Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Certain Slant of Light

I had seen several recommendations on the board for A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. The premise sounded interesting and when I saw it on my most recent trip to the library I decided to give it a try.

"Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you're dead."

The first line lets you know that this is a ghost story. It's about Helen, a woman who died 130 years ago, but has existed as Light, a ghost, since then, roaming the world attached to a human host. When one host dies, she cleaves to another, which has brought her to the setting of the story. It begins in a high school classroom where her current host, Mr. Brown, teaches English. It seems like another day in her Light existence until she notices once of Mr. Brown's students looking at her. Not through her, at her.

She realizes that this student, Billy, has been possessed by a spirit like her. Billy was on the brink of death from a drug overdose, so this spirit, James, took possession of Billy's abandoned body. Soon James and Helen fall in love, her as a spirit and him in possession of this teenage body.

The resulting story is one of love that delves into some fascinating moral issues as well. How can these two lovers be together when they are both dead? How does James's inhabitation of Billy's body impact the people in Billy's world and the life he left behind? What are the ramifications of the Light interfering with the Quick? It also delves into the past and the reasons these two spirits are stuck wandering the Earth.

It's amazing that this is Whitcomb's first novel. Her writing is beautiful and poetic and the story is tight and full.

The only thing that is strange to me about this book is the fact that it is categorized as Young Adult. Yes, a lot of it takes place in a high school, and yes, there are high-school-aged characters, but Helen was 29 when she died, and James was in his 20's as well, so the characters are mature and much of the subject matter is mature as well. For those of you who are interested in this book, please don't be turned off by the YA categorization. Nothing about this story struck me as YA at all.

There have been some raves on the board as well about the audio book. That's something I would like to check out, as it was mentioned that the reader really captures Helen's essence in her storytelling.



MichelleO said...

I loved this story! I was surprised as well to see it classified as YA. I listened to it on audiobook and the narrator really added to the overall "feel" of the story. She has a beautiful, soft and slightly haunting voice. Besides the love story I found the author's take on the afterlife and the "limbo" that Helen and James find themselves in very thought provoking.

Cnthrdlywt2bwz said...

The comment about the YA classification was my biggest issue with the book. Overall I also enjoyed it a lot!