Book Reviews

Review: Out of Darkness By Ashley Hope Pérez


Published: September 1st 2015 by Carolrhoda Lab

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 402

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance

Synopsis: This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?”

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them.

“No Negroes, Mexicans, or dogs.”

They know the people who enforce them.

“They all decided they’d ride out in their sheets and pay Blue a visit.”

But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.

“More than grief, more than anger, there is a need. Someone to blame. Someone to make pay.”

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people. 

WARNING: There are depictions of rape, pedophilia, domesticated abuse and torture.

Spoiler Free Review: 

Before reading this book, I had never heard of the 1937 New London school explosion. It had occurred due to a gas leak and about 294 people were killed in the explosion. But this story goes beyond the explosion, instead focusing on the marginalized people living in this town, the helplessness of women at the time and the expectations that were put on them. The struggles of being in an interracial relationship at the time. This story was tragic and depressing, but extremely powerful.

More than half of the book leads up to the New London explosion which ultimately changes the entire outcome. Before the explosion, the story centered more on the struggles of living as a person of color and as a young woman during this time. There is Naomi who is stuck with her disgusting white stepfather and is raising the her twin brother and sister. Reading from her perspective was heart breaking. Because of her past, she’s become very closed off and bitter. Wash is African American and has been taught by his father to listen and respect white people and stay out of their way. He’s adapted to being discriminated and tries his best survive out in the real world. The romance was actually well written, I could see why Wash and Naomi were genuinely in love with each other and they were basically the definition of star crossed lovers. 

There is also a perspective form Beto, one of the twins. For a seven year old boy, he had an interesting perspective. Both him and Cari are half Mexican, but have light skin and are white passing. When it comes to him, he doesn’t see color only a person for who they are. I had a very similar mindset when I was younger as well. He’s privileged in a sense where no one discriminates against him. But he does see how Naomi and Wash are treated and it hurts him because he loves them both. Beto represented the light and he was the heart of the story. 

Henry could be considered as the antagonist of the story. He’s very self pitying and angry at himself for his failures. There is also the expectations a man has to uphold when it comes to having a wife and children. Instead, he takes it out on his children. He was interesting to read from even if I hated him with every fiber of my being. The chapters from his perspective humanized a little bit, but I still felt no remorse or pity for him. He is irrational and downright disgusting and the definition of a privileged, white man that preys on women. 

The ending of the book left me stunned and heart wrenched. This story is dark, depressing and extremely difficult to read. The author chose to go with a very tragic ending but it was the most impactful. By reading this book, you really get an insight into the struggles of being marginalized and trying to be in an interracial relationship. Even after finishing this book, the story has stuck with me. 

Rating: 4.5/5



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