I recently finished reading What Light by Jay Asher, and oof. Sorry guys, this was a rough one. *Some spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution.*
The official synopsis for What Light is:
“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. 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.”
Okay, I wanted to like this book, I really did. But I just could not get into it. The concept of the story was great, but the execution – not so much. I was honestly surprised at how much I didn’t like this book, because this is the same author that wrote 13 Reasons Why, which I loved.
I really struggled with the writing. I felt that a lot of the dialogue was over-the-top cheesy, and many of the situations were way too dramatic. For instance, Caleb’s “mistake.” Yes, what he did was bad, but the way the characters in the book reacted to it, you would think that he murdered someone. I mean, when my mom and her sister were kids, they literally used to throw steak knives at each other when they would fight, so Caleb’s incident doesn’t seem ridiculously terrible when you’ve got worse sibling fights to compare it to.
I also didn’t like how Sierra was completely blunt regarding some of the things she said to other characters. Who would, in their right mind, almost immediately after meeting someone, ask them if they tried to stab their sister? I’m sorry, but I just don’t see that happening in real life.
Probably the part that annoyed me most was when Sierra and her friend, Heather, went to the diner where Caleb was working, and Sierra told Caleb to stop by the tree lot before she got off work at 8. Caleb goes to the lot in the middle of the afternoon and asks Sierra to leave and hang out with him. Sierra says that she wishes she could, but she has to work until 8, and they could hang out tomorrow. Then, Caleb says something along the lines of, “Sierra, if you don’t want to hang out with me then just say so.” DUDE, SHE LITERALLY TOLD YOU TWICE THAT SHE HAD TO WORK UNTIL 8. AND SHE OFFERED TO HANG OUT WITH YOU THE NEXT DAY. WHY ARE YOU SUCH A BABY? Ugh, sorry, but I cannot stand people that whiny and desperate for attention.
One of the few saving graces of this story was the church scene near the end. It was one of the few scenes that didn’t make me cringe or roll my eyes. If this scene wasn’t as nice and sweet as it was, this book would’ve gotten a lower rating. Actually, the last 25-30 pages were really cute and sweet.
There were some other nice moments in the book that went along with the spirit of Christmas. I liked how Sierra and Caleb did nice things for people less fortunate, how Sierra stuck by Caleb when everyone told her to run, how the importance of family was such a prevalent theme, and how this whole story basically takes place on a Christmas tree farm. That would be a dream come true for someone like me, who starts decorating for Christmas and listening to Christmas carols in the middle of October.
Maybe I would have felt different if I had read this around Christmastime, when my cheesy spirits are in full effect. Maybe I’ll try to reread it in December and give it another chance, because I really don’t like giving books negative reviews, especially ones with covers as pretty as this one. So, my recommendation is to hold off on this one until your Christmas cheer level is strong, I hope you have better luck than I did.