her mother's hatred of white people.
"I don't want to think like Mama. I try not to lump Hannah and all white people together cause that's exactly what I don't want people doing to me. I want people to accept me for who I am with my own ways, and my own ideas and my own future that's separate from everything else going on. Separate from Rico dealing drugs and Toshi acting fast and Papi walking out on us. Separate from where I live or how I dress or the color of my skin. I'm not ashamed of none of those things. I just want people to see all of who I am, and not just the messed up parts."
With her wishes Genna dreams of a better future and forgets what waits for her when she leaves the garden. This book is essentially in two parts Genna in present day, Genna in 1863. When I finished the book, I enjoyed the second half so much I wished Genna time travelled sooner. Though now as I look back on it I appreciate Genna in the present day. Elliott fully developments Genna , allowing the reader to feel more connected to the character. This is a very smart move on the authors part, whether or not the reader is a fan of historical fiction is irrelevant because they'll be fulling invested in the character. Genna's tall, shy and thanks to a lack of slang her peers thinks she's not black enough. She doesn't hang out will anyone from school, until Judah comes along. Judah is different, and he appreciates Genna. Their relationship is steadily growing, then Genna makes the wish. It comes about in anger and confusion. When Genna's mom slaps her for a wrong not committed Genna goes to the Garden. Apparently Genna isn't the only one who uses the Garden as a sanctuary at the midnight hour Genna sees ghosts. I love the idea of lost souls finding peace in a Garden, there aren't too many quiet places in NY. Soon after Genna comes to grips with what surrounds her, she transported back to Brooklyn 1863. Before Genna can be sold into slavery someone claims she's a Reverends niece. Genna is taken to an orphanage, she needs days to recover from serious back wounds. I kept waiting for the author to say what happened to Genna's back, an explanation never came and feel like I missed a piece of the puzzle. Genna ends up working and living with the orphanage doctor, Dr Brant. Runaway slaves make their way to Brooklyn and Dr Brant does what he can to help. While helping one day Genna finds Judah. I love what Elliott did with the second half of the book. Genna stays true to who she is, even in 1863 she speaks her mind and fights back. Elliott gives Judah a little competition with Paul, a blued eyed black boy. Genna had the power to wish Judah into another century that's some serious love but I still found myself rooting for Paul. At times in 1863 Brooklyn Judah seemed a little stubborn, and he wasn't considering Genna's feelings. When I think of the civil war I usually think about the south. Elliott touches upon the unrest in New York. When the New York Drafts riots hits Manhattan many people flee to Brooklyn. Genna and Judah get caught up in the riot that threatens to find its way to Brooklyn. The author reminds us that there's much history to be found in Brooklyn beyond the Polo Grounds and the Brooklyn Bridge. A Wish Before Midnight is a wonderful novel, giving the reader much to enjoy, think about and learn.
A Wish Before Midnight is self published, (stop rolling your eyes) There are no typos or grammatical errors so don't be deterred that this book hasn't found a home yet. Just think of yourself has being ahead of the curve. So later when someone tells you they've read great new book A Wish After Midnight, you can say you've already read it. Zetta Elliott is also the author of the awarding winning children's book Bird, an ALA notable children's book of 2009
Buy A Wish After Midnight Now available at amazon
Buy A Wish After Midnight Now available at amazon
An Update (Oct 2009) I originally wrote this review in March. Several months later there are more reviews of A Wish After Midnight online. It's nice to see this wonderful story is finding an audience. I called it in March, when I said just think of yourself as being ahead of the curve giving A Wish After Midnight a chance. Now its catching on.
All of these reviews for a self published book that's pretty darn good. And it doesn't end there -
Authors Thoughts on A Wish After Midnight