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“This is my spot,” Naomi said. “You can’t help but dream up here. I’m going to take my baby sis up here when she’s older so she can dream, too. You can see the whole world from up here.” I could only see Naomi. Walter Wilcox has never been in love. He just wants to finish high school under the radar with his 2.5 friends and zero drama. And then there’s Naomi Mills, an adorab “This is my spot,” Naomi said. “You can’t help but dream up here. I’m going to take my baby sis up here when she’s older so she can dream, too. You can see the whole world from up here.” I could only see Naomi. Walter Wilcox has never been in love. He just wants to finish high school under the radar with his 2.5 friends and zero drama. And then there’s Naomi Mills, an adorably awkward harpist with a habit of saying the wrong thing at the right time. It’s inevitable that they’re going to get together…but they’re also on the unavoidable path to being torn apart. First love meets first fights in this timely, honest, and heartbreaking story about race and relationships by acclaimed author Stephen Emond (Happyface).


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“This is my spot,” Naomi said. “You can’t help but dream up here. I’m going to take my baby sis up here when she’s older so she can dream, too. You can see the whole world from up here.” I could only see Naomi. Walter Wilcox has never been in love. He just wants to finish high school under the radar with his 2.5 friends and zero drama. And then there’s Naomi Mills, an adorab “This is my spot,” Naomi said. “You can’t help but dream up here. I’m going to take my baby sis up here when she’s older so she can dream, too. You can see the whole world from up here.” I could only see Naomi. Walter Wilcox has never been in love. He just wants to finish high school under the radar with his 2.5 friends and zero drama. And then there’s Naomi Mills, an adorably awkward harpist with a habit of saying the wrong thing at the right time. It’s inevitable that they’re going to get together…but they’re also on the unavoidable path to being torn apart. First love meets first fights in this timely, honest, and heartbreaking story about race and relationships by acclaimed author Stephen Emond (Happyface).

30 review for Bright Lights, Dark Nights

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eilonwy

    Walter's parents are divorced, so instead of living in the "burbs", he and his police officer dad now live in the "urbs" -- a not-so-great neighborhood in an unnamed city. Walter has adapted okay since for some reason this city has a single high school attended by kids from both the burbs and the urbs, so he still sees all his same friends. Emotionally, though, he's a bit of a mess, holding a grudge against his mother. Then Walter meets Naomi, the younger sister of one of his friends, just befor Walter's parents are divorced, so instead of living in the "burbs", he and his police officer dad now live in the "urbs" -- a not-so-great neighborhood in an unnamed city. Walter has adapted okay since for some reason this city has a single high school attended by kids from both the burbs and the urbs, so he still sees all his same friends. Emotionally, though, he's a bit of a mess, holding a grudge against his mother. Then Walter meets Naomi, the younger sister of one of his friends, just before Walter's dad gets into trouble with his department and the public. This was a sweet story, but also a little gritty, with some genuine tension to it. And it's timely, as the issue with Walter's father hinges on race relations, just as Walter, who is white, is trying to develop his relationship with Naomi, who is black. All of the relationships between characters are complex; nothing is simple or easy. By the end of the book, Walter has grown quite a bit and learned a lot about trying to navigate the world and the people in it. This should have been a 4-star book for me. And yet, it never quite grabbed me the way I like. For too much of the middle of the book, I could have put it down and never picked it up again, and been okay with that. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because the story feels as grey and dreary as the illustrations in the book, which sadly didn't add much value for me. They all have a samey-ness, just cinderblocks and windows and buildings. I loved the cover and the "bonus material" drawings at the back of the book, but otherwise I mostly found the pictures a little depressing. I might have enjoyed the whole book better without them. I definitely liked this book, and I'll probably look for whatever this author does next.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erica Parker

