What Light by Jay Asher wasn't the festive fun I was expecting

What LightTitle: What Light
Series: N/A
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication: 20th October 2016, Macmillan's Children's Books
Pages: 256 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.
Rating: 2/5 Cupcakes
Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon - it's an idyllic place for a girl to grow up, except that every year they have to 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 begins to eclipse the other...

*Rant review*

This book. 

Hell's Kitchen reaction food fox nope

Where do I begin? Let me start off by saying that I love contemporaries, it's probably my favourite genre. I have read some incredible contemporaries that made me cry and laugh and think and feel...this was not one of those books. Maybe it was me, maybe it was the book but all I know is that reading this book was as enjoyable as watching paint dry.

What Light is about Sierra who helps her parents run a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. However, they spend every December in California in order to configure their Christmas tree lot. Every December Sierra misses spending the festive holiday with her two best friends back in Oregon, but there's a silver lining as she gets to spend time with her other best friend, Heather. This Christmas is different. She meets a boy called Caleb, with dimples and messy hair and a heart of gold, however, Sierra soon hears of the rumours circulating about Caleb's dark past and she asks herself whether or not it's worth risking her happy, secure heart for a boy she might not see once the 25th has come and gone.

I struggled with this book from the very first chapter. Not once during this book was I filled with a compulsion to keep turning the pages, I forced myself through it and once I had put it down I has no desire to pick it up. I probably should've listened to myself and DNFed it but I am an eternal optimist when it comes to books, so I persevered, hoping that it would get better.

Spoiler alert: It didn't.

The first thing I'll start off by saying is that this book is dull. Mind-numbingly dull. I kept waiting and waiting for something to happen but NOTHING HAPPENED. The book consisted of Sierra swooning over Caleb's dimples, waffling on about Christmas trees, making hot chocolate, eating out/delivering trees with Caleb and being a useless friend. It all merged together into a structured routine, there was never any spontaneity or originality and I found it so utterly boring reading about Sierra going through the same motions every. Single. Day. Perhaps it was due to this rigid routine that denied me of the chance to feel anything whilst reading What Light - I wasn't excited, I wasn't filled with sadness, happiness (there was one occasion where Heather said something funny and I laughed but that's as good as it got), fear, apprehension...nothing. I read this entire book with a blank face, it was so very meh

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Perhaps the reason I felt nothing whilst reading this book because there was no plot, no climax (I lie, there was a small climax but I barely noticed there was one because it was so dull), the characters were so incredibly boring and two dimensional that I just couldn't bring myself to care for them because all they were, were names on a paper. Most books I read, the characters feel like people I've known for years, people who I could call up at any given time, they feel real...these did not.

Moving on to the characters. Sierra was very bland, as were her parents and her friends. Caleb had potential but I couldn't quite get past the way his situation was handled. Sierra was a nice enough character. She was clever, quiet, sweet...but she seemed too perfect, hence I found her quite boring. She didn't have any flaws or any characteristics that made her feel real. Also, she completely ditched one of her best friend's shows she was acting in which meant a lot to the friend for a guy she's been hanging out with for two weeks. THAT'S NOT NICE, SIERRA. NOT NICE AT ALL. Also, I found her way too accepting and trusting of Caleb. He had gone after his sister with a knife (Not a spoiler as it's mentioned early on in the book). If I had heard rumours of such a severe nature about a guy I'd just met I'd be quite hesitant but after hearing the quite worrying rumour that turned out to be true, it made her like him even more...UM, WHAT?! WHO RESPONDS LIKE THAT?! Never once did she thoroughly question it or find it disturbing and I don't think that's a normal reaction. I feel like the author was trying to paint a saccharine sweet holiday romance and completely disregarded normal human reactions to several things. Maybe it was to infuse the book with an extra dose of Christmas spirit by having Sierra be so forgiving but I just...could not quite understand how she didn't find it all that worrying, especially as she barely knew him. 

Then there was Caleb who I never found myself growing attached to. I mean, I felt sorry for him and I feel like I could've liked him more if I had known more about him as a character before being told his rumour as that might have made me understand everything more. I could see he still harboured a lot of guilt and self-loathing which could have devastating consequences later on and it just felt like his negative emotions were never dealt with, it almost seemed as if the author was veering on him finding validation by Sierra choosing to date him and that didn't sit well with me. I don't think the author should've downplayed the lasting emotional impact his actions would've had on him and his sister. But maybe that's just me.

I also didn't really form any connection with Sierra's friends. They weren't actually a huge part of the book and I didn't see much of them or learn a lot about them, they felt like filler characters, just there in order to add a bit more bustle to the story. I also found it bad how it was potentially Heather and Sierra's last Christmas together yet they rarely saw each other and spent most of their time with their boyfriends. The former who was probably going to break up with hers in the new year and the latter with a guy she'd just met. One of my major pet peeves, in literature and reality, is when friends ditch their best friends for new, cooler friends or a guy who they barely know and don't mean all that much to them. YOU DON'T DO THAT.

Then there were Sierra's parents who never let the boys working on the farm talk to her otherwise her dad forced them to clean the outhouses which I thought was taking the overprotective dad thing a bit far. BUT then - even though they express their concerns over her dating Caleb - they don't really make an effort to deter her from seeing him and they're just like "We trust you" and it just didn't make sense. You trust her with Caleb but not any of the other guys who seemed perfectly nice?
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Then there was Caleb and Sierra's relationship. It didn't make me feel ~all the feels~, I didn't feel the chemistry and I found it as vapid as the rest of the novel.

HOWEVER, there were two positives! This book definitely felt Christmassy, the atmosphere of the book was perfectly festive and there were also a few witty one-liners that had me smiling. However, that didn't make up for the rest of the book, unfortunately.

What Light could've been the perfect Christmassy read, however, I personally found it insipid and slightly unrealistic. Maybe that was just me, though.

I give it: 2/5 cupcakes