Published October 18th 2016 by Razorbill (first published October 11th 2016)
Format read: ARC via publisher
With a romance, Christmas trees and the holiday season playing into a mix, this is a book that everyone will want to read come December.
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. Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. But as disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra can’t help but wonder if love really is enough to overcome every obstacle…
I like the concepts of his work, but nothing has ever really grabbed me the way that other books have. So I went into What Light with a bit of curiosity, but with the understanding that yes – it probably wasn’t going to blow me away.
And truth be told, that’s how I felt for the duration of the book. Asher shares the contemporary ballad of Sierra and Caleb. Sierra’s parents own a Christmas tree farm, and she’s had something of a nomadic existence, bouncing back and forth between Oregon and California.
Caleb is a reformed “bad boy” – with bad boy in quotes, because nothing is ever really bad in this idyllic world – that keeps making appearances in Sierra’s life. Their paths collide, and the path to love appears.
Okay, okay. I know I probably sound fairly sarcastic about the book right now. The truth is I did like the book, and absolutely considered it a pleasant way to spend a few hours. I just wasn’t blown away.
There was really nothing distinctive in Sierra and Caleb’s journey or inevitable romance, which would set it apart from any other YA contemporary romance that is released in any calendar year.
(In fact, the overall story was so milquetoast, that when I started writing this review, my brain kept insisting that Sierra’s name was Sienna. That’s how unmemorable she was as an overall character.)
Even with Asher’s revelation about Caleb’s bad boy past involving his sister, there’s nothing especially shocking about their romance. The only thing that readers might wonder is why Sierra has such bad taste, to like guys who have temper problems. It’s a massive cliché, and sets up the idea that is forever pushed in romantic comedies, about that right guy/girl coming to redeem the one-time bad boy.
But. With that being said, there is something extremely charming and heartwarming about Sierra’s annual journey, and Asher is careful to remind readers that there are many families out there who live very non-traditional lives, in the effort to provide for one another.
We see how Sierra’s journey, even as unusual as it may be to us, is one that is defined and a constant for her – so any change is jarring. We also see how growing up will always take us away from certain constants, and it’s how we adapt that determines how we grow as people.
And while I’m a little too old to believe that Sierra – almost typed Sienna again, darn it – and Caleb will be a forever type of romance, there is something romantic about their meeting, which will make younger readers definitely believe in the power of love.
Final verdict: So is this a perfect book? Not remotely. But is it a heartwarming one that will charm readers, and remind them about the good in the world, and the strength of the individual? Absolutely.
About the author:
Jay Asher’s debut YA novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, has appeared regularly on the New York Times bestsellers list for the past 9 years. It has sold over 2.5 million copies in the US alone and is currently in production to be a 13-part series on Netflix. His second YA novel, The Future of Us, was coauthored with Printz-honor winner Carolyn Mackler. His novels have been translated into 35 languages. Visit his blog at www.jayasher.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter @jayasherguy.