    *This is taken from my far longer and more ramblely review on my blog, which can be found at https://myliterarylifestyle.wordpress.... I’ve been curious about this book since I saw it on NetGalley – I requested a copy a because I was intrigued and dying to read it but was declined. So I went and pre-ordered it because I was just that interested. I was stoked when I got a text from Amazon on the 11th, telling me my book had been delivered and I devoured. I basically read it anytime I wasn’t sleepi *This is taken from my far longer and more ramblely review on my blog, which can be found at https://myliterarylifestyle.wordpress.... I’ve been curious about this book since I saw it on NetGalley – I requested a copy a because I was intrigued and dying to read it but was declined. So I went and pre-ordered it because I was just that interested. I was stoked when I got a text from Amazon on the 11th, telling me my book had been delivered and I devoured. I basically read it anytime I wasn’t sleeping, in the shower or at work. I LOVED “Bright Lights, Dark Nights”. LOVED it. Like, if it were possible to marry a book, I might be tempted to propose marriage, despite my “I shall never marry!” mantra. There is SO much I liked about this and so much that worked for me that it made it easy to handwave things I had some issues with. First, I’m gonna go into what I wasn’t crazy about, so I can get to everything else. I did find that the situation with Walter’s dad and the racial profiling case/scandal resolved far too easily. This is a large chunk of the action and what essentially drives the narrative of the book – it’s this situation that causes issues in and around Walter and Naomi’s relationship and what spurs Walter into his own self-realizations. It’s a huge part of what’s happening and a really important issue and it’s just sort of neatly tied up into a bow. I wish there could have been more exploration here and a bit more nuance. My issues with how the case played out, I think, ties into my other issue: I think the book is too short. I know, I say that often and part of that is because if I’m really loving a book; really immersed in that world, I don’t want to leave and I could live in it with those characters for eons. That is part of the case here – I loved Walter and Naomi – but there’s also more to it this time. “Bright Lights, Dark Nights” deals with some seriously weighty issues all around: racism, interracial relationships, serious family drama, parents with mental issues. Hell, it even lightly touches on the different expectations parents have of female and male children (this comes up concerning Naomi’s dating in general). That’s … a lot. And 354 pages, including illustrations, just isn’t enough to do it all and give every bit of it justice. There’s such a rich trove of material here. I think we need more books about Walter and Naomi and I hope Mr. Emond sees this and starts writing something posthaste. But as I said, I loved this book. The two kids are fantastic characters. They feel real and refreshing – very well written, in my opinion. They’re not too childish and not too old for their ages. It’s a perfect portrayal the behaviors of a sixteen and seventeen year old. More than that, it’s a perfect portrayal of a sixteen and seventeen year old falling in love. They take some time in defining what they are and they aren’t smooth about it! Naomi and Walter are both giddy and dorky and embarrassed about how they feel towards one another at the start and it’s beautiful. It really is. I also love the character of Jason, who’s Naomi’s brother and Walter’s friend. Walter meets Naomi because Jason invites him to dinner at his house. When it comes out that the two are dating, Jason has serious issues with it, one because Naomi is his sister, and two, because Walter’s white. God, I how I loved that. I know it seems like a silly thing to love, but it’s so true to life. Even people who have friends of other races can have issues when it comes to interracial relationships in their own families. It can become this gigantic hang up that no one actually thought about until the moment it happens. That Jason seems really not to give damn that Walter’s white until he and Naomi get together was so real. Not only that, but Naomi mentions that Jason has dated white girls himself! That had me nodding my head while reading. I have seen this happen. It's happened to me. Also, I have to say that I love Naomi and I loved the way the author handled Naomi. She’s spunky, sassy, funny and kind and has varied interests (she plays the harp and is an athlete.) She’s not perfect either. Her mouthiness can get her in trouble and leads to hurt feelings. But she can admit when she’s screwed up. What was crazy interesting to me is how many guys are into Naomi. So, there’s Walter, who’s basically smitten with her the first time he sees her across the Millses’ dinner table. Then there’s two guys who flirt with her at a concert. There’s another classmate/sort of friend of Walter’s who’s digging her too. This was really important to me. You can see from the illustrations on the cover and at the end of the book what Naomi and Walter both look like. And it’s clear that Naomi was drawn with a nose that’s a bit broad, like my own and many other black people’s noses. That means so much to me. I’ve heard some other people say that they wish we were able to see Naomi’s point of view and the fact that we didn’t was one of the things they didn’t love about the book. I would have loved to see Naomi’s point of view too. But, here’s the thing: “Bright Lights, Dark Nights” is Walter’s story. Yes, Naomi’s an important part of that story, but he is the protagonist. This story centers on him finding a kindred soul in a girl of a different race at the same time his dad is in the midst of a racial scandal. It’s about his struggle to handle what he feels for Naomi with what’s going on around him. It’s about this situation forcing him to come to terms with racism in a way he’s never had to worry about before. It’s about him having to do a little soul-searching himself about his own issues with race. It’s about him understanding that there are some things that he will never understand because he’s white. So, yes, Naomi’s point of view would have been spectacular, but she’s not the main character. And hell, I hate that I have to say this, but I’m gonna because it’s true: having a white kid be the protagonist and having the story come from his point of view means a hell of a lot more people will read it. I’m sure no one needs to be told that it’s a hell of a lot simpler to sell and market a book when the main character is white, especially when that book is told in first person. Additionally, the author is a white man. I’m sure it was probably simpler for him to write the book from the point of view of a white teenage male, being that he was, at one point, a white teenage male. I do not say that with any censure or with any anger or anything negative. It can be difficult trying to write from the point of view of a character whose gender and race are not your own, and I’m not going to chastise someone for doing what makes it simpler to tells a story that needs to be told. I’m pleased and really appreciate the fact that he told this story. It’s a beautiful story and a beautiful book and I think he did it well. I feel grateful that Mr. Edmond wrote “Bright Lights, Dark Nights”. I really do. Beyond having had the joy of reading it and beyond having loving it, I really do feel grateful that someone took the time to write a book about a subject that’s difficult. I’m grateful that he cared enough to do this and do it well. Racism is something that white people really don’t need to think about or be cognizant of in their everyday lives. It doesn’t affect their lives in the way it does for people of color. Racism just isn’t hugely on the radar for white folks because it doesn’t need to be. It’s not something that shapes your world view because it doesn’t need to be. It’s common for young black men to watch white women cross the street to get away from them. And it’s common for black girls to be followed around department stores as if we’re automatic thieves. It’s common for us to be told that “criminal” is just what we are. White folks really don’t have to face this sort of stuff in the way we do. So that the author cared enough to write this – and to have Walter face some harsh realizations about his own racism – means quite a bit to me. I like feeling that people care. It makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, the world isn’t completely fucked. It also made me happy that this white dude could apparently so easily imagine this young white guy be so crazy into a young black girl. We don’t hear or see this often. And he writes Walter and Naomi so well; he writes Walter’s affection for her so truthfully and expressively like it’s a no-brainer. Like there’s not a world in which she wouldn’t be considered a catch. Like there’s not a world where a Walter wouldn’t think of a Naomi as awesome. Very few people are talented enough to write something they can't believe in. You can always tell; something, no matter how beautiful the prose, will ring false. I've read books where you can tell the writer was so not feeling that romance - that it was there because someone - an editor, perhaps the author themselves - felt it needed to be there For Reasons, but that they didn't buy. There's something about it that just doesn't mesh; it doesn't work well. That is not the case here. I felt like Mr. Emond felt like this relationship made sense and that he wanted us to feel it too. I fucking loved this book. I can understand why people might have issues with it; I really do. But I fucking love it. I really, really do. It's not perfect, but dear god, is anything ever perfect? And isn't that just what love is? Loving something/someone, imperfections and all?

  3. 4 out of 5

    First Second Books

    I love illustrated YA novels, and Stephen Emond has put together a lovely one. Who does not love YA novels with lots of pictures as well as words? With Emond’s cityscapes peppering the book, I kept imagining this book taking place in Brooklyn, where I live. I also thought it was great that the parents in this book are endeavoring to be involved in their teenagers’ lives. They’re not always successful – I feel like it’s probably the extremely atypical parent who is successful at being 100% on the I love illustrated YA novels, and Stephen Emond has put together a lovely one. Who does not love YA novels with lots of pictures as well as words? With Emond’s cityscapes peppering the book, I kept imagining this book taking place in Brooklyn, where I live. I also thought it was great that the parents in this book are endeavoring to be involved in their teenagers’ lives. They’re not always successful – I feel like it’s probably the extremely atypical parent who is successful at being 100% on the same page as their teenage child – but they do try, which I feel like is not always the case with YA novels!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Debby

