Under the Light: review

May 14, 2013 2013, 5 star books, ghosts, laura whitcomb, mature themes, Wendy 81

Title: Under the Light (Light #2)
Author: Laura Whitcomb
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC provided by the publisher

Under the Light is the story of two girls: Helen, a spirit who inhabited a body and regretted the consequences of her actions, and Jenny, the girl who doesn’t remember what happened during the time that she was gone.

Going into this story, I was pretty anxious. A Certain Slant of Light was one of my favorite reads in recent memory, a slow, sad ghost story with a literary style and questionable ethics. (I felt so strongly about the book, I even gave away a copy on Nova Ren Suma’s blog recently!) Helen’s choices left Jenny in an unimaginably difficult situation, however, and I wasn’t sure whether the author could convince me that this wrong could be righted without losing the integrity of the first book.

I’m happy to say that I needn’t have worried. This sequel is astonishingly complete and wholly satisfying in how it resolves both Jenny and Helen’s journeys, and in the way it gives us a truly transportive experience in Jenny and Billy’s tentative relationship. I wasn’t sure I would be swayed by a pairing that started under such unusual circumstances, but the yearning, uncertain romance made me thrill with their connection and wish fervently for their happiness.

I don’t want to say too much about the specifics of this story, because the less you know about it, the better. But Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb is full of love and beauty, as well as a deep and tender spiritualism that outshines even its predecessor. The writing is the kind that I live and breathe for–it takes you out of your body because it’s so utterly gorgeous.

The night was deep, the stars had risen, a faint glow defined every blade of grass. Wasn’t it strange that the stars sparkled in his eyes even though he would not cast an image in a mirror himself?

This two-book series isn’t for everyone, because while the stories are short, they are densely fitted with words and mature themes. But if you’re someone who appreciates literary YA, I’d strongly recommend this series. Just know you’ll need to keep an open mind…but also know that it may lift your heart and imagination to places that you would never have expected.

5 shining stars. Love love love love love.

This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

Be sure to stay tuned for our interview with author Laura Whitcomb, which will appear on the blog later this month!

81 Responses to “Under the Light: review”

  1. Michelle

    I really need to read A Certain Slant of Light because this sounds amazing. Great review Wendy :)

  2. Tammy Sparks

    Now I’m dying to read both books! I love finding 5 star reviews, especially from bloggers I trust:) Will definitely add both to my TBR pile!

  3. Laura Whitcomb

    Reading all these comments about my books makes me light-headed with joy. And humbled. Thank you, Wendy, for all the word-of-mouth publicity–the best kind. =)

  4. Tandie Martinez

    I know that I already commented on Goodreads, but seeing this blog update got me excited all over again. Nice review.

  5. Carina Olsen

    Great review sweetie :D I have not heard about this series before. But oh. Reading your review for this book makes me want to read the first and second book :) Thank you so much for sharing! I’m glad you loved it so much :D

  6. Kim (YA Asylum)

    I haven’t read A Certain Slant of Light yet. It sounds just like my type of story. A sad ghost story with a literary flare that gets a 5 star from you is a must-read. The fact that it’s sequel held up to your high expectations is so good to hear. I always worry about reading a follow-up book when I loved the first one. Great review :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Kim, I’d love for you to read these and tell me what you think! They are so beautiful, and very different from any other YA books out there. And yes, it’s one of just 4 books this year that I’ve rated 5 stars. At least so far. :)

  7. starryeyedjen

    I’ve heard of the first book, but not in any way that actually made me stop and give it the attention it sounds like it deserves. Why are you doing this to me, Wendy? Why? I’m already swimming in a sea of books — not that I’m really complaining — but it makes me immensely sad when I can’t get right on a book that you’re recommending. :(

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Jen, someday when you’re lost and not sure what to read, these books will be silently, patiently waiting for you. <3

  8. K.

    I also skimmed this review since I know you want me to read this series desperately. And so do I. And damn, you’re passionate about these books. Thanks so much for my copy. I’ll get there, I promise :)

  9. Jessie

    How interesting! I didn’t know this one was going to be a series. I admit I’m excited for this due mainly to your reviews. I picked up the first one when it was on sale for $1.99 and I am curious to get to it. I’ve never really been wowed by a ghost story, but this series has such potential. I don’t think any of my friends that have read it have rated it lower than a 3.5.

    And it has gorgeous writing? Le sigh. Sign me up for full fledged fangirl status already.

    • Wendy Darling

      I didn’t realize there was going to be a sequel, either! I was really excited to find out about it though, you’re very lucky that you don’t have to wait years like the rest of us, hah.

      I rated the first one 4.5 stars. I understand some of the reservations I saw on other reviews, and certainly the style isn’t for everybody. But I hope you love it, Jessie. Writing more gorgeous than this is hard to find.

  10. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    I just added the first book to my TBR! I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before! It seems completely up my alley. A sequel that doesn’t disappoint is a huge bonus as well. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I would LOVE to hear what you think of this one, Sara. It’s an unusual, quieter story but it’s an incredible experience for the right reader. :)

  11. Vivien

    I tend to struggle with ghost stories. Then I read ACSOL and was wowed. The first time I actually ENJOYED a ghost story. It was absolutely beautiful. I’m so glad you loved this one. I’ll be sure to continue the series. It sounds fantastic.

    • Wendy Darling

      I actually love ghost stories, but this one definitely stands out as a truly original concept with beautiful execution. I’m happy to hear you’re a fellow ACSOL fan, Viv–I hope you love the sequel, too!

