Title: A Wish After Midnight
Author: Zetta Elliott
Year: 2009 (paperback)
Concepts: slavery, poverty, discrimination
Review: Although fifteen-year old Genna Colon faces some tough obstacles, she has continued to set high expectations for herself and to dream about a better life. Genna, her single mother, and three siblings live in a run-down building beset by drug dealers, trash, and vermin. She enjoys learning and wants to attend college to study psychiatry, but intense pressures to subscribe to a strict set of social norms in her Brooklyn school leave her ostracized and deeply unhappy. Only Judah, with his Jamaican heritage and his strong desire to escape Brooklyn and go to Africa, understands her feelings and makes her feel beautiful and valued.
Genna finds sanctuary almost every day at the garden, where she habitually tosses coins into the fountain and wishes to live somewhere else, inhabit someone else’s body, and experience a new life. So Genna is dumbfounded and utterly confused when she wakes up after a particularly difficult night to find herself in a different body, bloodied and beaten, in Civil War-era Brooklyn. If this is just a bad dream, then why does it not end?
In this gripping novel, Zetta Elliott provides a carefully-crafted interplay between historical facts, social commentary, and powerful fiction. The book serves as an important reminder about the brutal and degrading treatment of blacks during the mid-1800s and the frightening conditions of the 1863 Civil War draft riots in New York. Yet the author does not preach, and comparisons with life as an African American teen in modern-day Brooklyn are subtle and informative. A Wish After Midnight leaves a lasting impression with its dignified, strong-minded lead character and its clever historical fiction.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children