I haven't read Jay Asher's other novels (Thirteen Reasons Why, The Future of Us) so when I heard about What Light wanting to read it was based on the synopsis alone. In its favour? It's a contemporary YA (pretty much the only YA books I'll read these days) and it's set at Christmas! Plus, the cover is freaking adorable.
Here's the synopsis:
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.
I will read pretty much any Christmas book that even hints at a romance but most of the time (almost always, in fact) they're adult novels. Sometimes Christmas books hardly mention the holiday and sometimes it's all Christmas, all the time. What Light was a perfect balance and had just enough Christmas spirit.
What helped a lot with the holiday spirit was that Sierra's parents own a tree farm and they sell their trees in California for a month or so before Christmas. They're such an integral part of Christmas for so many people and they absolutely love it. It sounds so cheesy, that they really look forward to seeing who their trees go home with every year, but I absolutely love that sentiment. The family isn't just trying to sell trees for a profit (in fact, Sierra thinks this Christmas might be the last one they are able to sell at their lot), they're trying to supply families and individuals with one important part of Christmas.
I struggled a lot with Caleb's past and how I felt about it. I completely understood why all the parents in the story were concerned (is that a sign that I'm an Adult? Identifying with the parents in YA novels?) but I could also see why Sierra wasn't at all concerned. She felt that she could see the damage it had done to Caleb and how he was still trying to make up for it. But, once you met the other person involved in the event from the past (no spoilers here, folks!), you realize that it should be a non-issue at this point. Now, a few days after finishing the book, I think I've settled on feeling like Sierra's parents...concerned but with trust in Sierra to make sound decisions.
What Light is one of those YA novels that adults can totally read and love (hello, I was thrilled with it) but there are those few moments that had me smiling and thinking, thank god I'm no longer a teenager. Heather, Sierra's BFF in California, is so distraught with her boyfriend situation (he's just so dull!) that she's determined to break up with him after the holidays. Grown women don't always know what they want in relationship but there's a certain adoreableness (yes, I'm making up words here) to this particular dilemma because Heather is still so naive. It was actually kind of a sweet reminder what it really was like to be a teenager in love. But no. I do not want to go back to being 17!
Jay Asher's latest novel is exactly the book to pick up this season if you love sweet and real Christmas stories. What Light is an easy read but it will make you feel a little bit of everything - happy, sad, nostalgic, romantic. The Christmas spirit is in every single one of these pages and I adored that. It's definitely a book for the Christmas and book lover in your life (and I won't tell if that's you!).
*An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher, Penguin Random House Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*