Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Take On A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen—terrified, but intrigued—is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.

In this well paced romance, Helen, a Light, has haunted various literary enthusiasts for 130 years. She has whispered in their ears as they created beautiful prose, written plays, and crafted novels, but never has she been seen. Until, that is, an ordinary boy in the English class of her latest host makes direct eye contact with her. It could have been a fluke, but after testing this theory, he makes contact. And so begins a friendship that turns rapidly into a passionate romance.
This book had so many things that were just right. Just the right amount of back story, darkness, romance1, and suspense.
Helen is a very interesting character. She's convinced that she sinned horribly when she was alive because whenever she's away from her host, the person she's haunting, she slips into a frozen, dark, watery hell. The reality of what she might have done grows heavier as the story progresses and you get an idea to what it might been. The subtle implications that Whitcomb weaves into the everyday events were bone chilling. It made for very good reading.
Helen's love affair with the boy in the English class picks up a little too quickly to be real, but then they've both been alone for about a century, so maybe it was to be expected. The crux of the problem lies in the fact that only James has a body, but those two crazy kids will do anything to be together, so he helps Helen locate an empty body that she can possess2. That's when the real fun starts. Helen and James are in two bodies that could not be more different. One comes from the wrong side of the tracks with a sordid history that threatens to catch up with them; the other comes from a strict religious family where nothing is as wholesome as it seems.
The ending was fantastic. I don't wanna give too much away here, but I actually yelled at the book. It was one of those books that made you sit up straight and say, "You have got to be kidding me!"
While this book was found in the YA section of my library and it centers around the bodies of two high schoolers, the characters and story were more mature than I was expecting. Helen and James were actually in their mid to late twenties, and there was very explicit sexual content3. I'd say this is closer to an adult novel than a true YA. Furthermore, I felt that the love between Helen and James was smothered by the physicality that developed once they were both corporeal. They seemed to lose a little of their love, or at least it seemed a lot less pure. They were really soul mates, and it was beautiful, but then it felt like it transformed into a series of... booty calls. Sure, it "fit," but I think the story would have been better without it. It was rather unimaginative to resort to such themes. I'd rate it R.
I give A Certain Slant of Light...
...Four Zombies!
A very good, yet very mature, story of love, life, and redemption. 

Happy reading,
Zombie Girrrl

1  My definition of romance is not getting it on in the theatre loft. It's more like when he carries her bag for her or forgives her for the sin of her previous life without hesitation.
2  The idea of souls vacating their bodies was scary and fascinating. And there were amny things that could lead to the soul's departure; it could be through some traumatic circumstance or the person could just... give up the ghost. The body remains alive, but it's just a drone compared to the time when the soul still dwelled inside. But here's the really cool part about Whitcomb's story; there are other things, dark things, that can move into the empty bodies. And I'm not talking about Helen and James. Part to me wanted her to delve deeper into the darkess, but then the story would have been bogged down and it wouldn't have been about the love anymore.
3  Sometimes I wonder if my mentioning the explicivity of certain books makes the book more appealing to some readers...


Simon said...

Sounds interesting...

pirate penguin said...

I got so excited when I saw A Certain Slant of Light in my google reader! You're right, it felt more like an adult novel than YA but that didn't make me love it any less. I'm glad you enjoyed it though-it blends a good amount of romance, darkness, etc. Just like you said! ;)

Nicole said...

I loved this book. I agree that it is mature but when I first picked this book up it was in the new releases of the fiction section so it didn't take me off guard. I'm glad you liked it.

Wings said...

love the cover!!!!

and im glad you liked it

i sooo want to read this

great review!!!

pepsivanilla said...

Footnote #1-I agree! That was just...awkward.

miss cindy :) said...

I've never heard of this book, but it sounsd really interesting! Great review :)

Misty said...

I looooved this. It was so unique and it flowed beautifully. The end was a bit didactic for me, but other than that, I highly recommend this.

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