Review of Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

“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.

(Summary from GoodReads)

I struggle with historical fiction, because even though I end up enjoying almost all of the historical fiction I read, I worry that it’s going to be slow. I was pulled into Ashley Hope Perez’s story right away, and I’m sad that it doesn’t get more love from readers. Out Of Darkness is the beautiful story of a Mexican girl falling in love with a black boy in 1937 East Texas.

Although the New London school explosion plays critical role in this story, Out Of Darkness isn’t really a book about the school explosion. Naomi grandparents send to live with her stepfather, Henry, along with her twin half siblings, Beto and Cari. Henry is the type of character who readers love to hate, since he’s a pretty awful guy and is pretty much the reason Naomi’s mother died. The task of running the household essentially falls upon Naomi, and while she cares deeply for Beto and Cari, running a household, especially Henry’s household, is extremely difficult for her. There are a lot of trigger warnings that should accompany this book, including pedophilia and extreme racism.

Perspectives switch throughout this story and while I know not everyone was a fan of it, I thought that it worked really well. Perez’s characters are so well crafted that I had strong feelings about all of them by the end of this story. Her writing is beautiful, and I thought she did a good job of balancing the bleakness and hope that were a part of this story.

The ending of this novel absolutely broke my heart. Out of Darkness is a hard book to read, and I’m not sure if I’d want to read it again. Readers who want a sad, romantic story with a great deal of depth will love Perez’s novel.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my library.


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