Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Certain Slant of Light

by Laura Whitcomb

Story summary: Ghosts fall in love, relationships break and relationships heal, people struggle with death and abuse and Sad Things, the physical world is discovered to be glorious.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • People overcoming issues! I love books like this, that give hope and show dragons can be beaten.
  • The visual descriptions! I'm not really one for visual descriptions, but these struck me as quite inspiring.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There is definite sexual content. I think it makes sense given the context and type of story it is, but it deserves a warning.
  • The practicing Christians are all portrayed in a negative light.

Thoughts: I keep saying that YA Contemporary isn't my genre, but I seem to keep reading them... (it's my third this year so far). But in this case, it was praised by Rachel Neumeier, whose blog I recently started reading and loving. She's recommended enough authors that were already favourites and seems to think enough like me, that I couldn't pass this up. And although for me it didn't live up to her praise, it was certainly an entertaining and interesting book, and I'm glad I read it.

My favourite aspect was how it fit into a recent theme of my life: how important the body actually is. It fits right in with my Theology of the Body book club study, and with many, many recent realizations I've had. So I loved when Helen first got a body. The glorying in physicality, in all the beautiful details of creation--it made me happy.

I also loved the character development. I was talking recently in the Kingdom of Summer review about what makes me cry, and this is the opposite (and definitely didn't make me cry). Issues are overcome! Subtle ways to improve relationships are not missed or ignored! People gain hope even in oppressive situations!* The Billy & Mitch relationship was my favourite, but I was very happy with the potential romantic relationship between Billy and Jenny. Although the book seems mostly complete on its own, so I'm not interested in reading the sequel, I may skim through it purely for the Bill/Jenny parts.

There were some negatives, though. The biggest one was the portrayal of Christians, who were all stuffy, unkind people at best. At worst there were hints of things much, much worse. Now obviously there are Christian communities like this, so it's not untrue to life. And the main character herself believed in God. And one of the Christians was a character who overcame some issues, so was also slightly sympathetic.
But still. It's just so rare outside of the "Christian" genre to find positive portrayals, to find characters like the people I know, with definitive faults but kindness and intelligence as well. It would have been nice to have at least one of the group whose Faith makes them more of a normal, loving person rather than less.
(It's because of this, by the way, that I agree with people who want to see more representations of people of colour, people with disabilities, and other minority groups in fiction. I don't think you can ever demand it of a single book or author. In real life groups exist without a particular minority in them, just as groups of nasty and bigoted Christians exist. But the cumulative effect of book after movie after TV show with no or unpleasant representations is not only tiresome to one who belongs to that group, but unrealistic as well.)

Grade: 3 stars

If You Like This, You Might Also Like:
  • The Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl: Because it also features a woman who cannot be seen and who falls in love with someone because they actually notice her presence. It's for a younger age than this one, and is much stranger, but the two books reminded me a bit of each other.
  • The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones: Ok, this is a bit of a weird rec because they are very little alike. But they both have ghosts! I only read so many books with ghosts in them, so the comparison strikes me. Plus there's something about the colour scheme of the cover and the number of pages... They physically remind me of each other, and for a book that's so much about physicality, I think this is a legitimate reason.

* This sounds a bit like I don't like the books that make me cry, but I DO. Man, it's so hard to explain the difference, though, and analyze how my emotions work. Emotions are weird, cloudy things that are hard to figure out and verbalize.

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