Darkness Before Dawn by Sharon M. Draper

May 17, 2010
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I have recently read a very good book called Darkness Before Dawn, written by Sharon M. Draper. I liked it because it illustrated how African Americans struggle in this country, the unique characters, and the unexpected plot. I only wish that the author had used more time developing the plot and not using as much detail.

My first plus was that the book very well illustrated how African Americans struggle in this country. Although the book took place in the 1990s, many incidents that happened in the book reflected African-Americans’ struggles in the past. For example, Edna was an African-American homeless woman. When African-Americans were released from slavery in the 1800s, most were without a home or a job. Edna had an attitude parallel to that of just-released slaves. She once said, “I done had pieces of my shell plucked all my life, but can’t nobody take away my spirit!” (pg. 203) Also, when Keisha was abused by Jonathan, it reminded me of the rape that African-Americans had gone through when they were enslaved. Both Jonathan and the slave masters had wanted to use their victims for their bodies. Both of these examples really reflect the struggles of African-American people in the past.

My second plus is that the characters were very unique. Unlike some other books, all of the characters had personalities that differentiated from character to character. For example, Keisha was a teenager with an attitude, but her best friend, Jalani, had a very unique background. She had divorced parents and came from Nigeria. As one can see, these characters were very

different from each other but made the story more interesting. I also liked how Leon created a foil for Keisha. Keisha was very studious and mature, while Leon was always making jokes and trying to make people laugh. Near the end of the book, though, Leon and Keisha are in a very good relationship. Jonathan was also a very unique character. He had a history of abusing women, and yet he was never caught by the police nor suspected of ever doing anything wrong. This made him very unique and interesting. The way that all of the characters talked made the story more interesting, too. For example, Edna used a lot of slang. “Now you don’t worry none. I don’t steal, but I do know how to make a deal with the winos around here. I think this one still got some juice and air time on it. Call yo’ mama.” (pg. 205) This made her very unique.

My third and final plus is that the plot was very unexpected. In many other books that are meant for a teenage audience stick to the same basic plot. When I was reading this book, it seemed a lot more mature than most of these. For example, Jonathan and Keisha seemed to have a safe relationship, but that all changed when Jonathan brought Keisha to his apartment. I did not expect Jonathan to hurt Keisha after he had been so sensitive and friendly towards her. Also, throughout the book, it seemed like Jalani and Gerald were never going to have a real relationship. In crisis, though, Gerald felt natural hanging out with Jalani. This surprised me and probably any other reading this book. Finally, I never expected Angel to be anorexic. Probably the most unexpected event in the book was when she fainted because of her lack of eating. She had seemed so harmless before she was diagnosed with anorexia. This book was full of unexpected plot twists, which made it even more interesting to read.

My one and only wish is that I hoped that the setting could have done more for the plot. Since the setting was a dreary place, it didn’t really do much to support the conflict in the book. If I were the author, I would have made the setting a place that is crowded with a lot of people, such as New York. This way, Jonathan would blend in more, making the fact that he ran away more convincing. It could also take place in a town that nobody knows much about, which would support the fact that Jonathan ran away because it would be easy for him to leave the town. Having the story take place in Cincinnati, though, did not make much sense to me. In conclusion, this book was one of my favorites, and most of the aspects of the story were almost perfect.

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