Unlike some authors who churn out a book every year, Jay Asher has paced out his books throughout his career. This piques the interest of his loyal fans, and his newest book, “What Light” doesn’t disappoint.
A tweet from Asher’s Twitter account celebrates the coincidence that his newest book, “What Light” shares the same publication date as his debut novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why.” He considers the coincidence a gift to his fans.
The book follows Sierra, a teen who leaves her Oregon hometown every winter to work on her family’s Christmas tree lot in California. Sierra lives two separate lives, which is why she’s never pursued anyone while she’s away.
This season, however, is different than others. First, Sierra’s parents are uncertain if they can afford to keep the lot and come back next year. Then, Sierra starts to crush on Caleb, a charitable guy with a tainted reputation.
Sierra struggles with believing that Caleb is the guy that she thinks he is, or what everyone says he is.
Warning: Reading this book may cause the need to snuggle up with some hot cocoa and a fuzzy blanket.
“What Light” is a cute, heartfelt love story. Asher’s recurring messages about rumors from his previous work, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” is prominent throughout this book as well. This, along with his messages of friendship and family, are relatable topics everyone can enjoy.
The two main characters offer realistic depictions of teens experiencing insta-love. Sierra is smart and has a good head on her shoulders. Caleb is charitable, and the regret from his mistake is evident in everything he does. Sierra is nice enough to try to help him reconnect with his broken relationships. Even though some may think that love at first sight isn’t realistic, it does commonly happen among teens.
The setting opens the flood gates for Christmas cheesiness. Asher is meta about the cheesiness of the story. This can be seen as a bad thing, but isn’t a problem for Christmas enthusiasts who think about the season in October.
“My parents would let my sister and me buy whichever tree we wanted,” he said. “They’d invite friends over and we’d all decorate the house. We’d cook a pot of chili and afterwards we’d all go caroling. Sounds really cheesy, right?”
I pointed to the flocked trees around us. “My family survives on cheesy Christmas traditions.”
The side characters aren’t anything special. Sierra’s best friends from Oregon, Rachel and Elizabeth, are demanding. She is with them for 11 months out of the year and every year, they freak out about her being gone for the Christmas season. When a girl at school gets sick, Rachel gets the part in the school play, but Sierra doesn’t want to go because she’s only in California for a month.
“But it’s A Christmas Carol!” Rachel says. I lay on my bed with the phone to my ear and one hand on my forehead. Rachel’s photo looks down on me as she pretends to hide from the paparazzi. It’s not that I don’t want to see it I tell her. I could say my parents won’t let me leave, but she and I have always been honest with each other.
“Then get on the train!” she says.
Sierra’s best friend from California, Heather, is selfishly stringing along her boyfriend, Devon, until after Christmas.
I tilt the tree to keep the needles out of my face. “Plus, how would you feel if you knew you had to dump Devon right after Christmas? You’d feel horrible.”
Heather puts the small trowel from her back pocket and taps it against her leg as we walk. “Since you brought it up, that’s kind of the plan.”
Despite the lackluster side characters, “What Light” is still a lighthearted story that will get you in the Christmas spirit.
Recommended For: Fans of YA romance
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Razorbill Books
Publication Date: Oct. 18, 2016
8 out of 10.