    4 stars I didn't know much about Bright Lights, Dark Nights before I picked it up - aside from the fact that it had an interracial romance and gorgeous illustrations. I'm delighted to say that I found this an engaging, quick read that had both light and dark tones and some thought-provoking discussion of modern-day racial tensions. A heavy focus of Bright Lights, Dark Nights is on a first love - between the main character, Walter, and an African American girl, Naomi. That romance is not uncomplica 4 stars I didn't know much about Bright Lights, Dark Nights before I picked it up - aside from the fact that it had an interracial romance and gorgeous illustrations. I'm delighted to say that I found this an engaging, quick read that had both light and dark tones and some thought-provoking discussion of modern-day racial tensions. A heavy focus of Bright Lights, Dark Nights is on a first love - between the main character, Walter, and an African American girl, Naomi. That romance is not uncomplicated, as interracial relationships often aren't. And on top of that, Naomi happens to be the younger sister of one of Walter's best friends. He *might* not handle that in the best way, according to the Bro Code. But the bulk of this romance is super sweet and loaded with banter. Seriously, so much banter. The two connect through different geeky habits and hobbies and keep up wonderful gags (like, that Dave Grohl is Walter's uncle because obvi). I didn't expect the romance to be that adorable - but Walter's a pretty nervous, shy, introverted guy, so it was sweet. It definitely had all the qualities of first love - being terrified of the first kiss, of holding hands, of becoming "official". It was a bit nostalgic for me, ngl. And that made Walter really easy to connect with. He's also carrying some extra heavy familial baggage because of his parents' divorce. There are some great themes there about forgiving and moving forward, letting your grudges go even if it's hard. I related to that a lot as a child of divorce. Walter's parents did not split amicably, so much so that the kids were basically forced to choose sides. That's painful. And tough. No kid should be put in that position. It builds up walls and prevents you from realizing that maybe divorce was the right option - because the marriage just wasn't healthy regardless of who perpetrated which unforgivable act. Anyway, things come to a head when Walter's policeman father gets caught up in a racial profiling and police brutality scandal. His glory days were long gone, so when he thought he caught a serial neighborhood burglar, he rejoiced at being dubbed a hero once again. That is until the kid retracts his confession and his family threatens the police department with lawsuits. The community gets caught in the uproar, and Walter's invisibility dissipates. His relationship is called into question, and he finds himself the target of some of the bullies at his school. Slowly this makes him see some of the white privilege and subconscious racism that has lingered in his family - the boundaries between law and order and prejudice. As this is a pretty hot topic nowadays, I feel this book is an important read - one that really makes you think. However, I think the problem with the racial aspect of the book is that compared to what we've seen in the news so much over the past year, this is quite mild. It almost feels dated, and that's probably fair - this was undoubtedly written long before Ferguson happened. But there's been so much coverage and discussion about institutional and subconscious racism recently, that I couldn't help but feel like Emond could have done more with that in the book. It scratched the surface, yeah, but it didn't quite pack a punch. Maybe because of current events I expected the book to get much darker than it did, and so I was a bit disappointed. The biggest selling point, and what convinced me to pick this book up in the first place, was the illustrations - and it remains my favorite part of the book. That might be lame or childlike, but I cannot resist illustrations, and I feel like they could benefit just about any book out there. Emond's drawing style is absolutely gorgeous, and he excellently plays on the noir movies his character is such a fan of. It all worked brilliantly to evoke a more tangible feeling of what it's like to live in an urban area as a kid - a place that's not always safe but has some other beautiful qualities too. Knowing that Emond also illustrated his other books, I'm much more likely to pick those up now. Summing Up: Pick Bright Lights, Dark Nights up for the important diversity and discussions on institutional racism. Treasure it for its gorgeous illustrations. This book may not have gotten into the racial tensions as deeply as I wanted, but that helped to keep the overall story light. The classic "first love" romance is adorable and filled with banter. And you know that's what I'm all about. GIF it to me straight! Recommended To: Anyone in the mood for a diverse read and/or fans of illustrations. *An advance review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the contents of the review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    The romance here and the design of the book, with the illustrations, was awesome. I loved the look at the challenges of an interracial romance, especially from the point of view of Walter. But what really irritated me was how easy this was. There's a huge, important, timely plot point to this story that is danced around too much. (view spoiler)[ Walter's father is a cop and he's been called racist throughout the community for how he's spoken to citizens, as well as a confession he got out of a pe The romance here and the design of the book, with the illustrations, was awesome. I loved the look at the challenges of an interracial romance, especially from the point of view of Walter. But what really irritated me was how easy this was. There's a huge, important, timely plot point to this story that is danced around too much. (view spoiler)[ Walter's father is a cop and he's been called racist throughout the community for how he's spoken to citizens, as well as a confession he got out of a person after a recent stop. This is NEVER resolved. It's all superficial -- while it makes sense in the context that this is a story about Walter finding a way to be with Naomi despite his father's reputation, with what we know about this situation in real time right now...it's too superficial and completely disappointing. I'm frustrated to feel like we get so close and then we're just given a too-pat, non-resolution. (hide spoiler)] It's fine, and it has a solid readership for it, but I'm pretty let down by the end.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)

    See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I got from the publisher for review. *plenty of Black characters, but many of the males are antagonistic According to the author’s note, Stephen Emond began writing Bright Lights, Dark Nights three years ago, so its beginnings preceded the Black Lives Matter movement and the increased attention to anti-black police brutality, but that doesn’t mean police brutality against black people wasn’t unheard of when he started writing. I remember See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I got from the publisher for review. *plenty of Black characters, but many of the males are antagonistic According to the author’s note, Stephen Emond began writing Bright Lights, Dark Nights three years ago, so its beginnings preceded the Black Lives Matter movement and the increased attention to anti-black police brutality, but that doesn’t mean police brutality against black people wasn’t unheard of when he started writing. I remember Rodney King and wasn’t even born when that happened. So yeah, there’s a lot for any novel with an element of anti-black police brutality to live up to. Bright Lights, Dark Nights doesn’t cut it. The entire novel is in the point of view of Walter, a white boy with divorced parents who’s living in the city with his dad. Once he meets his friend’s sister Naomi, he’s smitten and it seems like his dad is accused of police brutality against an alleged criminal almost simultaneously. It causes the two teens plenty of conflict, but I honestly didn’t care much about Walter. I guess it’s my fatigue with straight white boys and their stories because they utterly conquer media at all ages. Still, I found myself fully immersed in the story thanks to Emond’s writing style and illustrations. I felt like I was touring the city every time I turned the page and found more illustrations. But Naomi? She is the bright, shining light of this novel and the reason I kept reading. I came in expecting dual POVs with Walter and Naomi, but that’s not what I got at all. Such a shame because having one narrator (Walter) with his eyes closed to everyday racism and another (Naomi) who’s woke to what both subtle and casual racism are like would have made Bright Lights, Dark Nights so much stronger. Especially appreciated is that Naomi, a black woman, is seen as highly desirable by men of many different racial-ethnic groups. We live in a world that considers black women the “worst” women and least desirable, so seeing the opposite with Naomi is really sweet. YA needs so many more Naomis. Then we get to what really sunk this novel: the nature of Walter’s dad’s police brutality accusation being the subplot and its use in the novel. I came here as much for that as I did the interracial romance and ended up on the border of disappointment and anger. Anti-black police brutality is not the subplot of some fictional white boy’s life and a way for him to realize he’s subtly racist. It’s great he does and wants to be better than that, but I’m not giving him a medal for that. Anti-black police brutality is too dangerous and too public an issue right now to be the conflict in his romance with a black girl. Think of everyone in the past year we’ve lost: Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Andre Green, and all the trans women of color who died because police didn’t deem them worth protecting. The lives they lived and lost permeate this novel because of the subject matter even though their names are never said and they’re reduced to a way Walter realizes he’s racist and should be better. N.O. In the end, that subplot doesn’t even get any proper resolution. It just goes away with the snap of a finger! That ending also makes me think of how police officers with prior complaints against them are able to stay on the force and eventually go from brutalizing a black person to outright murdering them with undue use of lethal force. As far as I know, nothing about his father and his ways (he legit called a black man a “gorilla” and didn’t see a problem with it when Walter questioned him about it) changed and this might happen all over again. He reminds me of Tamir Rice’s murderers, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. Bright Lights, Dark Nights simply turns out to be too soft. That might help white male readers who don’t know they’re racist and will see themselves in him, but Naomi’s side of the story is what readers really need and don’t get. In about a month, a novel called All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely will release with a similar storyline that places the issue at stake at the front of everything instead of the back. Readers may want to wait for that novel instead of reading this one’s lackluster take on the same rampant problem of anti-black police brutality.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    "Mutual love of the Foo Fighters" -- SOLD. Read my full review on Forever Young Adult. "Mutual love of the Foo Fighters" -- SOLD. Read my full review on Forever Young Adult.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Neil (or bleed)

