Book Review: What Light
By: Jay Asher
Published By: Razorbill
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Page Count: 256
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary, Holiday
Like most people, I begin seriously thinking about Christmas after the last bite of mashed potatoes and stuffing on Thanksgiving. There is something magical about this time of year that makes me feel light hearted. I love the decorations, twinkling lights, peppermint hot chocolate, Christmas carols, and shopping for the perfect gifts. I love reading holiday themed novels once late November hits and I was super excited to dive into the newest Jay Asher novel.
Sierra has an unorthodox life around Christmas. Right before Thanksgiving, she packs up and travels with her parents from their Christmas tree farm in Oregon to their tree lot in California. She spends Thanksgiving through Christmas Day away from home as she helps her parents sell trees. I have always been fascinated by the Christmas tree farm process. I am not sure most people truly think about what is involved in their tree aside from the labor they do of getting it home, set up, and decorated. It was intriguing to see Christmas through Sierra's eyes as it had such an important impact on her family and their holiday traditions.
While I envied parts of Sierra's life, I know that being away from home and her friends during the Winter Break must have been difficult. She finds comfort in spending time with her California BFF, Heather. The pair have even started their own mini tree farm in the hills above the town. Sierra loves her time with Heather, but she feels as if she lives two separate lives every year.
This year is different as it comes with a heavy air of apprehension. Sierra has overheard tidbits of conversation from her parents that make her believe the lot isn't bringing in enough cash to keep it going. This may be her last year spending the holidays in California. It's bittersweet for her and reminded me so much of adolescence in general. Life is constantly in flux during that phase of life. The moment you think you have a grasp on things, something smacks into you and changes your course all over again. Change was never something I handled well, so I empathized with Sierra as she was struggling to let go of a tradition.
To help get her mind of doom and gloom, Heather insists that Sierra find a Christmas boyfriend. She insists it doesn't have to be anything serious. How serious can someone get in a month, anyway? Those turn out to be famous last words as Sierra finds herself smitten with the handsome Caleb, who stops by the tree lot frequently. Sierra can't figure out what Caleb needs multiple trees for, but she doesn't care as long as she keeps getting to see his captivating smile. All too soon, Sierra's interest in Caleb is noticed and people immediately try to warn her away. Caleb has a violent past according to the rumors, but something about him tells Sierra there is more to the story.
Before long Sierra and Caleb have formed a friendship that will lead them down a path they never expected. Sierra and Caleb will learn about forgiveness, redemption, and the power of a peppermint mocha.
What Light is a sweet holiday story with just the right amount of angst and romance. I also love that both Sierra and Caleb grew throughout the course of the novel; they each learn to see their world differently after spending time with the other. At its core, this is a story about first love and friendship.
I highly recommend curling up with this one under a quilt while you drink a peppermint mocha and watch the Christmas lights twinkle. I am certainly in a holiday frame of mind after spending time with Sierra and Caleb. Those last few chapters gave me the Hallmark feels and had me craving the scent of pine trees.
One Last Gripe: My only slight complaint with this one was that I felt like Sierra was a bit too trusting with Caleb in the beginning. I'm all for learning the truth and giving people a second chance, but she needed to know more about him before heading off on her own.
Favorite Things About This Book: Sierra's strong friendships and her supportive parents
First Sentence: "I hate this time of year," Rachel says.
Favorite Character: Sierra
Least Favorite Character: Andrew
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.