Rummanah Aasi
 Reading Out of Darkness is an unforgettable and uncomfortable experience, but a necessary one. This book is not for everyone nor will it appeal to readers who crave for escapism when reading. Out of Darkness is historical fiction at its finest in which Perez highlights an unknown American tragedy along with examining the marginal lives of the time period as well as addressing issues that we are, unfortunately, facing today.

Description: “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.”


Review: Out of Darkness begins with a prologue set hours after an actual deadly and horrific school explosion in New London, Texas in March 1937 that took the lives of 300 people and then flashes back to the events leading to the explosion. It initially confusing that Perez began her book with the school explosion rather build up to it, however, looking back on the book now, I think she made the right choice in placing the school disaster first and then setting up the characters and building tension in the community of New London. The book is also written in multiple point of views, bouncing from Naomi, her stepfather Henry, Wash, Naomi's half brother Benito, and the ominous, racist voices of the sheep-like herd called the gang. The multiple view points were done well in the book, allowing for the character's arc to grow as well as placing symbolism, metaphors, and foreshadowing in the right spots. The chapters were also short, moving the story at a steady pace and I was soon engrossed in the book.
  Like the written structure of the book, the characters have a wide range of complexity. Naomi, the book's protagonist, I would argue is intentionally one-dimensional. Due to her "dark Mexican" complexion she is objectified racially and sexually by almost ever character with the exception of her African American love interest, Wash, and her half siblings. Similarly, Wash is also limited in his character development and he may come across as a too perfect character, which is why the love story between these two characters is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time because we know their love will and can not last. The heart of the book is their pure love story that counterbalances unhealthy relationships as well as bring some light in this very dark book.
  Unlike Naomi and Wash, Henry is a much more complex and deplorable character. I applaud Perez in allowing us a glimpse into his warped psyche in order to understand his actions and mentality while being emotionally withdrawn from him. Henry believes he has been cursed as people around him tend to die. He deeply feels that someone or something can save him. He turns to religion as he struggles to atone for his sins and bargains with God that he would observe his faith as long as he gets what he wants. At the same time Henry feels because he is white and a man, he is entitled to have authority, control, and have his demands (financially, sexually, societal expectations) met no matter the cost. 
 The book's ending is much more shocking and gut wrenching than the school explosion. After finishing the book two weeks ago, I still feel conflicted about it. I knew before starting this book that there would be no happy ending, but I had no idea it would be this brutal. I'm not sure if you can prepare yourself for it and maybe that was the point. Regardless, Out of Darkness is an outstanding read and it would make a great book club discussion for teens and adults alike.  

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language including racial slurs and the 'n' word. There is also a scene of molestation of a minor, rape, allusions to masturbation, a small oral sex scene, and strong violence. Recommended for older and mature teens and up.

If you like this book try: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
4 Responses
  1. Whoa. This sounds like a dark, powerful read. I am curious about it especially since I know nothing about the actual event.


  2. Anne Bennett Says:

    I spend a lot of time previewing potential books for our Mock Printz Workshop. This year I read over 50 YA novels published in 2015. This one didn't even make it onto my radar until a week or so before the Printz Awards were announced in January, so I didn't have a chance to read it ahead of time. When the awards were announced and only three books were selected (not the usual five) I was pretty miffed since I felt the committee didn't do due diligence in their selection process leaving Challenger Deep, Most Dangerous, and Symphony for the City of the Dead off the list completely. Then I read this book and my anger doubled. Though good and heart-wrenching, there are some real clunky parts, and, like you said, some very one-dimensional characters (I thought all of them were with the possible exception of creepy Henry.) Because I was reading the book through the Printz-Award-Lens I may not have enjoyed it as much as if I had just picked it up. Sigh. One thing I did feel was lacking was more concrete details about the explosion. Oh well, it forced me to do some independent research.


  3. Aylee Says:

    I must admit I've never heard anything about this historic explosion... I do enjoy learning about real life events from well researched fiction books though. "Enjoy" may not be the right term here, of course... But I do think I would appreciate what the author did here with the story, like you did.


  4. Kindlemom Says:

    That is quite the way to start the book but I'm glad that it worked and lived up to the explosive (bad pun) beginning.


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