Expected publication: May 10th 2016 by Arthur A. Levine Books (first published January 1st 2014)
Format read: ARC via publisher
Using Hurricane Sandy as a backdrop, Anna Woltz's fresh look at family and friendships has become one of my favorite tales of 2016.
When Emilia de Wit ran away to New York City, she planned everything to a T. Plane ticket, purchased. Cute apartment, rented online. Subway map, printed and highlighted. This was no ordinary trip -- this was Emilia's declaration of independence. Her chance to escape the life her parents were ruining. To get away from the horrible scandal that had rocked Amsterdam, the scandal that was all her dad's fault. To see if her mom, the glamorous, world-famous artist, would even notice.
New York steals Emilia's heart at first sight -- even though absolutely nothing goes to plan. She didn't plan to end up homeless on a stranger's doorstep. She didn't plan to make friends with Seth, Abby, and Jim. And she could never have known that Hurricane Sandy would be barreling up the coast, straight for the city.
All she wanted was to get away from her parents, her problems, her life . . . and when the storm hits and the power goes out, Emilia feels farther from home than she could have imagined.
I've read many a MG/YA contemporary over the past couple of years, and I don't think I've ever read a book that's both uniquely structured and involves a devastating real-world event - Hurricane Sandy, in this particular case. But all of this is a good thing, because it's helped A Hundred Hours of Night become one of my favorite new contemporary books of this year.
Author Anna Woltz introduces us to Emilia, who has done what every teenager has dreamed of doing: run off to a foreign city after getting into a fight with her parents. However, her starry-eyed dreams of living big in New York are quickly altered, as a mismanaged booking, a chance encounter and an impeding storm, leaves her hunkering down with three newfound friends as nature prepares to batter the city...
What's utterly fascinating about A Hundred Hours of Night, is that it's a book with so many different interwoven threads. When we first meet Emilia, readers learn that she's running away from an uncomfortable situation with her father. Though we don't get the pertinent details until later in the book, one thing is clear: this is a young, slightly immature girl, who is actively choosing to run away from her life.
However, as Emilia's journey begin to unfold in the advancing wake of Hurricane Sandy, Woltz is careful to show that Emilia's attitude may be more situationally based, than a permanent mindset. Without the advantage of family to protect her in this foreign environment, it's now up to her to step up and make sure that she and her newfound friends have the resources to make it through the duration of the storm.
To her own surprise, Emilia manages brilliantly. As she dictates everything from grocery shopping to managing the drinking water of her temporary residence, Woltz does a nice job of showing that Emilia has been internalizing her natural leadership skills up until this point, because of the situation at home. She is forced to make tough decisions and become a better person in this new and ongoing environment, because she is burdened by the expectations of her family, nor her family's influence.
Though many books with similar themes would likely have characters peeling off and living their own life after coming to this conclusion, Emilia finds the strength to not only confront the press, but also her own family. Wolk brilliantly depicts several tough conversations between Emilia and her parents, and the reader and Emilia both learn a little more at just how human her parents can be. But rather than incriminate and accuse her parents, Emilia takes her time away from them as a reminder to accept their failings, because there are bigger challenges in the world.
It's not an easy lesson to absorb, but it's an important one. It's one that I still struggle to learn even though I'm almost twice Emilia's age, and I applaud Wolk for making sure to include it in this book.
While some readers may feel like the ending of the book veers slightly into wish-fullfilment, I personally found it fitting for Emilia's story. She's able to take her newfound confidence and start over, which is a solid nod to her story.
Though Emilia arrives in New York feeling angry and resentful of her life, her experiences with Hurricane Sandy and her newfound friends, leave her with the innate strength and
Highly recommend Anna Woltz's unusually beautiful and realistic look at life and relationships, full stop.
About the author:
Anna Woltz was living in New York when Hurricane Sandy hit the city in 2012. She spent the days afterward wandering through lower Manhattan, searching for warmth, food, and electrical outlets. When the lights came back on, she began writing A Hundred Hours of Night. Anna now lives in Utrecht, the Netherlands.