Stead, Rebecca. 2007. First Light.
This book has almost convinced me that I should start thinking about year-end celebrations and countdowns. Why? It has one of the best beginnings. It practically shouts, "Read me! Read me!" from the very first sentence.
"Most boys his age had never touched paper." One simple sentence that describes a complete other-world-within-a-world. That probably makes no sense whatsoever. If you're an extremely devoted reader of "Becky's Book Reviews" and you have an amazing memory OR if you've read White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean for yourself, you know that one of the main characters is quite mad and he is searching for a hidden underground world or civilization beneath the ice of the antarctic. That book is a fairly good study of insanity. But this book, First Light, is a brilliant book about such a world. Not that the underground world or civilization is un-human. They're almost super-human in some ways. But I don't want to give too much of the plot away. Seriously this is one you just need to read for yourself. Trust me.
Another reviewer has mentioned some similarities between First Light and City of Ember. This is partially true. Both feature young characters who live in an underground world--a world that was created to escape something dangerous and life threatening from the surface--who dream of more. Who dream of reaching a world of sun and stars. Of going back to the outside world. Of course, in City of Ember, the people aren't quite sure what--if anything--exists out there. And it is only a few brave kids who risk it all to see. Likewise in First Light, it is a young boy and a young girl who venture forth to the surface.
But while there are some similarities, there are enough differences to make First Light truly unique. If you loved City of Ember, you may very well enjoy First Light. But I think many people will enjoy First Light. Why? It's exciting. It's full of adventure. It creates a whole world-within-a-world. And it is all done in a very enjoyable, believable way.
Before I get too distracted, let me just give the basics. Thea and Mattias are young kids from Gracehope, this underworld sealed in ice. Peter is a kid originally from New York City who happens to be visiting Greenland with his parents who are scientists. It's a "mystery" of sorts how these characters will eventually weave together into one solid story. And the mystery is the fun of it all. So I will not give any hints or details about the story.
I also don't know how to classify this book. It's set partly in the "real world" both in New York City and Greenland. But Gracehope doesn't exist. Humans don't have the technology to make it exist. So in that way, it could be in a way science fiction or fantasy. Yet it isn't 'traditional' in either of those categories. There are no aliens. There are no unicorns or dragons. And I suppose you could argue that it might be dystopic in nature, it's not really truly that either. Yes, there are a few minor flaws in the society. But enough to destroy it from within? Not really. Just a few stubborn personalities. So what is it???? I guess I'll just have to classify it as great and be satisfied.
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