Skip to main content

#AuthorApril is for Ashley Hope Perez, #AtoZChallenge

Dear Kim,

Here comes a big one. The book that I've been talking and talking about finally lands on our blog today. H is for Ashley Hope Perez and her historical tragedy, Out of Darkness.


H is for Ashley Hope Perez
Cover missing Printz Honor seal.

Say what you want about prologues, Kim, but reading the prologue to Hope Perez's award-winning historical fiction is a litmus test to see if you can emotionally handle this haunting novel. If you can pull through the prologue without your heart crumbling to nothing, you might be strong enough to continue reading. 

"Within the great circle," she writes, "men crawl over the crumpled form of the collapsed school. They cart away rubble and search for survivors. For their children. Mostly, though, they find bodies." The prologue continues, describing the hours and days just after the explosion. The prologue ends with, "More than grief, more than anger, there is a need. Someone to blame. Someone to make pay."





We then enter the story in September 1937, several months before the explosion. In meeting the five narrators: Beto, Naomi, Wash, Henry, and The Gang; I found myself searching for the "Someone to make pay" and hoping that my favorite characters would not be blamed. No spoilers here, but Hope Perez holds no punches when it comes to the emotional toll she hammers against her characters (or her readers).

Short chapters push the story ahead while we watch the characters' relationships unfold and intertwine. Naomi, one of our narrators, cares for her half-brother and sister, twins, Cara and Beto. Brought from their grandparents' home in San Antonio, the twins and Naomi move in with Henry.

Henry is a nightmare in the flesh. His volatile moods paired with his thirst for companionship bring out the worst in this monster, especially to Naomi.  It's Wash who finally brings light to the lives of Naomi and the twins. The love between Wash and Naomi lets us exhale in a story that constantly constricts our breath. The brutalities and racial horrors that both Naomi and Wash face daily in the small New London town paint a grave town and a grave time.

I can only describe the ending of Out of Darkness as heartbreaking. The language is beautiful. The characters are so real. The tragedy, both the researched facts and developed fiction, haunting. This is a book that will stay with you always.



pg. 339

#AuthorApril would be incomplete without Ashley Hope Perez and her historical fiction masterpiece, Out of Darkness.

Much Love,
Alison

Popular posts from this blog

The Querying Writer: Part II

Dear Kim,


Remember that letter I sent you way back in October? (You remember October-- back when all things seemed possible.) 





The letter, COMP TITLES and THE QUERYING WRITER, shared details from our Novel Nuts & Bolts class with Empire Literary Agent Carrie Howland. (I may have referred to her as "agent-extraordinaire" in another post.)

Though today's post will be my third about Carrie, it is titled "Part II" because my querying journey seems sequel worthy.







I started looking for an agent soon after you and I met at the NYC SCBWI conference in 2012. I had nice feedback from an agent at a conference and sent him my work. His response was kind (which I've found most responses from agents to be.) But my writing wasn’t ready. The novel he saw was the first I’d ever finished. I wasn't ready.

I swallowed that little voice that said, SEND! SEND! SEND! for two more years until I entered #PitchWars-- Brenda Drake’s crash course in pitching. In the years between t…

School Visit Recap: Assemblies to Workshops, and the CONVERSATIONS in between

Dear Kim (and friends),

This morning I put away my rainbow superhero mask, gold top hat, and banana-on-a-stick. Few things are sadder than closing your banana-on-a-stick into a dark closet. But, I guess it will rise again next month for my next school visit.

Oh, you thought my collection was somehow Halloween related? No, no. Just part of the workshop portion of my school visits. For the past two weeks I had the privilege of speaking to, and then with, students from one of our nearby districts.



Dwight Smith, the founder of My Special Word, joined me for the assembly portion of the event. We were able to share with the children Dwight's vision for the program, as well as my process for writing the books for him.

There was music. Lots of it.
Some singing. (Would you expect any less?)
And shouting! (Mostly the kids, but I got a few words in too.)



We met with over 800 kids during the assemblies and got a sense for how the school district planned to use My Special Word. I'll say,
w…

BOOK REVIEW: Starr Fall & BOOK RELEASE: Once & Forever

Dear Alison,

Goodbye January, Hello February! Last week, I let everyone peak in my drawers.  Today, I'm opening my inbox. Well, not literally. You DO NOT want to see my inbox--though I do try to keep all the accounts very tidy--sometimes the emails get a bit, what's the word I'm looking for? Expansive. My favorite emails are from fans. I LOVE them. They make me all warm and fuzzy. Seriously, touch my arm...

See? Warm and Fuzzy. Oh, wait those are my doggies;)

While, I ADORE the fan mail (I DO, I REALLY DO) I would LOVE them even more if they were added as a review to AMAZON and GOODREADS. For instance, look at some of these reviews:


Must Read!!!, January 31, 2017 By  Kelly

This review is from: Starr Fall: Book One of the Starr Fall Series (Kindle Edition) Purchased this book for my 14 year old daughter who is NOT a fan of reading for pleasure or at all for that matter. Well, the book immediately grabbed her attention. In her words..."I can't put this book down. I ne…