    It centers on the main characters' love story but with talks of racism. RTC. It centers on the main characters' love story but with talks of racism. RTC.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lin

    I don't know if it was my timing with when I decided to read this or what, but I could have done without the nerdy, lackluster white boy finding meaning in his life once he meets his (manic pixie) dream girl who "says the wrong things at the right time" and his narrative about race and racism. Everything concluded way too quickly, too neatly, and too unrealistically. Don't get me wrong, Naomi was a cool character, and she was totally upfront with Walter about his experience being different from h I don't know if it was my timing with when I decided to read this or what, but I could have done without the nerdy, lackluster white boy finding meaning in his life once he meets his (manic pixie) dream girl who "says the wrong things at the right time" and his narrative about race and racism. Everything concluded way too quickly, too neatly, and too unrealistically. Don't get me wrong, Naomi was a cool character, and she was totally upfront with Walter about his experience being different from hers. But damn, he sure put her up on a pedestal and idolized the shit out of her from the moment he laid eyes on her. Blech! I also felt that a lot of scenes were gratuitous... Just a lot of non sequiturs that didn't really fit in with the plot or with what was going on. Do we really NEED to know about that one thing that Walter's grandpa did that one time in that one way to then know a little bit about his cousins? I don't think so. But maybe that's just me. I don't know how to rate this book, because I think being relevant to current events is important, especially in YA literature. But...I just did not like reading about race from some white dude's point of view. Especially when voiced through an entitled white teenager from the suburbs who considers Eminem to be in his top 5 rappers. I get where the author is coming from...wanting to write a story that deals with, as his author's note states, how racism impacts people in the 21st century with the rise of social media, but I just was not feeling it. (view spoiler)[Plus! The reader never finds out about what happened between his dad and Calvin! So relevant to what is going on today, and yet the author still manages to twist that Officer Wilcox is in the right. I mean...I don't know if he was trying to make the reader feel empathy for a cop, but it was infuriating to me to read it. I get that he was also trying to show how racist the dad is, but damn at least settle that storyline without just being like "oh yeah they're settling it in a private court". No! I want answers! You can't use that as a plot device that drives the story line and then just drop it like "well, the lovers are together despite the odds, so let's forget about that robbery story!" Ugh. (hide spoiler)] Anyway, I wanted to like this book, but it isn't sitting right with me. Edit/P.S.: I also just want to say that Naomi in general was a pretty cool character. BUT the author constantly made her dismiss things she said with the line "I say stupid things." Every time that line was said, I felt icky and horrible that the author was so willing to diminish this fictional 16 year old girl and tear her down. What the hell, dude!!! You give readers a really great character who is smart and talented and fierce and independent and you make her put herself down?!?!?! You know how many young black girls might pick up this book because of the cover and get all excited, just to see the author tear down this great WOC???!?!?!?!!?! Fuck you, dude. GOSH it would just have been so nice if a book like this had been written from the POV of a POC, and perhaps had actually been written by one too.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ideally.Portia

