Reviews for Darkness Before Dawn


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 January 2001
Gr. 8-12. It's been a hard summer for Keisha Montgomery. She is still recovering from the recent suicide of her ex-boyfriend, Andy, though she finds comfort in her tight circle of good friends and supportive family. Then handsome new track coach (and the principal's son) Jonathan Hardaway notices Keisha and sweeps her off her feet with his smooth manner. When a dinner date with Jonathan turns into attempted rape, Keisha successfully fights him off, but the incident leaves her depressed and shaken. This third title in Draper's books about Hazelwood High will draw readers anxious to follow the personable characters from Tears of a Tiger (1994) and Forged by Fire (1997). However, the teen phone conversations, so well handled in those titles, become awkward here when used to relate plot developments, and the frequently didactic tone of the characters is contrived. What's more, so many problem issues are raised--date rape, anorexia, depression, mental illness, suicide, and grief, to name a few--that the focus blurs. Yet the graduation scene, in which class president Keisha gives the closing speech, is moving and triumphant, showing Draper and her vibrant characters at their best. --Debbie Carton Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Fall
In this follow-up to Tears of a Tiger and Forged by Fire, senior-class president Keisha is still reeling from her ex-boyfriend's suicide when she lets herself be wooed by the principal's twenty-three-year-old son--who then attempts to rape her. This cautionary tale merits telling, but Keisha's narration is rife with clichEs, digressions, strained humor, and pat psychology. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2000 December #1
A trip to the mall becomes therapy in this high-school soap opera, third in the Hazelwood High series by Draper (Romiette and Julio, 1999; Forged by Fire, 1997). African-American narrator Keisha, having mourned the suicide of her ex-boyfriend, involves herself with an attractive older man--with near-disastrous results. Jonathan's attention makes Keisha feel mature, so she defies her parents' injunction not to date him and ends up having to defend herself from rape in his apartment--an event so nakedly foreshadowed that there is little tension. Draper presents an appealing circle of friends, but they are so ridiculously virtuous--eschewing sex before marriage, avoiding alcohol (not a whisper about drugs), doing their homework, diligently making college plans, impulsively giving soup to a homeless woman, coaxing an anorexic friend into eating--that they stand more as good role models for teen readers than as realistic characters. Dialogue is frequently stilted ("Especially in winter, blooming flowers bring smiles to folks like me who are sad and confused"), and the use of the ungrammatical "me and . . . " nominative construction, presumably to create voice, is at odds with the high-achieving Keisha's otherwise Standard English. This series appears to be an attempt to carve out a niche of the high-school problem-novel market for African-American teens; it's a pity this offering only complements the banality so often found in this genre. (Fiction. YA) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 2001 February
Gr 9 Up-Keisha's senior year of high school is quite an ordeal. Her ex-boyfriend has recently committed suicide; a good friend was killed in a car crash; and she is attracted to the new track coach, the principal's college-aged son. When he begins to make advances, Keisha decides that she is mature enough to date this older man. Jonathan, however, turns out to be more than a smooth talker, and attempts to rape her after a romantic date. Readers may be overwhelmed by the soap-opera feel of this issue-laden world of suicide, anorexia, teen models, divorced or dead parents, homelessness, car accidents, and girl power. There's even a romance that Keisha doesn't see coming, but readers will. Although never didactic or preachy, the issues are there to teach a lesson. While slightly unrealistic, the book still may appeal to readers who love page-turners, as Draper has given her characters life by developing relationships and using believable teen-speak.-Angela J. Reynolds, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Aloha, OR Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2001 August
This third book in Draper's Hazelwood High series tells the story of eighteen-year-old Keisha as she gets ready to leave high school behind and learns some difficult lessons about what it truly means to grow up. The book focuses on Keisha's romance with an older, charming assistant coach, who is also the high school principal's son. The romance ends in a predictable rape scene in which Keisha narrowly escapes by cutting her attacker's handsome face with his own knife. Unfortunately, Draper is unable to maintain the quality of her last installment, Forged by Fire (Atheneum/S & S, 1997/VOYA June 1997), and although the books share the same characters, the similarity ends there. Keisha is supposed to be an assertive young woman, but she comes off as an overly preachy do-gooder, to whom teenage girls of any race will not relate. This reviewer also had problems with the constant use of slang, such as "I feel you." Although such use is meant to make the characters seem more authentic, it falls short of that goal, coming off as forced and unnatural. Many other books, including Richard Peck's groundbreaking Are You in the House Alone (Viking, 1976), tell a far more believable story of a rape situation. This book is a rare miss by a talented author; nevertheless Draper's many fans will insist on reading the next installment of this series.-Shari Fesko. The author does not falsely portray teenage life as entirely blissful. Instead, the book captures both the hardships and the joys of teenage life. The charming characters live in a realistic world full of pain, stress, and joy, wonderfully accented with romance. This modern book reads easily, so presumably the story will appeal to teenagers. The thought-provoking story provides life lessons for teens and adults alike.-Annabel van Holsbeeck, Teen Reviewer. 2Q 2P J S Copyright 2001 Voya Reviews

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