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Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott

Title: A Wish After Midnight
Author(s): Zetta Elliott
Genre: YA Urban Historical Fantasy
Page Count: 230
Publisher: Rosetta Press

Summary: Fifteen-year old Genna Colon believes wishes can come true. Frustrated by the drug dealers of her building, her family's cramped apartment, and her inability to compete with the cute girls at school, Genna finds comfort in her dreams of a better future. Almost every day she visits the garden and tosses coins into the fountain, wishing for a different life, a different home, and a different body. Little does she know that her wish will soon be granted: when Genna flees into the garden late one night, she makes a fateful wish and finds herself instantly transported back in time to Civil War-era Brooklyn.
-Summary from backcover

The Review: To say that I love this novel may perhaps been an understatement. But love it I do, and I will probably end up using the word "love" for basically everything I discuss in this review. Just a heads up to the readers that stumble on this blog review. =D Also, I'm kinda enamored with Judah/Genna couple (OTP FOREVA ♥) and er, while I tried to cut down on the OTP gushing to make this review more readable and less fangirly, I get this feeling I was unsuccessful... *DIES*

Okay, let's begin with the setting of Brooklyn. I absolutely love and adore how strong the sense of setting is in this novel. With Elliott's amazing writing talent, she brings Present Day!Brooklyn and Civil War!Brooklyn to life. The city feels tangible and real, and I wished that all urban fantasy could manage this amount of realism with their respective cities.

I also liked how Elliott spent equal time in the Present as in the Civil War Brooklyn. At first, due to the summary, I kept on waiting for the time-travelling to happen, but then Elliott pulls us into this sweet first love story between Judah and Genna and, for me at least, my investment in this couple is one of the many things that helped make everything that happened in the second half just that much more intense. (It kind of reminds me of The Secret Garden in the sense that it builds up slow, but because of this it just brings everything that much more meaning and punch at the climax. Er, actually I'll just link what Neesha Meminger wrote, for she is so much more eloquent than I. ^^; )

Moving on to my darling GENNA. Oh, sweet, level-headed, practical Genna, I was routing for her dreams and wishes all the way through the whole novel. I love how Elliott took the time to really let us get to know Genna before she gets transported back in time. This way we get the chance to really understand Genna as a whole person, with a life and a family and people she cared for, so that when she does get torn away from home, her sharp homesickness and uncertainty about how she'd return just hits us readers in the heart that much more. I especially appreciate how well-developed Genna's family was and the exploration of family interactions. I love reading stories about siblings and parents and stuff, having more than one sibling myself, and Elliott delivers this factor in spades.

I really loved the supporting cast in this novel. Even though not all of their back stories are revealed, I definitely got a strong sense that every single one of the side characters had their own story to tell, i.e. they don't feel like plot devices. As for Judah, I'll be straight up and confess that I love this guy to bits. Yes, I realize this is probably a minority opinion from the way things look in the internet, and it is probably due to his controlling demeanor in the second half. I understand all this, but I don't care, TEAM JUDAH ALL THE WAY. Judah's got a big heart, is dorkishly sweet (the HAIKU ♥ and his encyclopedia knowledge of everything), and his relationship with Genna makes my heart melt. The accent helps too. *is bricked* He has strong views about what he wants in life, and they do in fact clash with Genna's, but I think that's what makes this couple interesting. I get this sense that they both want things so deeply and passionately, striving relentlessly forward to carve out their future, and combine that with their love that started as a sweet high school crush to the intense longing in the second half and I'm a goner. ♥

(Um, just to put it out there, I do like Paul just fine. He's sweet, flirty and fun though I could have done with less of the Blue! Eyes! descriptions on his attractiveness but I don't really see him ending up with Genna. He is very sweet though and I am fond of him, and I would love to see more of him in the sequel.)

What I also found interesting was Genna's reaction to Civil War!Brooklyn as a 21st century girl. Genna is very much a present day girl with present day views that are extremely different from the commonly accepted and default views found in the U.S. Civil War Era. The issues of race, ethnicity, gender, morality were explored well and isn't treated stereotypically in both Present Day and Civil War Era parts of the novel. I'll try not to be spoilery and just say that I thought her reactions to Mrs. Brant and how they evolved over time was probably one of the most interesting character interactions in the whole novel. In fact, I in general just really appreciated how Elliott shows us readers how Genna grows and changes as she meets more and more people.

lol, all this raving and I haven't even gotten to Elliott's exquisite writing!! Every time I am reminded of the fact that publishers/editors/agents rejected A Wish After Midnight for five years, I just can't wrap my mind around it. It plain boggles me. I can't understand how people can turn down A Wish After Midnight after just trying one paragraph of this novel. You know what? Since I'm basically incoherent and can't talk about this aspect of the novel properly, I shall just quote a passage. (Gratuitously Judah/Genna because I can't help myself):

"You know what a haiku is, Genna?" Judah presses a small piece of paper into my palm and walks on ahead with Tyjuan. I trail behind, wanting to be alone. I stop in front of the purple irises growing next to the pond and open Judah's note. At first I feel disappointed 'cause there are only a few words written inside. But then I read them and my eyes fill up with water and my heart aches with that sweet kind of pain, and I wonder if I'm always going to feel this way whenever someone does something nice for me. Inside the note is a poem. Judah has given me these words:
my love is the sun
and you are a blue lotus
turning towards me
(pg. 55)

Guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh~~~ ♥ Everyone, go and order a copy now. You won't regret this decision. =D

Rating: 5/5
Enjoyment: 100% ♥

Title and Cover Discussion: You know, I actually don't know how to approach this part of my review? I mean, I don't find our Wish title particularly grabbing, but the more I look at it the more it fits? It might not be a title that makes readers go HOMG MUST READ but it just works so incredibly well with the story. I guess it's like those songs you hear on the radio that you didn't really like at first but the more you hear it the more you like it, lol. Same with the cover. (Though I'm biased since I love pink *is bricked*) It's not like the Shiny YA novel covers I'm used to, but the more I see it the more I like it. Hence, I'm going to wuss out on the rating thing since I'm at loss. Instead I'm going to ask: what do you readers think of the cover and title? I'd like to hear and share opinions/thoughts, etc, along with the novel discussion, of course. =D


ninefly said...

first of all: I still thought the cover was orange orz this is a bad case of reconstructed memory >3>


the writing is rather nice, I agree, but for books like these I need to try reading a few pages before I can decide (especially since I always get turned off by civil war themes) 8D;
the cover isn't very attention-grabbing in my opinion (hence the reconstruction? orz) though maybe the b&w was supposed to represent "the past" or something? something about the design is just a little off =T

but yay you're posting more reviews! <3

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

LULZ. *pats* (clearly this means I need to find a Steel's novel with an orange cover on it. *RUNS AWAY FROM UR WRATH*)

Hehe, no worries, I will shove this book at you during winter break and YOU WILL ENJOY IT. (I say this in a totally encouraging and non-threatening way, of course.) And seriously, if you're thinking of the machinery warfare stuff you don't like in war stories, this novel doesn't have that, I swear! The fighting itself is totally in the backdrop so READDDDDDDD~~~
Yeah, when I first saw the design of the cover I was very meh. Some part of me thinks that the cover should have just been all b&w illustration but then I found myself getting all fond of the pink and all, so... I don't even know anymore. LULZ.

Tockla said...

What a wonderful, rave review! Have you seen the new cover of the book to be published by Amazon? See what you think:

MissAttitude said...

Definitely look at the new cover (it's gorgeous). The current cover isn't attention-grabbing, but I think the title is attention getting (for me anyway). Wonderful review
I agree Judah is so sweet, especially because he sees Genna for who she really is and is the first person to really look at her and talk to her and I love him for that haiku and how he builds up her self-confidence. But Paul isn't controlling, he's so cute!, and he listens to Genna's opinions (I feel like Judah humors her more than anything). I can't wait for the sequel!!!
I definitely agree, we the readers really get to see Genna grow and we get to know present day and civil war-era brooklyn very well. The writing is exquiste.

Just wondering but what does HOMG and bricked mean?

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

@Tockla, why yes I have checked out the cover! It's very colourful, but I decided to withhold commentary until I get a copy of it in my own hands. I find that my reaction to covers change when I get to see them in person.

@MissAttitude, Oh yes, I agree that Paul is a far better listener than Judah is. lol, it doesn't feel fair to compare Paul and Judah since they're so different, but I suppose the whole love interest rivalry thing demands it. ^^; I just, really love how Judah and Genna are together, with all its sweetness and all its flaws, and I can't wait to see more of them in the sequel.

HOMG is basically another way of saying OMG (Oh My God). And um, *is bricked* is like *is shot/stoned/killed/etc*, something I add when I either say something ridiculously shallow or voice out an unpopular opinion, etc., in a humourous, all-in-good-fun way. (... Wow my explanations suck.)

Doret said...

Great review, it made me smile.

Ah Yuan, how did A Wish After Midnight get on your reading radar?

That Haiku would go great on the back of a Judah t-shirt.

zettaelliott said...

Ah Yuan--thanks again for a smashing guys are too funny with the Paul vs. Judah stuff...and Doret, you better only print two of those t-shirts b/c Judah's fan club is pretty small!

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

@Doret, Hmm, if I remember correctly, I think the first time I heard of AWAM was from Justine Larbalestier's blog. I remember her post was rather vague in terms of the actual happenings of the story so I google-ed it and I saw the words "time travel" and "civil war" and I was like !!! MUST HAVE. =D

I'd totally buy a shirt like that. >D

@Zetta Elliott, nooooo I will hand this book to more people and there shall be more Judah fangirls!! *determined*

MissAttitude said...

haha go for it Ah Yuan. I suppose it is a bit hard to compare Judah and Paul.

@Zetta Team Judah vs. Team Paul may be the next big thing! At least in the YA poc blogging world, hopefully the real world too :)

@Ah Yuan-Your explanations didn't suck, it made sense. I thought 'is bricked' meant something like saying something unpopular based on context, I love it!

PS I'm writing a blog post right now where I gave you an award. Be sure to stop by and check it out (should be up in 15-30 mins).

joy4856 said...

i read this book and really like it