Like most fifteen-year-old girls, she’s trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. Also like most fifteen-year-old girls finding a boyfriend gives her some self-confidence.
Like Gemma, Judah is different. He’s a rastafarian, a guy who is looking to get back to his African roots, and encourages Genna to do the same.
Neither of them have any idea just how acquainted Genna is going to get with her roots.
One night as Genna is throwing pennies in a fountain as she thinks about her future, as is her dreamy custom, she awakens in 1863 Brooklyn, after a severe beating. She isn’t sure what brought her there or why, or what happened before she woke up.
She is taken into an orphanage and then ends up working as a free black woman for a white doctor sympathetic to the African American cause.
A Wish After Midnight is artfully told by Zetta Elliott (who recently wrote a guest column for us: Whitewashed). The teen voice is strong, beautiful, and poignant. The historical setting was made much more interesting to me because I had already grown to know and like contemporary Genna. Her perspective as a 21st century black woman transported back to a time when African Americans were free but with rights or possibilities for the future — when she herself was contemplating her 21st century future is brilliant.
The book does deal with mature themes, not only the brutal and cruel treatment of slaves and free blacks, but also the issues facing contemporary teenagers in Brooklyn, which is why I would recommend it for high schoolers.
However, this is not just a young adult novel. I also highly recommend it for adults who enjoy historical fiction and a teen’s perspective and those who are interested in race relations — past and present.
Jennifer Donovan has loved reading through Black History month, and encourages you not to just read “black literature” during black history month. Read more about her reading life and life in general at Snapshot.