Title: This Raging Light (2015)
Author: Estelle Laure
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Expected Release: December 22, 2015
Extent: 288 pages
Can the best thing happen at the worst time?
Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she’s about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend’s brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure’s soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.
I can only think of one other book off the top of my head where a teenage girl struggles to literally survive in the wake of her parents’ absence, and that is Sarah Dessen’s Lock and Key, which is another of my Dessen favourite. Unfortunately, This Raging Light didn’t hold a candle to that book.
The blurb describes Lucille to be level-headed, but that’s not the impression I got. Honestly, I didn’t feel like she had much personality; she just seemed reserved, quiet, and not very… practical? I appreciate that she was determined to provide for her little sister—a position no teenager should find themselves in—but she was also the quintessential teenager:
- She buys soda even when she could be buying more nutritious, long-lasting, filling goods.
- She priorities paying for her cable bills over others.
- She melts over a boy she has known since forever but barely talks to, knowing full well that the boy is in a serious relationship with his a long-term girlfriend.
Perhaps I should’ve been more understanding, but I just didn’t connect with Lucille in any level at all. I found her hard to relate to.
Speaking of which, I really didn’t like Digby, her love interest. In fact, he probably irritated me more than anyone else in the book (except for Lucille’s parents, because really, how absolutely irresponsible). He had a very bland personality, which I think might be due to the fact that we’re often told what he’s like rather than shown, a recurring problem in this book. They also have very awkward conversations, for example:
“I like that you can do so many things with things that come out of the earth. But you know I like my steak, too. As long as it’s in Philly.”
“Well anyway, it makes a weird kind of sense.”
“In what way?”
“I don’t know. You seem…” I choose my words carefully. “You seem too sensitive for meat.”
I mean… is there such a thing as being too sensitive for meat? What does that even mean? Moreover, I also found Digby really spineless and cowardly. I have very little to zero tolerance for cheaters and if I were Lucille, Digby would have been long gone; he wouldn’t even make the equation. Their romance is my least favourite part of this book, and I think it’s a shame that the blurb focuses on that instead of the real issue at hand: Lucille’s family.
None of the other characters were likeable, and in fact, I feel even sorrier for Lucille that she could literally depend on no one in her time of need. Her best friend Eden abandoned her after a small fight. Her parents were incredibly selfish, immature and irresponsible. When she gets a job, her boss stresses that she should dress as sexily as possible because that’s a unique selling point of the restaurant. I mean…
My big question is: why did no one report this whole situation to the CPS? I get it when teenagers were the only one who knew the truth, but what about the adults? They simply accept it as fact, say something along the lines of “well, your dad/mum sucks, but at least he/she is trying”, but doesn’t do anything to help in the long run.
Sure, they may help with little things—babysitting Wren when Lucille can’t, giving her food, fixing her car, covering up for her, but none of these things mean anything. She’s a teenager, for god’s sake, and she needs help beyond that! Sometimes trying isn’t good enough. This aspect of the book really frustrated me to the point where I just couldn’t enjoy it.
The writing wasn’t my style either, unfortunately. Laure described a lot of things as being alike to electricity—his electrifying touch, the electric kiss, etc.—but it was overused, which made the writing feel contrived and clichéd. And the metaphors! Some of them work fine, but in the parts where it didn’t work, it didn’t work at all. Case in point:
I am a giant foot, his hand a magical giant hand and it is all over me. Breath. Less. Whole body warm and throb by.
Yes, being a foot is veeeery romantic. Also:
His lips are soft and his body is hard and grasping and after we test each others’ mouths for a minute, it’s like we are the hungriest people on earth and someone has just served us to each other for dinner, for dessert. We’re steak and mashed potatoes, sides of gravy and chocolate molten lava cake with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. We are decadent. No. He is a crisp, fresh, cool piece of pepper going down. Perfect, like I said.
What a way to be taken out of a kiss… not that I’ve been captured in the first place, I suppose, but surely there was a better way of describing something that’s supposedly really special? Unless that’s what you’re into, the presence of food in a kiss isn’t usually welcome, and food like steak, mashed potatoes and gravy? Yeah, the writing didn’t work for me.
I finished this book because despite all its shortcomings, I do care about Lucille and Wren. I want them to be happy, to survive and to thrive. I want her parents, both her mum and her dad, to answer to their mistakes.
And because of this, the ending really disappointed me. Nothing was really resolved save for Lucille’s relationship with Digby, and even on that end, I didn’t get the ending that I wanted. Truthfully, what I wanted was for Lucille [spoiler] to just forget Digby and move on, focus on the more important things. What about Lucille’s parents? What about Lucille’s plan for college? What becomes of Eden? Yeah, none of these questions were answered. [/end spoiler]
This Raging Light could be a lot better. It tackles the very real, very heartbreaking issue of parents’ abandonment, and there were just so many ways I think this book could be improved. More showing, a lot less telling. A likeable love interest. A supportive best friend. Adults who function as the voice of reason. Plenty of conflict resolution. Unfortunately, this one’s not for me.
* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book.