Walter's plan is to get through high school without drawing any attention to himself, and he's been doing a pretty good job so far. Falling for Naomi, the little sister of one of his friends, doesn't help with that goal. Nor does his policeman father being accused of racism. Suddenly Walter must face hard truths about his family, the world, and himself while trying to navigate a new relationship that everyone seems to want to tear apart.
I had a hard time getting into this story. I just couldn't connect to the characters, and I wasn't seeing the attraction between Walter and Naomi. I was at the point where I was debating stopping. Then things just clicked for me. Walter and Naomi in a relationship were far more compelling and adorable than they were starting one. Once they were actually together, they were fun to read about, and I could see why they liked each other.
Naomi was definitely my favorite part of the book. She was clever and funny and just a delight to read about. I really wish that she had a point of view as well in the book because I wanted to see her thoughts on racism, as well as what she had to deal with in her family. Her parents treated her very differently from her brother, and I wanted to see more about that double standard she faced. I do understand that the book was about Walter realizing how racism was all around him and that even he was capable of being racist, despite having friends and a girlfriend who were African American. I just didn't find his story as interesting as Naomi's.
The book ended a bit abruptly, although with the number of topics it tried to cover, it's not surprising that it wasn't able to do justice to everything. It touched on police brutality/racial profiling with Walter's dad, mental illness with Walter's mom, sexism with Naomi and her family, the difficulties interracial couples face, and other forms of racism. The plot involving Walter's dad, despite being the driving force of most of the conflict, felt underdeveloped and just kind of ended.
Despite that, Bright Lights, Dark Nights was a good read once the story clicked for me. The characters were all the kind of people I could see existing in real life, which is always nice when a book is trying to cover real life issues.