Sunday, January 8, 2017


What Light by Jay Asher (Razorbill, 2016, 272pp.)

Sierra is always bummed to leave her friends behind when she and her parents leave for a month every year to tend their out-of-state farm in California. On her latest stay, she meets a cute boy named Caleb. Caleb is charming and gentle, a selfless young man who buys up discounted Christmas trees and delivers them to families in need. In any other scenario, Sierra knows the two would be a perfect pair—but alas, the couple already have two strikes against them! First, Sierra doesn’t believe in long-distance relationships. Second, Caleb once attacked his sister with a knife, an attack that locals still gossip about. Although Sierra accepts Caleb’s explanation that he was acting under extreme duress at the time, and that his sister has since forgiven him, all the townspeople, including her parents, still look upon him with suspicion. As Sierra passionately defends their budding relationship, she risks alienating both friends and family. Will their love survive, or will it prove to be simply a fruitless season fling?

I have to admit, I really expected more from the author who wrote Thirteen Reasons Why. That novel, which explores the reasons why a teenage girl killed herself, contains a romantic subplot that’s thwarted before it really can even begin, all because one of the potential lovers has already committed suicide. The insurmountable reasons that keep What Light’s two lovebirds apart? An endless line of naysayers spouting simple-minded prejudice. Also, Sierra’s personal wariness of long-distance relationships—but that’s easily overcome once she realizes her feelings for Caleb. VERDICT: In this season’s banquet of literary morsels, consider this a sweet but sugary snack. Hand to those looking for a simple, seasonal romance, while those looking for a meatier story should look elsewhere. With no drug use, swearing, or sexual content present, I’d recommend this for romance lovers, Ages 13-15.

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