    **Review originally posted at No BS Book Reviews. Check it out!** 4 1/2 stars Bright Lights, Dark Nights was a breath of fresh air. It is funny, brutally honest, and faces some of our cultures toughest issues. People are going to look at you. Everyone’s going to have an opinion. Get used to the whispers. Hashtag racist cop. Hashtag jungle fever. BLDN introduces us to Walter, a white, slightly nerdy teenager, who lives with his father )who is a police officer) and Naomi, an African American girl **Review originally posted at No BS Book Reviews. Check it out!** 4 1/2 stars Bright Lights, Dark Nights was a breath of fresh air. It is funny, brutally honest, and faces some of our cultures toughest issues. People are going to look at you. Everyone’s going to have an opinion. Get used to the whispers. Hashtag racist cop. Hashtag jungle fever. BLDN introduces us to Walter, a white, slightly nerdy teenager, who lives with his father )who is a police officer) and Naomi, an African American girl who happens to be his friend Jason’s sister. Walter is relatively shy and quiet, mostly keeps to himself and his few friends. He has a great sense of humor, and so does Naomi. Naomi is feisty and smart, and also a little nerdy. It is so hard not to love both of them and to root for them through the whole book. Let me just tell you what initially drew me to this book: The Foo Fighters. I am always going to jump in if they are mentioned. So what drew me to the story is also what drew them together, and I could not have loved that more. “Not this again. Stop being random,” Jason said to Naomi. “You don’t even like The Foo Fighters.” “First of all, I’m not being random. I do like them, and Dave Grohl is hot, okay?” Naomi said. “He’s the perfect mix of scruffy bad boy and dork.” Yes, Naomi, yes he is indeed. I feel you, girl. There were plenty of pop culture references throughout this book that really helped me bond with the characters. Not to mention the humor. Jason is funny, until he has an attitude change that results in him being much less funny. So they live in a neighborhood where there is plenty of crime, and Walters dad is a cop, so we experience an issue that becomes about race, while at the same time Walter and Naomi’s new relationship is blossoming, and they get a lot of backlash in the midst of everything. There are quite a few incredibly important, controversial issues being faced in this book. First of all, the issue with police and racial profiling. If you pay attention to the news at all, you know this is a very large issue right now. Whether it turns out to actually be a racist cop who is profiling or just miscommunication, the problem still exists, and can sometimes be very hard to determine whether it is profiling or not, when an angry criminal can accuse a cop of that anytime they want, whether they are racist or not. Its hard to really know sometimes. So its not black and white, there are so many shades of gray involved. We also are confronted with the issue of interracial relationships. While to many people interracial dating is just completely normal, there are plenty of people who don’t see things that way. It is absolutely depressing that this is still an issue we face. As far as Walter and Naomi’s situation, it couldn’t have been worse timing. They had to face the struggle of staying together through and incredibly tough time, with little support. The last issue that is focused on is the problem with anonymity and bullying on the internet. In our modern society, we are constantly connect to the web and social media. The problem is that some people use it as a platform to be a bully. It so easy to make up a screen name or profile and be completely anonymous. Its easy to have the courage to say awful things when no one knows who you are. Even when you aren’t the bully, its hard not to keep reading the comments and arguments that rapidly evolve and escalate, especially if they happen to directly involve you. You can get sucked into the black hole of the internet and offensive trolls. It was addictive in the worst way, reading line to line, comment to comment. Every time you scrolled down, more popped up. You lost yourself in the noise of everyone else, and in this case you lost yourself to hate, you became one of the millions. Every time I sat at that computer I was leaving my body, joining some celestial primordial soup with every other thought and feeling floating out there, and when I got out of that soup, I needed a shower. This book is eye opening and realistic in an incredibly creative way. There is art all throughout the book (this is an illustrated novel, did I mention that?) that made me feel like I was there. There is a playlist that is absolutely amazing (it includes my favorite Foo Fighters song, so… duh). It was just so honest. I cant stress that enough. I will say that my only issue, my reason for taking off that half star, is that I feel like certain issues didn’t get wrapped up so much as they just disappeared. This could be to back up the point that the media moves on so quickly from story to story. I’m not sure. But it just seemed like some issues just evaporated and did’t close completely. So that was kind of awkward. But it really doesn’t take away from how important I believe this novel is. I am so happy to have had the chance to review this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    Once again, we can start off the review with a little laughter at my expense. I looked at the cover of Bright Lights, Dark Nights, combined that with the fact that I knew it was illustrated, and made myself very excited for an interracial romance superhero book. At first I was very disappointed to realize that the superhero thing was one hundred percent in my own head, aside from some small mentions of superhero comics. Even knowing better, that cover still screams superhero book to me. Actually Once again, we can start off the review with a little laughter at my expense. I looked at the cover of Bright Lights, Dark Nights, combined that with the fact that I knew it was illustrated, and made myself very excited for an interracial romance superhero book. At first I was very disappointed to realize that the superhero thing was one hundred percent in my own head, aside from some small mentions of superhero comics. Even knowing better, that cover still screams superhero book to me. Actually Bright Lights, Dark Nights (which I keep mistyping as Dark Knights fittingly) is more of a contemporary Lies We Tell Ourselves. Emond handles a very current subject with a deft and light hand. As he says in the Author’s Note, “Books work best as a conversation not a monologue.” The goal of Bright Lights, Dark Nights isn’t to lecture the reader and deliver a precise moral. There are a lot of questions left dangling, intentionally, at the close of the novel. Emond’s goal is to make people think and question both society and themselves. This, I think, he achieves summarily. The surface plot of racial tensions in a big American city is obviously one controversial not just now but for oh all of American history. Society’s come a long way in some respects but there’s a really long way to go. Bright Lights, Dark Nights walks hands in hands with #blacklivesmatter pointing out systemic racism, even in people who never thought of themselves that way and truly don’t believe such horrible things, like Walter Wilcox. Walter’s father is a cop who gets caught up in a scandal and becomes known on the internet as #racistcop. It’s a very dramatic story and one so real and current that it’s really tough to handle. This is fiction certainly but it’s a very clear reflection of what our country is currently going through. That said, I think Emond deals with everything in the least dramatic possible way. That’s not to say that dark shit doesn’t go down because it does, but Emond doesn’t amp up the drama just for drama’s sake. There are a lot of quiet moments too. The lens through which all of this is viewed is Walter, a shy, nigh invisible kid. He’s got issues from his parent’s divorce and is pretty much afraid of everything. Even before his dad’s case, his life starts to change when Naomi, his friend’s sister, shows some interest in him. Though he doesn’t get why she’s into him, he pushes himself out of his shell. Their romance is sweet and cute and sarcastic. I talk a lot about how I hate the trope of forbidden romance. It’s so obnoxious to me when everything and everyone is trying to keep a couple apart despite their pure, perfect love. In Bright Lights, Dark Nights, that’s sort of the case. However, the external pressures are also the internal ones because what Emond wants to look at is that deeply internalized racism indoctrinated by society. The romance doesn’t detract from the message but advances it. I’d have liked to see, I think, some other perspectives. Also in the Author’s Note, Emond says that “once the topic is presented, [he wants] to converse through the characters, [he wants] to talk about it from each point of view.” However, in Bright Lights, Dark Nights, we just have Walter’s first person POV. Walter’s a good narrator, but, much as he tries to be non-judgmental, he still has his own view, and I’d like to see what was going on in Naomi’s head or Jason’s or Lester’s. Bright Lights, Dark Nights really surprised me. I actually read it straight through. There’s something really compelling about this book, and the illustrations don’t hurt, though they didn’t really advance the story for me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Miss_Nelson

