Book Review: What Light by Jay Asher

Such a pretty cover!

Such a pretty cover!

What Light
by Jay Asher

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: October 18th 2016
Rating: Much Chrismasyness

“People think what they want. That's what I've had to accept," he says. "I can fight it, but that's exhausting. I can feel hurt about it, but that's torture. Or I can decide it's their loss.”

This book left me feeling super torn. On the surface, it is a very sweet story about a girl falling in love for the first time at Christmas. I loved the setting of a Christmas tree lot in December.  It is one of the few Christmas books that I have read this year (and I have read a lot) that genuinely cannot have happened at any other time of year.  The holiday season is almost another character and as I was looking for a feel-good Christmas book I appreciated it.
I enjoyed Sierra.  She was likable, slightly more sensible than necessary, and generally pretty realistic about herself and the people around her.  I liked that she had a close positive relationship with both of her parents. I have said it before but I wish that decent parents weren’t so scarce on the ground in YA land.  Sierra’s friendships also seemed realistic.  The sort of relationships that girls have in high school that last into adulthood with a little bit of work and luck.

The one problem is that Caleb  has one very troublingly violent incident in his past. This is a YA book and as such, the target audience is not adult me but actually teenagers.  It is very sensitively done in this book but I can't help worrying about the underlying message.  On the other hand, the incident happened several years in the past and Caleb shows absolutely no predilection to violence during the course of the book. Sierra herself acknowledges that if anything more than the threat of violence had happened in the past or even if there was the threat of violence around Caleb in the present she wouldn’t give him the time of day.    It some ways I feel like it puts me in the position of Sierra's parents in the book.  Worried but hoping that I am able to trust Sierra's decision-making skills. It definitely made me uncomfortable.

It may be because the characters and setter are so realistically drawn that I feel this way.  Certainly, there are other books that I have read where the love interest has some innate violence but I don’t even think about it (Um… The Wrath and the Dawn?) I seem to have a much different standard in a contemporary YA than fantasy. Possibly this is unfair. I would be interested to know if anyone else felt this way when reading the book.
I have read both 13 Reasons Why and The Future of Us so I was expecting this book to me deeper than it was.  Jay Asher obviously has the ability to write gripping emotional stories but What Light was well, light.  If I had chosen to read it because it was written by Jay Asher and not because it was a Christmas book I might have been pretty disappointed.

What Light isn’t a deep or profound story.  But it was sweet, comfy to sit down with on a cold night, and definitely imbibed with the holiday spirit. There is nothing earth shattering or unique about it but it is well written and worth glance if you are looking into a holiday read.  

From Goodreads:

From Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, comes a romance that will break your heart, but soon have you believing again. . . .
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.