Out of Darkness

by Ashley Hope Pérez

A gripping work opens with the explosion of the white school in New London, Texas,... read more

A gripping work opens with the explosion of the white school in New London, Texas, in 1937. The fictional story, woven around the facts of this actual event that killed almost 300 students and teachers, examines racism, sexual abuse, religion, and the powerful pull of family. At the center is the love between two teenagers, Mexican American Naomi and African American Wash. Much of the novel is in flashback. Wash befriends Naomi and her younger half-siblings, twins Cari and Beto, after they move to town. Naomi’s white stepfather, Henry, sexually abused her years before when her mother was dying. She told no one. When it becomes clear Henry’s intent, at the suggestion of his pastor, is to marry Naomi, she is desperate to leave, but she won’t go without the twins. Wash is determined to run away with them, despite his own family’s plans for him to go to college. Then the school explodes. In the aftermath, an angry and grieving white community is looking for someone to blame, and Wash is in their sights. Vivid, complex, and nuanced in both characters and telling, this novel is also incredibly forthright, building to a brutal climax. The violence is horrifying, but to make it anything less would be to undermine telling the truth of racism and sexual violence. But there is a thread of hope in one survivor’s determination to tell the story whole. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2016

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