Only in A Brighter Tomorrow
- Protagonist: The unnamed protagonist. She and some of her family have recently moved to San Francisco before the events of the book, only a week ago, and have moved into what was Julie's old apartment. She is a skilled basketball player, but having trouble fitting into her new school as the new kid and misses her old home and friends a lot. She travels into the past with the aid of a mood ring that she finds in the window bench seat of her/Julie's bedroom and puts on; it is assumed to be Julie's as it's found with one of her rainbow hair ribbons.
- Chloe: The best friend of the insertion protagonist, who still lives in Ohio. She has curly red hair. Chloe lived next door to the protagonist until her family moved. The protagonist calls her Chlo-coa Puff and she calls her "Hula Hoop" (because of her basketball skills.)
- Dad: The protagonist's father. He lost his job over six months ago, which led to arguments with him and Mom; he is currently back in Ohio taking computer training courses to try to find a good job when he arrives in San Francisco and may not arrive there until Christmas.
- Mom: The protagonist's mother, an architect. She has moved the protagonist and her younger brother to San Francisco after receiving a job offer, and feels that the time apart from her husband is a little "vacation" from each other.
- Savannah: A quiet classmate of the protagonist. When the protagonist has a sign taped to her back during lunch labeled "Walking Freak Show", Savannah removes it and shows her.
- Zack: The younger brother of the protagonist, age seven. He has curly brown hair which he twirls when he's anxious.
Opening and Potential Plot Events
The protagonist is sitting on her window seat, looking out at the view. She closes her eyes and attempts to re-imagine the view from her old house's window seat when she's interrupted by Zack, who admits he's missing Dad and their old house. Despite having her own worries (And missing Stella, her best friend), the protagonist insists Dad will be joining them soon and that San Francisco was their home now. When Luke asks if their parents will get divorced, the protagonist ignores him and pretends to look outside. She recalls the moment she, Luke and Mom drove away from their old house, and remembers how she was not able to comfort Luke, as she wasn't sure if everything will work out. When Zack asks if she had heard his question, the protagonist tries to distract him by pointing at a bulldog outside.
After his feelings are ignored again, Zack leaves. The protagonist considers getting him and telling him how she feels, but then hears a jingle from her laptop, signaling a call from Chloe on video chat. The girls express missing each other and Chloe talks about a birthday party she’s going to attend. When asked if she had made any new friends yet, the protagonist insists that she hasn’t, mainly because nobody had noticed her yet. She also tells Chloe about her new school’s basketball team and then, at 12:34, she wishes for Dad to come home and for everything to feel normal again. After saying goodbye to Chloe, the protagonist sits on the window seat and discovers that the bench seat is hinged. She lifts up the seat and finds a peace-sign earring, a nail clipper, a rainbow hair ribbon, and a 1975 half-dollar. She ties the ribbon in her hair and, after she places the other possessions in her pocket, finds a mood ring and closes the window seat. She puts the mood ring on her finger and is transported to 1975 after the ring’s stone lights up.
The protagonist finds herself in Julie’s bedroom, noticing the different furniture, decor and two photos: one of the Albrights and another of Julie and Ivy. She opens the window seat again and finds it is filled with books and stuffed animals. She then stares at a purple painted lady with turquoise trim across the street, recalling it has been green with yellow trim a few minutes ago. Realizing the mood ring triggered the transportation; the protagonist slips it off and is transported back to her bedroom at the exact time she left. Curious, she slips the mood ring back on and is transported back to 1975. She explores the rest of the apartment and steps outside, realizing it was the exact location of her new apartment.
She notices Gladrags and enters the store, exploring the merchandise and is greeted by Ms. Albright (whom she doesn’t know yet). Then Julie (again whom she doesn’t yet) pops up from behind the counter and, noticing the hair ribbon the protagonist is wearing, points to it and says she used to have two before she lost one of them. She then points to the mood ring and compliments it, adding she also had one. This makes the protagonist understand that her new bedroom used to be Julie’s and the mood ring had belonged to her. She looks down at the ring’s stone and notices it changed grey, which Julie explains means nervousness. The girls talk about their love for basketball and then walk around the store, the protagonist purchasing a flower-power neck charm with the half-dollar.
After this opening, events vary according to choices made.
- The protagonist and Julie go to Ocean Beach to help pick up litter; they find Tracy by the cove and Julie confronts her for lying about her whereabouts.
- The protagonist and Julie visit Cliff House, where Julie tells Tracy how she feels about their family's situation. The protagonist also misplaces the mood ring's stone, later finding it her pocket.
- The protagonist and Julie find a sea otter and assist in rescuing him; the protagonist frees him from plastic rings and the girls watch as park rangers release him into the ocean.
- The protagonist and Julie go to the basketball court and can either play a three-on-three game or HORSE against T.J. and Stinger.
- The protagonist and Julie challenge T.J. and Stinger to a dribbling relay near a staircase. After Julie's basketball crashes into a window, she and the protagonist apologize to the homeowner and Stinger offers to pay for the damage.
- The protagonist and Julie visit Golden Gate Park; they stop at the Conservatory of Flowers, admiring the different plants and encounter the Water Fountain Girls. Online endings include the protagonist either exploring the Conservatory with Ivy and Julie or confronting the Water Fountain Girls after overhearing them gossiping about Julie.
Regardless of the ending that is arrived at, the protagonist eventually returns to her own time using the mood ring, and returns at the exact moment she left. She makes proper goodbyes to Julie and generally says she has to go back to her family. The protagonist returns with a new-found perspective of her life. This often includes understanding the importance of teamwork, being able to express her feelings and listen to others, and being more open-minded about making new friends.
Discusses Title IX and environmentalism during the 1970s. Topics covered:
- The ideology many people held about boys being more superior than girls in the fields of athletics.
- Billie Jean King's Battle of the Sexes tennis match with Bobby Riggs - a game that would later on prove that female athletes could play just as well as men.
- Edith Green, a Congresswomen who added a new section in the Educational Amendments of 1972 that forbid sex discrimination at any school that received money from the federal government - this section soon became Title IX.
- The growing understanding that nature needed protection from human activity
- Creation of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, making it illegal to harm endangered animals and plants and disturb their habitats.
- The efforts of conservationists and wildlife biologists being why the California sea otters are making a comeback, as they were nearing extinction in 1977.
- The protagonist sees a calendar pinned to the wall in Gladrags.
- Pg. 27. Julie has recently submitted her petition to play on the boys' basketball team to Principal Sanchez after it was thrown away by Coach Manley. He is still consulting the school board. This is during Chapter Six when Julie does not know yet if she is on the team and after Julie and Ivy's fight that they have made up from.