A Wish After Midnight
Then Genna finds herself transported back to 1863 Brooklyn. When she first shows up, she lands into the hands of some slave traders who think she's a runaway slave. Genna learns that this Brooklyn is even tougher than the one she left behind. It will take all her wits just to survive.
This is an engrossing tale of an African American teen who finds that sometimes you need to be careful on what you wish for. Genna is very likable and you can't help but want her to succeed at her dreams and goals of a better life. I did find the beginning a tad bit long but interesting on her accounts on her family life and the discrimination she saw in our time.
My favorite part of the book is in the second section. The scenes where she's transported back to 1863 are graphic and very intense. She struggles with racism and discrimination here too but it's more frightening and terrifying. Even though New York was for the Union, slave traders still roamed the streets. Just because you were 'free' didn't mean much as employers still could hit you and throw you in prison for insulting a 'white'.
One scene in particular showed the racism of the time when the doctor she works with shows her an illustration on why both blacks and women were inferior based on the size of their brains. Genna finds that her street smarts from her time don't help but instead put her life in danger.
There's also some other facts I didn't know. For example about an Irish worker riots that ended up causing mass damage and deaths, especially to African Americans at that time.
The author does a great job showing us a world where inequality and cruelty walked hand and hand. There's a study guide at the end of the story that makes this book a great candidate for book club discussions. I also think this is a great book to read during African American Heritage month.
If you love your history with a bit of time travel, you simply must read, A Wish After Midnight, by author Zetta Elliott.
A Wish After Midnight is the story of 15-year-old Genna Colon, a bright teenager who lives in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood with her highly dysfunctional family. Her father has walked out on the family, her sister is way too promiscuous, her brother is headed for the jail, and her mother works two jobs to keep the family together. Despite her siblings' bad behavior, Genna's mother expects near-perfection from her. Soon, a huge misunderstanding leads Genna to run away to a beautiful garden she uses as an emotional sanctuary, and there she makes a wish to be anywhere but where she is.
Her wish comes true. Genna is instantly transported back to 1863 Brooklyn. There, she gets an in-your-face lesson on daily life in the 1860's, and what it's like to be black during a time when slavery, racism and slave-catching are all perfectly legal.
Zetta Elliott penned this book in 1st POV, a wise choice in that it allows teens to get knee-deep into the main character's mind and experience her joys, sadnesses, fears, first loves, and pains. Although Elliott does not preach to her young audience, I love how her story shows young people that you should appreciate things being as well as they are, and you should find a way to make your circumstances better instead of complaining. Genna dwelled on how bad things were in her world, and she wished to be somewhere--anywhere--other than where she was. That wish transported her to 1863 and left her even more oppressed than she had been.
As a historian, I like the way Elliott brought important historical details to life (like the New York Riots and the attack on the "colored" orphanage), and fleshed out each of the characters, seamlessly explaining why they were the way they were. However, I do have one small regret: I wish the story hadn't ended so abruptly. I realize that such a sweeping saga as this could not be told in only one book, but I do wish it had not left so much unfinished business. Without spoiling all the details, specifically, I wondered about the marks on Genna's back, the time-frame of her absence, why Judah was left behind...and how he found out about the Garden in the first place. I also wondered about the significance of Genna returning on September 10, 2001--the eve of the most infamous days in American history.
In any event, leaving the reader wanting more is a good thing; a very good thing, and I must admit, I can't wait for the sequel.
So, five stars. Great job, Ms. Elliott.