Review: What Light by Jay Asher

What Light - Jay Asher

Quick review for a somewhat quick read. Jay Asher’s “What Light” was a decent story, but ultimately I didn’t find it so memorable that I’d carry it with me for long after I reached the ending. Part of the reason for this was that the pacing of the story dragged far more than it probably could’ve done without really giving due development to its respective cast of characters. It did feel a bit contrived given the central conflict it hinges so heavily upon, and I’ll admit that since it hinges so notably on genre clichés, the emotional resonance wasn’t strong to me. Thus, I’ll admit this is another work of Jay Asher’s that didn’t quite work as well for me as I’d hoped it would.

Sierra is a 15-year old girl whose regular experience includes traveling for one month out of the entire year to her parents’ Christmas Tree farm. Considering the looming financial troubles surrounding the area (other businesses have folded whereas Sierra’s family still has their business there), this particular time may very well be the last they return to the farm, and Sierra knows this to an extent. She makes the most of her experiences there, but it’s when she meets Caleb that she realizes this is a different experience than she’s ever had. The two have a complicated relationship that hinges on the public perception of Caleb’s troubled actions in the past, and Sierra uncovers this while accepting him as he is in the now. However, various barriers threaten their relationship over the course of the month in which it develops.

In theory, this story could’ve worked a lot better than it did for the premise, but the execution feels too familiar and doesn’t ever overcome that, not standing out on its own terms. It’s the kind of story you’d probably see during the holiday time on Hallmark or Lifetime with a focus on the drama that ensues to keep Sierra and Caleb apart, but I felt like the main barrier (Caleb’s actions in the past) had so little weight for dealing and so little time for shaping that it was hard to believe in it. I couldn’t feel the respective impact of his actions and how it affected the family and people around him, nor could I really see, except in certain spaces, where Sierra truly came to terms with this factor. Of course the story has a certain degree of disbelief because their relationship develops over a month’s time, but I’d almost be forgiving of this if the characters had better definition and memorable qualities. Unfortunately in this case, they didn’t. The whole story feels like it skirts over some heavier weights and grounding details just for the sake of bringing Sierra and Caleb together.

I wish I could say that this was as fulfilling of a holiday story as the cover would make it seem, but unfortunately, it didn’t really do much to tug at my heartstrings, and I feel bad that I couldn’t have enjoyed it more since I liked the setting and aim of the work.

Overall score: 2.5/5 stars.