A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bright Before Sunrise is a coming-of-age romance about two teens who seem to be opposites, but who connect and find common ground after they stay out all night together. The main theme is that we can never truly know what personal struggles a person is dealing with by simply looking at the way they behave. The book presents issues of class, stereotyping, loss, and stress related to major life changes. Teens drink and have parties when parents aren't home. Graphic, first-person descriptions of kissing, groping, and sexual arousal. There are also scenes of parent-teen conflict.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE, the main characters, Brighton Waterford and Jonah Prentiss, are each dealing with stress and loss in their lives in very different ways. Jonah has moved to wealthy Cross Pointe from the blue-collar town of Hamilton, 30 minutes away. He's cynical, surly, and feels everything at his new school highlights his outsider status. Jonah's father moved away and stopped contact with him after his parents' divorce, and his mother's and stepfather's new baby and new life in Cross Pointe seem to have pushed Jonah to the margins. Brighton's the most popular girl at Crosse Pointe High. She's nice and helpful to everyone and works hard to keep up a happy appearance, despite her near-constant sorrow over her dad's death five years earlier. Circumstances push Brighton and Jonah together for an extended evening. The two couldn't be more different on the outside and have heated interactions, each feeling the other will never like or accept the other. As the evening wears on into the early morning hours, Brighton and Jonah are finally honest with themselves and each other about the serious issues in their lives.
Is it any good?
The format of Bright Before Sunrise is one the most captivating qualities of the book. Brighton and Jonah alternate narrating each chapter in the first person. The alternating point of view hooks the reader: When one character details an occurrence in the course of the evening, you can't wait to see how the other character sees it. The novel has a classic opposites-attract storyline. Brighton's an involved over-achiever who's kind to everyone, and Jonah's a sullen, cynical outsider who doesn't want to interact with anyone at school.
The interactions between all the characters make the point that we should never assume we understand what people are like based on appearances. Kids who seem to have it all together often don’t, and those who act mean are often doing so because they are dealing with emotional pain. Unfortunately, the characters are clichés, and most of the conflicts in the book feel contrived or flimsy. The dialogue and character motivations feel unreal and forced, until the last quarter of the book, when the story resolves in a satisfying way. And while major personality transformations in an eight-hour span aren't all that believable, the device serves the purpose of feeding the excitement and romance of the story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about communication. Do you honestly share your personal problems with your parents? Are you honest with yourself about how well you are dealing with struggles?
How does the romance in Bright Before Sunrise compare with other opposites-attract romances you've read or seen in the movies?
Have you ever been quick to judge another person based on superficial things like who they hang out with or what kind of neighborhood they live in? Have you ever been proven wrong?
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