    I'm so glad I have another book to add to my very short Eleanor & Park read-alike list! Walter, a quiet kid who loves comics & rap begins to fall for his best friend, Jason's, younger sister, Naomi, a confident harp-playing beautiful girl. Both have their own family issues to deal with – Walter still resents his mom for cheating on his dad, and he has moved with his dad, a cop, to a tougher neighborhood. Naomi is in the shadow of her older sister's mistakes, so she at once has to deal with over- I'm so glad I have another book to add to my very short Eleanor & Park read-alike list! Walter, a quiet kid who loves comics & rap begins to fall for his best friend, Jason's, younger sister, Naomi, a confident harp-playing beautiful girl. Both have their own family issues to deal with – Walter still resents his mom for cheating on his dad, and he has moved with his dad, a cop, to a tougher neighborhood. Naomi is in the shadow of her older sister's mistakes, so she at once has to deal with over-protective parents and golden-child brother. As Walter & Naomi fall in love and begin to take their relationship public, they are confronted with questions, concerns and outright rejection. You see, Walter is white & Naomi is black. At the same time, Walter's father is accused of racial profiling and labeled #racistcop online. Walter & Naomi must navigate a new interracial romance against the backdrop of a community consumed with race. Here's what I loved about the book: Naomi & Walter – They are both nerds in the coolest of ways. Naomi plays the harp and says whatever is on her mind – which is usually way cooler than anything I have ever said. Walter loves comics and rap and is equally clever & smart. Both are new to love and completely, utterly sweet about the whole thing! Walter mentions just finishing High Fidelity and their banter reminds me of that couple. Stephen Emond's noir-like illustrations of the city every few pages. 1 – they were mesmerizing and cool; 2 – the reminded you that Walter & Naomi were surrounded by this world outside of their relationship that they would have to address Connection to a current issue, race, that is often difficult to discuss – I saw a review that said the author was too soft on this issue, particularly about the racial profiling subplot. That issue remained somewhat unresolved at the end. But I thought it was truer to leave it less resolved – that the conversation about what should happen from here would continue. Trying to wrap it up in some kind of neat bow does not seem to honor the complexity of this issue. I thought the author did a good job of tyring to show many different perspectives and stories, which there always are. Wasn't perfect but it begins to bring up the issue in teen literature and that's a start. It is told mainly from Walter's point of view, and even though Naomi is an awesome powerful character, I think it might have been even more powerful to actually swap points of view. RECOMMENDED Grades 7 and up

  13. 4 out of 5

    Teisha

    *3.5 stars* It took me a while to get through this one, but overall I liked it. I loved the diversity of the plot and characters. (We Need Diverse Books!) I appreciated that the characters were not simply walking cliches or stereotypes. Also, I found the book interesting because of its relevance to current events and modern issues of racism. Emond does an exceptional job of portraying how complex situations of racial profiling and police brutality are. He forces readers to look at both sides of *3.5 stars* It took me a while to get through this one, but overall I liked it. I loved the diversity of the plot and characters. (We Need Diverse Books!) I appreciated that the characters were not simply walking cliches or stereotypes. Also, I found the book interesting because of its relevance to current events and modern issues of racism. Emond does an exceptional job of portraying how complex situations of racial profiling and police brutality are. He forces readers to look at both sides of a situation, never giving us any real answers, but rather making us challenge ourselves by considering the perspectives of those who are different from us. I really liked Walter and Naomi's relationship. I thought that they were adorable, and I'm a sucker for first-love stories. I loved loved loved the illustrations! I will probably go out and buy a hardcover edition of this book for the cover art alone. There are also illustrations throughout the book that I am sure look much better in person than they do on my kindle. The only problem I really had with the book was that I wish it had come from more than one perspective. Walter's narration could be a bit dry and lackluster at times. I really liked Naomi's character; I thought that she was a very lively and vibrant. I would have liked to see inside of her head and read from her perspective. Overall, a unique, thought-provoking read for young readers!

  14. 5 out of 5

    The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears

    All. Kinds. Of. Win. Even if I'm not a Foo Fighters fan, lol. More of a Nightwish fan, but hey! All. Kinds. Of. Win. Even if I'm not a Foo Fighters fan, lol. More of a Nightwish fan, but hey!

  15. 5 out of 5

    CharlieJo

    I very much enjoyed this teen novel. It's much like a fairytale, I guess...with happy beginnings and endings...Not everyone gets a fairytale, but I guess reading about one is quite the escape. I very much enjoyed this teen novel. It's much like a fairytale, I guess...with happy beginnings and endings...Not everyone gets a fairytale, but I guess reading about one is quite the escape.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tiamatty

    I received this book free through Goodreads Giveaways. This is a great YA book. It deals pretty heavily with race issues. A white guy starts a relationship with a black girl, right as his cop father gets embroiled in a scandal over his arrest of a black kid. The father feels he did his job right, but there's accusations that he's racist. The public storm affects the teenage lovers, with the parents of both thinking it's a bad time for them to be dating, and people on the Internet talking about i I received this book free through Goodreads Giveaways. This is a great YA book. It deals pretty heavily with race issues. A white guy starts a relationship with a black girl, right as his cop father gets embroiled in a scandal over his arrest of a black kid. The father feels he did his job right, but there's accusations that he's racist. The public storm affects the teenage lovers, with the parents of both thinking it's a bad time for them to be dating, and people on the Internet talking about it. The main character - the white guy - is even forced to come to terms with his own racist attitudes, picked up from his family. (And he has to deal with his family situation in general - his hostility towards his mother over his parents' divorce is a big thing.) As a YA novel, the handling of the race issues doesn't really get too in-depth. It's more a way of examining the ways racism has changed - the fact that it tends to be subtler, and how a lot of it has moved online. The tense relations between cops and black communities is vaguely referenced, but doesn't get much exploration. But that's understandable. It is still a great book. It's well-written, with believable characters, and it at least gets readers thinking about some complex issues. A very strong YA novel.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brenna

    Progress Report 1. It's so exciting to finally be reading another Stephen Emond book. I have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms since finishing HappyFace and Winter Town. Oh it's good to be back...! Progress Report 2. At first I felt this book needed more art and it annoyed me. But I have realised that the story itself was enough. It would have taken away from the truth and rawness of the story. I was excited for the evening to come so I could snuggle up with this book and be swept away and le Progress Report 1. It's so exciting to finally be reading another Stephen Emond book. I have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms since finishing HappyFace and Winter Town. Oh it's good to be back...! Progress Report 2. At first I felt this book needed more art and it annoyed me. But I have realised that the story itself was enough. It would have taken away from the truth and rawness of the story. I was excited for the evening to come so I could snuggle up with this book and be swept away and left thinking and questioning. Brilliant. Omg hey look bonus stuff! YES! End of Book Review. Just brilliant and as with both Winter Town and Happyface.. 5 stars. Officially my favourite author! And as I said in my tweet about this book.. Stephen, please write more!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    White boy dates black girl. White boy's cop father gets involved in a racial conflict that sets the internet trolls slobbering. Very real. Very even-handed. Very timely. Illustrated. White boy dates black girl. White boy's cop father gets involved in a racial conflict that sets the internet trolls slobbering. Very real. Very even-handed. Very timely. Illustrated.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Naailah

    This wasn't the hit I thought it would be and I'm very disappointed. This wasn't the hit I thought it would be and I'm very disappointed.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Elaine

