From Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, comes a romance that will break your heart, but soon have you believing again. . . .
Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.
Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.
By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.
What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.
Description taken from Goodreads.
I’m not going to tell anyone how to run their blog (I already tried that). That aside, I will say that I believe reviewers of all kinds, even bloggers, have a certain kind of responsibility to think about a book not just emotionally, but rationally. Was it good in any sense? Could I thoughtfully recommend this to someone, anyone?
I recognize that there’s brand loyalty. I’m very partial to YG Family when it comes to Korean music, I have my favorite authors, and sometimes I allow loyalty to come off as love. I touched upon this briefly in my latest Monday Musts, but the best example is probably the way that J.K. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling was all but completely unknown before she revealed that she was the true author. The book didn’t get any better. At least in literature, I try my best to resist this, and the reason is books like What Light. The story is pretty enough, but there isn’t a single compelling thing about it beside the Christmas aura, which is not a lot to sustain a reader on.
Jay Asher captured the heart and the hearts of so many others with Thirteen Reasons Why. As I’ve mentioned before, it was one of the most impactful and unique books about suicide that I’ve ever read in the genre. I also read and enjoyed Asher’s follow-up novel, The Future of Us, so I was expecting a bit more when I cracked open this one. Unfortunately, it’s more or less what I expected after reading its preview.
What Light is boring.
It has little to no substance, cookie-cutter characters, and dialogue you could fall asleep listening to. Instead of depth, insight, and emotion, reading What Light felt like listening to breakfast conversation. I couldn’t bring myself to truly care about any of the characters because all of the emotions felt forced and flat, from leaving the friends at the beginning of the book to moving, falling in love, struggling, learning to live on. There was nothing elegant or beautiful or profound about it. I was constantly being told instead of shown what was going on, and it grated on me because I know Asher can write much better than this.
I think the major problem was that the plot felt disjointed to me. There was the bittersweet love story and then there was the whole Christmas setting. The two didn’t have much to do with each other, making What Light feel pulled-apart. Then there was the issue that the whole thing was such a let-down in general. Even through my dismal experience with the preview, I had hoped that the book would make it anyway and become something incredible, but it wasn’t to be.
But I should mention that I can see why people love this story. The romance is unoriginal, but it could pass as any ordinary contemporary romance and do fine. It is vaguely reminiscent of stories along the same vein that I loved, but the circumstances weren’t right for it. All of this to say that I probably won’t be recommending this one. I still will to Asher fans and Christmas lovers, but my default is still David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s fantastic Dash & Lily duology. 1.5 stars.