Published by Orchard Books on January 12th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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How is it that you suddenly notice a person? How is it that one day Digby was my best friend's admittedly cute twin brother, and then the next he stole air, gave jitters, twisted my insides up?
Lucille has bigger problems than falling for her best friend's unavailable brother. Her mom has gone, leaving her to look after her sister, Wren. With bills mounting up and appearances to keep, Lucille is raging against her life but holding it together - just.
A stunning debut to devour in one sitting, Laure captures completely the agony and ecstasy of first love.
This Raging Light had the potential to be a great book. It had a very interesting premise that would have allowed for a wonderful coming-of-age story. Instead, what I read was very lacklustre and underwhelming, and I had some very big problems with some aspects of the book. I don’t really have many positive things to say about this book, so I’m just going to insert some positive quotes throughout my review.
She knows life is a pillow that’s all on my face, almost almost suffocating me. But whoever is holding the pillow lets me breathe just enough so I don’t die. I almost forget that when I’m with Eden, she slaps away at the pillow, and I can see something else.
I hated (yes, strong word) the writing from the very first page. The author uses very short and very long sentences that made the book very hard to read. There were times when I wondered if I had received an uncorrected proof, but sadly (and horrifyingly) it was a finished copy. The writing had almost no flow and read very choppily. There was an abundance of one or two word sentences, and often they were unnecessarily tagged on to the end of a paragraph. Rage. The anger. I can’t. Please stop. There were also very long sentences that were actually just six shorter sentences combined into one, separated by commas. So even though they were long, in my head, they read just like the short ones and the whole book just felt like it was starting and stopping all the time. The thing that bothered me the most about these super long sentences was that a lot of them were ungrammatical. There would be an “and” that came before more commas, and it just felt like the author had finished the sentence but decided to add an afterthought to it. Here’s a simple example I made up to explain what I mean: “The sky was shimmering with colours: blues, greens, yellows and purples, pinks and reds, oranges.”
The language used was also a bit flowery and pretentious. The author tries to be quirky with non-grammatical sentences (“Normal got gone with Dad”) that honestly don’t make a lot of sense and need to be reread a few times in order to understand what the author is saying. There were also scenes that were unnecessarily descriptive and the book could have been half as long if it wasn’t so unnecessarily wordy. There’s really not much that happens in the book; it’s only stretched out by the descriptions. For example, there’s a scene in the book where our main character and her love interest walk into each other and he reaches out a hand to steady her. There is a whole half page of text describing that moment and then another full page of her overly dramatic reactions. I was honestly a bit sick and tired of it after the first 50 pages. There were also a lot of unnecessary metaphors used to make everything seem deep and meaningful but, for me, it was unsuccessful. They had the opposite effect on me and detached me from any of the emotion and urgency of the story. I ended up skimming over a lot of these long metaphorical passages. I mean, when you compare yourself and your love interest to steak and mashed potatoes in the middle of a kissing scene… there’s no way I can take you seriously. And is it really necessary to go all metaphorical and talk about swords and shields while your best friend is drowning?
I’ve probably said enough about the writing now, so let’s move on to the plot. This novel was a bit all over the place and seemed a little confused. The book starts without telling us anything about the events that led to both of her parents disappearing. We eventually do find out a little bit about what happened with her parents but the story of her parents was never resolved in this book. We mainly get Lucille’s coming-of-age story, which stemmed from her parents disappearing on her, but that is never resolved. Sure, I’m happy that she learnt to survive by herself, BUT WHAT ABOUT HER PARENTS? If that part of the story isn’t going to be wrapped up, why did they have to exist in the first place? Why not just make her an orphan and write a coming-of-age story about that instead? My other problem with the plot was that the things that were actually resolved were resolved far too quickly. Once Lucille reached an ultimate low, things just started turning around for her and everything started working out in the end.
“Most people totter their whole lives. They never let themselves fall, never take the hit. They just go along, trying to do what they think they’re supposed to. They never try to find out what’s true for them, because that would mean being brave in a way people aren’t.”
There was also nothing noteworthy about our characters. Our protagonist, Lucille, was probably intended to be sassy and snarky but I just found her voice to be annoying and immature (this, in part, was due to the writing that I absolutely hated). I thought she was very dislikeable, judgmental and thought she could be a brat just because she’s in a tough situation. I felt absolutely no sympathy for her at all. Her love interest, Digby, was kind of a bland character. He was a nice person but that was about it. Lucille’s best friend, Eden, was a terrible best friend. She was absent for most of the book and unsupportive for the rest of it. My favourite character in the book was Lucille’s younger sister, Wren. She was adorable and a wonderful addition to a cast of boring or dislikeable characters. I just wish she could have gotten a bit more page time.
For those of you who are wondering about the romance between Lucille and Digby, there was absolutely no spark for me. There is also cheating in this book, which I dislike a lot in YA fiction but can forgive if the romance is a good one. However, the romance in this book was rather lukewarm. Digby is in a solid relationship with a girl who he plans to go to college with and marry afterwards. I didn’t really see any signs of Digby being interested in Lucille until after they had kissed for the first time. And then all of a sudden they were in love? I also thought the cheating was very unnecessary. Digby’s girlfriend is not in the book at all. So my question is… why did she have to exist in the first place? The book didn’t need the extra angst of a forbidden relationship, in my opinion. Another reason why I wasn’t fully on board with Lucille and Digby’s relationship was because she was quite annoying about it. She acted like she was entitled to a relationship with him even though he’s already attached to somebody else. She claimed that she’s “got nothing without him” and that is one of my biggest pet peeves. Especially in this book, which is supposed to be about Lucille taking care of her younger sister who she’s now responsible for (so obviously, you do have something without him).
Lastly, I had some major issues with some things that were mentioned in this book. There are some mental health issues that are eluded to in relation to Wren. It’s briefly mentioned in the book that she might be suffering from depression as a result of both her parents disappearing on her. However, this was never explored and I felt like it was something important that needed to be tackled in this book. Another thing that I had big problems with was the smoking in this novel. Eden is a ballet dancer who frequently smokes. She justifies it by saying that all ballet dancers smoke and it’s implied (through a one-word sentence “Weight.”) that it’s a way of losing weight. Which, coming from a health psychology perspective, is not true. I thought this was a really problematic message to be putting into a YA novel. Lucille does mention twice in the novel that she doesn’t like the smoking, but nothing is really done to dispel the myth that smoking equals weight loss. There were a ton of important issues that could have been or needed to be tackled in this book, but it was all swept to the side in favour of a romance that did nothing for me.
I don’t have very many good things to say about This Raging Light. I didn’t like the writing, characters, romance or plot of the book. It had the potential to be an emotional and important coming-of-age story but the novel was too poorly executed for it to be successful.
Rating: 1 out of 5
Thanks to Hachette Australia for providing a review copy of the book!