    Walter Wilcox does not go out of his way to attract attention to himself. He happily stands on the sidelines of life. Then, Walter meets Naomi. She's beautiful, smart, and she likes Walter. Walter falls head over heels for Naomi and goes out his way to see her. When Walter's cop dad is accused of being racist for falsely accusing a black make of robbery, Walter and Naomi's relationship is put to the test. Because Walter is white, and Naomi is black. Will Walter and Naomi's love for each other st Walter Wilcox does not go out of his way to attract attention to himself. He happily stands on the sidelines of life. Then, Walter meets Naomi. She's beautiful, smart, and she likes Walter. Walter falls head over heels for Naomi and goes out his way to see her. When Walter's cop dad is accused of being racist for falsely accusing a black make of robbery, Walter and Naomi's relationship is put to the test. Because Walter is white, and Naomi is black. Will Walter and Naomi's love for each other stand against the racism they face? A beautiful book that deals with such an importantly sensitive topic: racism. In this novel, we see racism presented from several angles. The first racism we see is from Walter's father. He did target a young, black male for a robbery the man may have or may not have committed. I think during the whole arresting event there was miscommunication between the two people. We also Walter's racism presented in the way that he thinks about his own personal relationship with others. And, of course, there is the racism of the general people both for and against Walter's father and the whole incident. Not all white cops are racist. Sure, some are, but there are many officers who just want to protect the people from anyone who poses a threat, no matter the color of a person's skin. One thing I loved in this novel is Walter and Naomi's beautiful relationship. They didn't let the color of their skin define them (though Walter did at the end); they fought against the racism and the expectation of others. They were together because they wanted to be together, and that is so beautiful. I definitely recommend this novel to be read. It is very well-written with the lightness and comedy and the heaviness and seriousness in all the right places. DO READ THIS NOVEL!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Although I enjoyed the previous books written by this author, I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. Of course, the cover clued me in to the fact that there'd be a romance between a white boy and a black girl set against the backdrop of some city's mean streets. And yes, the book lived up to that particular promise, but it was so much more. Aided by the images included by Stephen Emond, some exceptionally dark and others filled with tiny bits of light, and still others with much more bright Although I enjoyed the previous books written by this author, I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. Of course, the cover clued me in to the fact that there'd be a romance between a white boy and a black girl set against the backdrop of some city's mean streets. And yes, the book lived up to that particular promise, but it was so much more. Aided by the images included by Stephen Emond, some exceptionally dark and others filled with tiny bits of light, and still others with much more brightness, the story of Walter Wilcox plays out here. Quiet, nerdy, and preferring to stick to the shadows, Walter lives a quiet life with his police officer father, both of them still reeling after the departure of Walter's mother. Walter and his friend Jason Mills share musical tastes and enjoy hanging out. But when Walter connects with Naomi. Jason's sister, his friend is displeased and tries to thwart the relationship, partly because of the difference in skin colors but for other reasons as well. As if it isn't hard enough for their love to thrive in that bleak ground, Walter's father is on leave from his job, accused of racial profiling and manhandling a possible criminal. The case garners local and national attention, and even prompts posts on Facebook. Clearly, the author has crafted a story in which the personal relationship between one couple plays out on a larger stage, and by the end of the book, readers won't have all the answers about how to make love stay or how to resist the prejudices that exist in the world around us. But they will have some examples and a vivid reminder that change happens, not through acts of violence, but through having the courage to be true to oneself and do the right thing, if not the safe thing. I liked how the romance between the two characters developed even while neither character was perfect. Once again, a YA book has explored powerfully the connection between what is personal and how it becomes political. There are no easy answers, but the book raises many questions worth exploring.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stefani Sloma

    You can read this review and more on my blog, Caught Read Handed. NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to like this one. I really, really did. A diverse love story with super cool black and white illustrations throughout? Doesn’t that sound like a perfect book for me? I thought so too. Walter’s never been in love, until he meets the little sister of one of his best friends and the two hit it off instantly. When Walter’s dad is ca You can read this review and more on my blog, Caught Read Handed. NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to like this one. I really, really did. A diverse love story with super cool black and white illustrations throughout? Doesn’t that sound like a perfect book for me? I thought so too. Walter’s never been in love, until he meets the little sister of one of his best friends and the two hit it off instantly. When Walter’s dad is caught in a race scandal at work, the two of them start getting called out at school for their relationship. Will love prevail? I loved Walter and Naomi’s banter; they were absolutely adorable. But I found myself getting a little bored of the story. I told myself to keep going, it’d get better. When it didn’t, I put Bright Lights, Dark Nights on hold for a couple of days to read something else. When I finished that, I thought about going back to BLDN, and I honestly just didn’t care enough about the characters to want to. I’m not really sure what it is that I didn’t like. I liked the two main characters and the illustrations, but I just didn’t care about the story. I think it might’ve been because it was set from Walter’s perspective only. This is one of those cases where I think the story could’ve done with more than one perspective – maybe from Naomi’s? I DO think people will like this one. The theme in BLDN is really relevant right now. The two main characters are interesting, funny, and super adorable. This is one of those books that I can definitely see myself trying again in the future. I’d be interested to see how the story played out. The bottom line: Interesting concept, maybe not so great execution. I was a little bored and not invested enough to want to continue. But you should give it a shot if you like diverse contemporaries that are relevant to the current issues in our society.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Morales

    Walter tries to go through school unnoticed, but he finds himself falling for his friend's quirky sister. And when his cop father is accused of being racist and abusing his power, Walter and Naomi get thrown into the limelight. I absolutely had to get this book when I saw it in store. As half of an interracial couple, I love reading about them. And this book did not disappoint. I thought it was an honest look about difficulties of being in an interracial relationship. It also shed light on some of Walter tries to go through school unnoticed, but he finds himself falling for his friend's quirky sister. And when his cop father is accused of being racist and abusing his power, Walter and Naomi get thrown into the limelight. I absolutely had to get this book when I saw it in store. As half of an interracial couple, I love reading about them. And this book did not disappoint. I thought it was an honest look about difficulties of being in an interracial relationship. It also shed light on some of preconceived notion we have about people. Walter absolutely adores Naomi but he got caught up in what his father, and the world around them would think about his relationship. I really liked the growth Walter went through in this book. His relationship with Naomi didn't solve all his existing problems, it actually shed the light on them. He became aware of how he was acting and is striving to become better. This book also showed a realistic fight in a relationship. I think Naomi and Walter have such different approaches to solving (or avoiding) problems that it was inevitable that they had such a big fight. They way they would talk it out actually reminded me a lot about my own relationship. I absolutely loved this book. It was a great story and it was filled with so many beautiful illustrations. My only complaint is that I wish some of this pictures were in color. I give this book A. I am making all my friends read this.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joi

