Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Review: The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: The Light Fantastic
Author: Sarah Combs
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: Hardcover; 320
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Source: Publisher
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who are looking for an engaging read, dealing with a tough subject.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Seven tightly interwoven narratives. Three harrowing hours. One fateful day that changes everything.

Delaware, the morning of April 19. Senior Skip Day, and April Donovan’s eighteenth birthday. Four days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the country is still reeling, and April’s rare memory condition has her recounting all the tragedies that have cursed her birth month. And just what was that mysterious gathering under the bleachers about? Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Lincoln Evans struggles to pay attention in Honors English, distracted by the enigmatic presence of Laura Echols, capturer of his heart. His teacher tries to hold her class’s interest, but she can’t keep her mind off what Adrian George told her earlier. Over in Idaho, Phoebe is having second thoughts about the Plan mere hours before the start of a cross-country ploy led by an Internet savant known as the Mastermind. Is all her heartache worth the cost of the Assassins’ machinations? The Light Fantastic is a tense, shocking, and beautifully wrought exploration of the pain and pathos of a generation of teenagers on the brink—and the hope of moving from shame and isolation into the light of redemption.

Where to begin? There's a lot to say about The Light Fantastic, not the least of which is the fact that Sarah Combs has fairly perfectly captured the voice of a generation in this book. It's important that there are books like this out there. It's tragic that school shootings, and mass bombings, are becoming a more normalized part of our society. What's even more tragic though, are the kids who are caught up in that. The ones who are absorbing it throughout their formative years. We're taught to believe that these tragedies are caused by the "bad people" out there. What happens when they're not though? What happens when the person you least expect, is the one that has the biggest secrets?

First off, much love to Sarah Combs for so excellently outlining many different teenage personalities. One of my biggest issues with stories told from multiple points of view, is that it's normally hard to tell who is speaking at any given time. This isn't a problem at all in The Light Fantastic. Each character has their own brilliant personality. Combs even goes so far as to have one character who, to the dismay of many readers I'm sure, speaks using hashtags. I admit, I found it completely amusing. Since I know people in my life who do the same thing, I couldn't fault him for it. The bright side was that you always knew when it was a Gavin chapter!

What's even more impressive though, is how quickly Combs builds up these characters into whole, and realistic human beings. April's consistent inner tension, Phoebe's need for something to cling to, even Gavin's coping mechanism of making light of things, were all given their own chance to shine. Which meant, of course, that I was entirely too invested in these characters. I knew that this book was going somewhere dark, and that I probably shouldn't get too attached, but it was difficult not to care. These are teens. They are living, breathing people with secrets that they are afraid to share. It's both beautiful, and absolutely tragic to see so deeply into their lives. It makes this book all the more poignant.

Truth be told, this book was actually much less violent than I expected it to be. When you're dealing with school violence on a mass level, it's hard not to anticipate cringing a bit. What Sarah Combs chooses to focus on though, isn't the violence. It's the people behind it. The faces of the lost, blending into the background but are secretly begging for someone to notice them. The faces of those who actually notice the lost ones, and try to reach out them. Even when they don't understand exactly why. By the time this story reached its climax, I was breathless. The tension here isn't built by the violence, but by the events leading up to it and the people who wish to create it. It's such an effective way to tackle this subject.

At the end of the day, this was a near perfect book. Despite any small issues that I had, I was so amazed at how deftly this story was woven together. I'd highly recommend this to all the teenagers out there, but also to their parents. The Light Fantastic is the type of book that merits sharing, to discussion, and hopefully learning as well.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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