This YA fiction novel is a first person narrative of Genna, a 20th century teen just trying to survive and make it out of her impoverished Brooklyn life and into a better one as a psychiatrist. She's the youngest of three and seems to be the only one with her head on straight while her mother struggles to support them. She's like any other teenage girl who's not one of the "pretty girls" but very smart and often teased because she chooses to focus on her studies and not the streets and boys. Genna spends a great deal of time at a local botanical garden which houses a fountain filled with numerous penny wishes including many of her own. One day, a wish goes awry and she finds herself in 1863 Brooklyn in the midst of the Civil War and an infamous New York draft riot. She quickly adapts to her new life in a time where the ink is barely dry on the Emancipation Proclamation taking care of the child of a doctor and his wife who support the abolitionist cause. Genna also finds herself in a bit of a love triangle when she finds herself the affection of a mixed race dockworker and realizes the guy of her blossoming romance from her own time has somehow been sent back in time as well.
Zetta Elliott is a great storyteller. She really captured the hardships of being a teen in modern times with all of the nonsense they deal with and those who instigate it. She also sheds light on the history of race relations with regard to the disparaging treatment the Irish suffered that was just as bad if not often worse than blacks. I loved her portrayal of Genna as it is so realistic. Her life is rough but it didn't come across as sensationalized like the media and other novels often portray. Genna also possesses a wisdom that's very admirable for a teenager in her situation which is why she doesn't flounder under the weight of her odd teleportation to over a century back in time.
The ending left my brow furled, but in a good way. Elliott has left the door wide open for Genna's story to continue and I'm cheering her on. I heartily await the sequel to A Wish After Midnight.