    Bright lights Dark Nights is a beautifully written (and illustrated) story about love in the real world. Walter Wilcox a poor nerdy inner city kid happens upon his first love in the most unlikely of people his best friends younger sister Naomi. At the start of their relationship problems arise because of their differences in race and personalities but they are able to power through. That is until Walter's father is accused of a racially charged crime. Will this make or break their relationship o Bright lights Dark Nights is a beautifully written (and illustrated) story about love in the real world. Walter Wilcox a poor nerdy inner city kid happens upon his first love in the most unlikely of people his best friends younger sister Naomi. At the start of their relationship problems arise because of their differences in race and personalities but they are able to power through. That is until Walter's father is accused of a racially charged crime. Will this make or break their relationship only time will tell. I enjoyed Bright Lights Dark Nights the subject matter of the novel really hit home for me. With racial tensions running high in America and police brutality becoming more and more prevalent everyday I enjoyed reading a story that displayed how the families of the accuse deal with a tragedy of this magnitude. I also liked how this story shed light on different types of racism that can be prevalent amongst the different races. In the story there was a quote that really hit home for me. It dealt with change and how we are unable to change everyone but if we change ourselves and be a great example then others will follow. Instead of blending in we need to be the change that we want to see and I think this book dealt with that issue head on and did not sugar coat it or beat around the bush with such a serious issue. I would recommend this novel for students ages 14 and up I also feel that this is a good crossover novel that adults can read and enjoy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    This book was too real for me. I'm used to dragons and magic and needing to save the empire, but anyways... I felt this book did a great job of discussing the race question. In recent years racial tension has risen across the US with the police profiling. This book takes a look at that type of situation in which I feel both black and white can feel they have been represented. While the idea of interracial couples should be passe in 2016 there still are lingering problems. Walter and Naomi struggl This book was too real for me. I'm used to dragons and magic and needing to save the empire, but anyways... I felt this book did a great job of discussing the race question. In recent years racial tension has risen across the US with the police profiling. This book takes a look at that type of situation in which I feel both black and white can feel they have been represented. While the idea of interracial couples should be passe in 2016 there still are lingering problems. Walter and Naomi struggle through some of these problems some of us might not even think about. My only complaint about this book is that it seems to end abruptly. Much of the conflict in the book is Walter's cop father is in a racial profiling lawsuit. The Internet gets wind and goes crazy over it. Walter's father badly attempts damage control, making things worse. In the second to last chapter they settle out of court and it becomes a non issue. For something that took up most of the book you expect more of a resolution. We don't even get to learn who did the robberies. Was he right? Was he profiling? (by mistake or not) Was it really Nate and Kate? The cause of their breakup being they didn't know how to divide the spoils. We never learn. I guess the point was it doesn't matter but at the same time it does. I want to know.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lyn *GLITTER VIKING*

    This eBook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is one of the few books that places the reader right into the middle of racism on an everyday level. There was so much heartbreak and pain, but also so much beauty and love and appreciation for life and romance. I also love that the male MC has a lot of the same issues I face (non confrontational to the point that it is insulting to others, lack of emotional skills, unaware of self-worth) and that the story addr This eBook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is one of the few books that places the reader right into the middle of racism on an everyday level. There was so much heartbreak and pain, but also so much beauty and love and appreciation for life and romance. I also love that the male MC has a lot of the same issues I face (non confrontational to the point that it is insulting to others, lack of emotional skills, unaware of self-worth) and that the story addressed therapy in a non-threading, positive light. And Naomi - hell, even I FELL IN LOVE WITH HER. She wasn't the manic pixie dreamgirl or the over the top exotic black girl. Kudos to a male author who gets it right! Also, that cover, SWOON. I would have rated this higher if there wasn't so much that was just brushed under the table and ignored to make the ending clean and happy. Jason needed to face some consequences, and yet, he was given a free pass. That upset me that a character did not own up to their own mistakes just for the sake of "happily ever after".

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Walter is a typical senior in high school. He and his dad moved into the city after the divorce. Mom remained in the more affluent suburbs with her boyfriend. Older sister was away at college so she had the privilege of avoiding a great deal of the family drama. However, Walter has adjusted as best he can to his new lifestyle, even if it means living in an apartment in a poor section of the city and having to cope with some bullying. Walter’s life completely changes when he meets and falls in lo Walter is a typical senior in high school. He and his dad moved into the city after the divorce. Mom remained in the more affluent suburbs with her boyfriend. Older sister was away at college so she had the privilege of avoiding a great deal of the family drama. However, Walter has adjusted as best he can to his new lifestyle, even if it means living in an apartment in a poor section of the city and having to cope with some bullying. Walter’s life completely changes when he meets and falls in love with one of his friend’s younger sister. The complication is that Walter is white while Naomi is black, causing some real issues for both of them. This complication becomes even more pronounced when Walter’s dad, a city cop, is accused of racial profiling in one of his arrests. Walter and Naomi persevere but it is how they learn to cope that is the real story. Making this book even more special are the author’s drawings that highlight the action in each chapter. It is a very special book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Forever Young Adult

    Graded By: Mandy W. Cover Story: The Heart of the City BFF Charm: Big Sister Swoonworthy Scale: 5 Talky Talk: Too Close for Comfort Bonus Factors: Illustrations, Music Anti-Bonus Factor: Internet Trolls Relationship Status: It's Not You, It's Me Read the full book report here. Graded By: Mandy W. Cover Story: The Heart of the City BFF Charm: Big Sister Swoonworthy Scale: 5 Talky Talk: Too Close for Comfort Bonus Factors: Illustrations, Music Anti-Bonus Factor: Internet Trolls Relationship Status: It's Not You, It's Me Read the full book report here.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Isabel

    4.5 stars It was really easy to read and I liked all the topics it covered. It was definitely really relevant, and I liked the plot and how things moved along, although it probably could have been a little shorter. Plus, the art was really good and it was nice to just take a break and look at the art. The ending didn't solve everything, but I think that it's good that way. 4.5 stars It was really easy to read and I liked all the topics it covered. It was definitely really relevant, and I liked the plot and how things moved along, although it probably could have been a little shorter. Plus, the art was really good and it was nice to just take a break and look at the art. The ending didn't solve everything, but I think that it's good that way.

  30. 4 out of 5

    aria

    This book definitely deserves it's five stars. The author perfectly captured young love, and how love will beat all the odds. The racism was also well-written, and the portrayal of the Internet was very accurate! I definitely recommend this book. This book definitely deserves it's five stars. The author perfectly captured young love, and how love will beat all the odds. The racism was also well-written, and the portrayal of the Internet was very accurate! I definitely recommend this book.

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