3 out of 4 stars
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Samantha Marrel does not lead a typical teenage existence. Orphan of both parents, she lives with her sister Leah, her legal guardian, and her alcoholic husband, Bryce. At eleven years old, she has to take care of herself and her little nephew, Ryan, who is almost completely neglected by his parents. Frustrated by her difficult life, Sam finds refuge in running, studying, working at a small tea shop, and hanging out with her best friend, Lawrence. She can’t wait until the moment she is able to leave her small town in South Carolina and go to college, and she puts all of her efforts into being the best student and athlete she can be. However, she has to get through high school first. Will her friendship with Lawrence survive high school? Will Leah be able to stand up to Bryce and protect Ryan and Sam? What surprises does her seemingly insignificant job at the tea shop have in store for her? Don’t Judge the Day by the Dawn by Erica L. Dretzka follows Sam throughout high school, documenting her victories and frustrations.
The book touches on many important milestones that characterize adolescence: losing friendships and making new ones, finding one’s place in the high school ecosystem, and experiencing love for the first time. The author did a wonderful job of turning this book into a full immersion into Sam’s teenage life: everything, from the dialogues to the expressions used, felt realistic and like it was written from a teenager’s point of view. Although the book was written in the third-person point of view, reading it almost felt like snooping into a real teenager’s diary. Erica L. Dretzka demonstrates an amazing capacity to delve into the feelings and experiences that shape adolescence in a candid and gentle manner.
Don’t Judge the Day by the Dawn is an inspiring novel to read for teenagers, especially girls. Sam has a lot of amazing qualities that could encourage young readers to emulate her. Despite her difficult situation at home, she is resilient, hardworking, and determined to achieve her goals. Leah’s incapacity to take care of her and Ryan is a great encouragement for Sam to work really hard for what she wants and needs. Her job at the tea shop allows her to make money to buy things for herself and her nephew. The fact that she relies on an old bike to get around does not embarrass her: rather, it is an opportunity for her to train towards being a better runner. Her desperate drive to get out of her small town pushes her to study hard and diligently. This book could be of great encouragement to teenagers who might be experiencing harsh realities, providing them with examples of healthy coping mechanisms and success in spite of adverse circumstances.
There are two minor aspects of the book I did not particularly appreciate. The first one is the emphasis that is often placed on the characters’ physical appearance. All the female characters are described as tall, slim, and gorgeous, while the boys are muscular, athletic, and handsome. We often come across phrases such as “he braced his arms around her slim waist” and “she slipped on her size XS shorts.” This emphasis could frustrate teenagers who do not identify with these universally desirable characteristics and have a negative body image, which is a rather common issue. Furthermore, some elements of tension build up throughout the book only to fall flat at a later moment. For example, the athletic rivalry between Marci, Sam’s best friend, and her fellow dancer, Kaylyn, is documented throughout the story. However, towards the end of the novel, they just decide to leave each other alone.
Considering these small points of criticism, I rate Don’t Judge the Day by the Dawn by Erica L. Dretzka 3 out of 4 stars. Although I am no longer a teenager, I enjoyed reading this book. I only found a handful of minor errors, which did not distract me at all. The chapters are short and the writing concise, making it easy for readers to remain glued to the pages. I recommend this book to teenagers, especially girls, and if you have one in your life, I encourage you to buy this inspiring novel for them.
Don't Judge the Day by the Dawn
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