Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond
Published by Roaring Book Press
Published on August 11, 2015
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A story about first love, first fights, and finding yourself in a messed up world, from the acclaimed author of Happyface.
Walter Wilcox has never been in love. That is, until he meets Naomi, and sparks, and clever jokes, fly. But when his cop dad is caught in a racial profiling scandal, Walter and Naomi, who is African American, are called out at school, home, and online. Can their bond (and mutual love of the Foo Fighters) keep them together?
With black-and-white illustrations throughout and a heartfelt, humorous voice, Bright Lights, Dark Nights authentically captures just how tough first love can be...and why it's worth fighting for.
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.