A Thousand Minutes to Sunlight



A Thousand Minutes to Sunlight
Jen White
Published by: Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: April 20th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Middle-Grade

Jen White’s A Thousand Minutes to Sunlight is a sensitively-written middle grade novel about a girl struggling with anxiety, family secrets, and the meaning of friendship.

Cora is constantly counting the minutes. It’s the only thing that stops her brain from rattling with worry, from convincing her that danger is up ahead. Afraid of the unknown, Cora spends her days with her feet tucked into sand, marveling at La Quinta beach’s giant waves and her little sister Sunshine’s boundless energy.

And then danger really does show up at Cora’s doorstep–her absentee uncle, whose sudden presence in the middle of the night makes her parents nervous and secretive. As dawn breaks once more, Cora must piece together her family and herself, one minute at a time.

A Thousand Minutes to Sunlight is an endearing and revelatory middle-grade novel that is perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree.


When I was born, I didn’t breathe for eight minutes. Eight whole minutes. That’s four hundred and eighty seconds. Go ahead and try to hold your breath that long. I have and I can’t do it. 

Dad always says, “That was the longest eight minutes of my life. You scared us to death.” 

And Mom always says, “Isn’t that just like you, Cora? Taking your own sweet time about everything.” She says it with a smile. 

Dad continues, “The doctor prodded and pushed; he even turned you upside down. He pounded on your little blue back, trying to get you to breathe, but you wouldn’t. The clock in the hospital seemed slow—I was convinced it was stuck.” He laughs, like he does when he knows he’s telling a good story. 

“Stuck,” Mom says, right on cue. I’ve heard this story countless times. 

“But then you did it,” says Dad. 

“The tiniest cry ever. Not even a cry, just a whimper.” Mom nods like she remembers, but I think, maybe she doesn’t. She had an emergency C-section, and the doctors gave her a lot of drugs. Dad says she was out of it. 

Aunt Janet says Mom took it like a champ—that any normal woman would be out of it because giving birth is bad business. They’re twins, Aunt Janet and my mom. They always have each other’s backs. 

“I was worried, but the doctors said you were normal. No brain damage or anything,” Mom always reassures me. 

“Not even a little,” says Dad. Then he knocks on my head as if he’s proving that I’m a healthy kid. 

Brain says: I hate this story. 

But I’m convinced that somewhere in my cranium, something must have gone wrong. 

Brain says: There you go, blaming me again. 

Maybe not breathing for eight minutes is what turned my brain from a normal brain to a loud, obnoxious, talking Brain. I’ve looked it up on the internet. Birth Asphyxia: a condition resulting from deprivation of oxygen to a newborn child that lasts long enough to cause harm, usually to the brain. 

Brain says: I’m perfectly fine. 


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Author Bio:

Jen White writes middle grade fiction. Her second book, A THOUSAND MINUTES TO SUNLIGHT, releases on 4.20.21. Her debut, SURVIVAL STRATEGIES OF THE ALMOST BRAVE, has been translated into several languages. She grew up in Southern California and currently resides there with her family. Jen received her bachelor of art’s degree in English and her master’s degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. You can find out more at www.jenwhitebooks.com.

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