A Wish After Midnight
Genna is a fifteen-year-old in modern-day Brooklyn. She lives with her single-parent, two-job-working mother, her flirty older sister, her drug-selling older brother, and too-sweet baby brother, all in a one-room apartment. Unlike her siblings, Genna works hard at school and plans to go to college and get out of the ghetto. Her poetry-writing boyfriend Judah wants to escape too, by moving to Africa. Genna’s favorite place to go is the botanical gardens, where she always has a penny to throw in the fountain for a wish.
After a family crisis, Genna goes to the gardens late at night and makes a wish – one that seems to work, although in an unexpected way. Genna is taken far away (in time, not location), to Brooklyn during the Civil War, where she is suspected of being a runaway slave. Barely saved from being shipped South, Genna is taken to an orphanage and allowed to heal from horrible wounds she doesn’t remember getting. Stuck in 1863, Genna must adapt to a new world, where black people have even fewer options than they have in 21st-century New York.
Elliott masterfully draws both Brooklyns. The modern-day city is alive and dangerous and yet home. The Civil War-era Brooklyn is all those things, and yet totally different. Genna is a strong and adaptable character, one readers can easily sympathize with, and the story is both gripping and informative. Elliott brings to life little-studied events and explores the many difficulties faced by blacks, both of today and during the Civil War.
I was disappointed in the ending, but not so much that it ruined the story. Actually, the ending might precipitate discussion in a high school classroom or adult book club, for which I highly recommend it.