What Light written by Jay Asher

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WHAT LIGHT
by Jay Asher
(Razorbill; $18.99, Ages 14 and up)

 

Jay Asher's What Light cover

 

What Light by Jay Asher was released in October and was a perfect way to kick off the holiday season, but it’s also a book that keeps the holiday spirit going all year round. In fact, I’d say anytime is a great time to read a romance. It tells the story of teenager Sierra, whose family owns a generations-old tree farm and spends every December in California selling their trees to locals there. Her overprotective father keeps all the worker boys at bay, even though Sierra has no interest in a fleeting romance—that is, until she meets Caleb. Struck by his charming character and smile, Sierra’s feelings for him clash with her high standards for relationships as well as the rumors she hears about Caleb. He has a history that looms over him like the Ghost of Christmas Past, but Sierra tries to lighten the burden he’s carried with him for so long.

Sierra and Caleb share the instant love of Romeo & Juliet (though without the dramatic dual-sacrifice ending). In fact, the title, What Light, is a nod to Romeo & Juliet’s first meeting: “What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” However, the title becomes much more meaningful as the relationship between Sierra and Caleb unfolds.

Given that it is only 186 pages, and given Asher’s ability to instantly make me care about his characters so much that I need to know what happens next, it’s no surprise that I finished this book in one day. What was a surprise (and delight) was just how much my teenaged niece, new to Asher’s novels, loved the book as well. She had told me that she needed a book for her independent reading at school, and I immediately suggested this. She was going on a trip, and I told her it would be perfect for the plane ride. Upon her return, she messaged me immediately and said that she loved the book, could not put it down, and had never been so happy to be “forced” to read a book. She loved the bond between Sierra and Caleb and said, “It’s so cute….  I want this to happen to me.”

This story is one of family and friendship, understanding and forgiveness, love and loyalty, and, most of all, hope. My niece has been passing this book around to her friends, and I have been passing it along to those of my students who are avid young adult readers and enjoy a spark of love and hope in their lives. In a world that offers so much darkness at times, Asher’s latest novel offers us some well-needed light.

 

  • Reviewed by Krista Jefferies

 

 

 


 


The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry

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THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD
Written by Emily Henry
(Razorbill; $17.99, Ages 12 and up)

 

The Love That Split The World book cover

 

            The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry is an extraordinary and intriguing tale with a mystery and love story wrapped in one.

Natalie Clearly is a teenage girl with a promising future ahead of her, but she struggles with both her present and her past.  She grapples with her identity as an adopted child and as a Native American child, always looking for where she fits into the world and how she fits into her family. She also battles hallucinations and nightmares that have plagued her since childhood and have caused her own parents to believe she needs therapy.

Throughout Natalie’s childhood, an all-knowing character she has come to call “Grandmother” has continually visited her, telling her cryptic Native American tales that hold clues to the answers she’s looking for in life. While she believes Grandmother is merely a hallucination, she also trusts her implicitly and must decipher her stories and the clues embedded in them to figure out how to handle situations she faces.

Grandmother gives Natalie one of the most pivotal messages of her life: “You have three months to save him.” Natalie is not sure if that means her father, her brother, her first love Matty, or the mystery man Beau who has blinked into her life. She begins to see “the wrong things,” as details of her town and the people in it that aren’t quite the same. It’s like she’s seeing a parallel universe, consisting of a boy named Beau, whom she falls deeply in love with and then wonders if he’s the one she’s supposed to save.

The author dabbles in time travel, alternate universes, and a cryptic web of intrigue that is mystifying and intense. Also intense is the passion between Natalie and Beau, completely love struck and tuned into each other in a heated teenage romance that seems far beyond their years. But in a world in which time travel is possible, so is genuine teenage love at first sight that could last the ages.

The storyline has a Time Traveler’s Wife sort of feel as Natalie races against the clock to be with Beau and save the ones she loves. While the author gives a glimmer of closure in the end, I would have liked much more, but such is the case with any good love story. With the debut of the riveting The Love That Split The World, which you’ll want to add to your summer reading list, Emily Henry joins the growing list of my must-read YA authors.

  • Reviewed by Krista Jefferies

Wanderville by Wendy McClure

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Today’s guest reviewer, author Sara Kras, weighs in on Wendy McClure’s Wanderville.

Doesn’t every child dream of living on their own, away from pesky adults? Wanderville, written by Wendy McClure (Razorbill, $16.99, ages 8-12), lets kids do just that. This story starts with a bang introducing the reader to two of the main characters, Jack and Frances. Even though they are from two completely different backgrounds, they both wind up on an orphan train.

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Wanderville by Wendy McClure, Razorbill, 2014.

This little-known fascinating slice of American history is brought to life through Wendy McClure’s descriptive writing. (She’s also a senior editor at Albert Whitman and Company.) Her extensive research transports the reader back to the era of the late 19th and early 20th century when orphan trains were used. The orphan train program gathered over 200,000 East Coast orphaned or homeless children and transported them into rural Midwest areas.

Terrified of being “adopted” to work on a farm with inhumane conditions; Jack, Frances, and her seven-year-old brother, Harold, escape from the train just before coming into town.

They soon stumble across Alexander – an orphan child who had escaped the local farm. Alexander had started his own “town” called Wanderville. The town is comprised of a fountain or creek, a hotel or a soft place to sleep under the trees, and even a courthouse or rock with a log. Food and supplies are gotten from the real local town through “donations” or stealing.

The children soon find themselves in lots of trouble when Harold is captured and taken to the inhumane farm to work. Jack, Frances, and Alexander have to figure out how to save Harold as well as the other children. This books shows how clever and resourceful children can be without adult supervision. I’m sure any child would love to read this book where children are in control. It looks like there will be a book two of Wanderville coming out in Fall 2014. So the story continues…

Click here for lots of Wanderville extras, too!

Read a Publisher’s Weekly interview with Wendy McClure by clicking here.

– Reviewed by Sara Louise Kras, www.saralouisekras.com, author of 32 books including her latest chapter book titled The Hunted: Polar Prey (Speeding Star, $14.95, ages 8-9).