      And psst, I just got confirmation that we’ll be giving away both books when we post our interview with the author. :)

  12. Ashley

    Oh it makes me SO happy that you liked this book so much! I’ve been a little worried about this book, because I seriously loved the first one, WAY more than I thought I would, and I’ve been tentatively excited for this one, because I’m worried about where and how it will play out. I’m thrilled that you liked it so much! It definitely makes me more excited for the book to come out! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Believe me, I was worried too, Ashley! But it totally worked for me, I hope it satisfies you as well. And no need to wait, the book just came out yesterday! :)

  13. Cricket

    You write such great reviews, my format changes constantly but I like how you get your thoughts across. This is a book I may need to check into.

  14. Savannah Bookswithbite

    I read the first book before I was a blogger and it really got me into read ghost stories. It was different and something unique. So I;m definitely going to pick up this book.

    Sorry if there are two comments. I tired posting one the first time and it said it didn’t go through.

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohh, more ACSOL love! I’m happy to hear you loved the first one too, Savannah, I very much look forward to hearing if you think the sequel lives up to the original. I think it’s even better, and I didn’t think that was possible. :)

  15. Pabkins

    I can’t believe there is a second one! Well I couldn’t until i saw you add it aawhile back. I can’t wait to read it! The first was so haunting!

    • Wendy Darling

      III know! I don’t think anyone expected that there would be a sequel. I’m going to be asking the author whether she intended to write one all along, or whether the story gradually came to her for Jenny and Billy’s story.

  16. Ems

    Five stars? I think I’d better check this one out. You’ve never steered me wrong before! Sounds like a book that I could really dig my teeth in and come away a better person.

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, I hope I don’t break my excellent track record then, hah. This is definitely a series to be savored, I hope you find it as beautiful as I do.

  17. Amy

    I hadn’t heard of this series, but after reading this beautiful review I definitely want to read it. I should check with my library and see if they have them. Thank you for bringing this series to my attention.

  18. Bonnie R

    I’m so excited to read this soon… my library ordered it so I’m just waiting for their slow butts to get it to me. :) Sure hope to love it as much as you!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohhh, Reno Library, please be good to Bonnie! I cannot wait to hear what you thin of this one. I’ll be stalking you as you read it, just as I did when you read the first one, hah.

    • Wendy Darling

      JEN. Yes, I think these books are for you. There are some moral dilemmas presented by the first volume, but they’re addressed here in the second.

      I’m so glad you’re going to give them a shot!

  19. Sunny Duvall

    Ooh, this sounds fantastic! I’m definitely intrigued and I want to read it even more that I know you gave 5 stars. The whole journey of it sounds wonderful. Great review!

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m glad we’ve intrigued you! And yes, I don’t give out 5 stars too often, so take this as a sign that I think it’s a must-read. :)

  20. Karen

    I hadn’t heard of this series. I’m glad you enjoyed the sequel. It’s depressing when book #2 doesn’t hold up as well.

    The concept sounds really fascinating.

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s a pretty unusual story, Karen…and it’s definitely exciting when a sequel manages to surpass the original.

  21. Jasprit

    Under the Light sounds utterly gorgeous Wendy, I admit I have been thinking of giving A Certain Slant of Light a try, but was never quite sure whether it would be for me. But I think once again you’ve changed my mind, that’s two books in two weeks now! ;) Also thanks for the heads up on how certain things which may not work for me, but I have a feeling me and this series will get along great! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohh, please please do read ACSOL, Jasprit. It’s not a well-known book, nor a popular one, but I think you’ll appreciate the gorgeous writing and thoughtful story. A lot of people had trouble with some ethical issues (understandably so), but with this second book out, perhaps that will be mitigated somewhat. Fingers crossed that you’ll love it as much as I do!

    • Wendy Darling

      Please do! And oh yes…I’m a little miserly with my 5 stars, hah. This is just one of four 5 starrers for me this year so far.

  22. Candace

    I usually don’t like literary YA but I really loved the first book and I’m enjoying this one a lot, even though I’m only a quarter of the way in. I really don’t remember the first book at all really. Just little pieces and the general idea of it all.
    I’m glad you really loved this one! Your rating on goodreads was actually what helped me decide to pick this one up. Well, that and the fact that I’ll probably be having dinner with the author in a few days for her release party. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I read the first book a couple of years ago and intended to reread before I received the ARC, but just didn’t have time–but I didn’t have trouble adjusting at all, since the author does a good job of catching us up.

      I’m really excited to hear you’re enjoying it, Candace, I can’t wait to see your final reaction. And yay, please say hi to Laura when you see her! You always go to the best events. :)

  23. Henrietta @ Leisure Reads

    This is my first time reading about this series, but the characters sound very intriguing! I like the slightly mystical element and I wonder if Jenny would ever find the level of peace that she’s hoped. Loved your review, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      Mystical is a good way to put it, Henrietta–this is a very thoughtful, introspective series, and not at all focused on action/spookiness, which is why some readers may not expect the tone of the book. It’s right up my alley, though, and I’m glad we’ve intrigued you a bit. :)

  24. tonya

    I’ve had A Certain Slant of Light on my TBR for YEARS, and I think you’ve just convinced me to bump it up… as soon as I finish The 5th Wave, haha. Loved this review!

  25. tonya

    I’ve had A Certain Slant of Light on my TBR for YEARS, and I think you’ve just convinced me to bump it up… as soon as I finish The 5th Wave, haha. Loved this review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohhh Tonya–I must convince you and K to read this book! I think you might love it. I know you loved Chime, and if you look a few comments above, Sangu Mandanna loves this series too, and recommended Chime to me again. So it’s all related somehow, and it’s not just me pushing the book, hah.

      I am so curious what you’ll think of 5th Wave, too. I worry about hyping it up too much, but I swear I sat on it for a few months before writing my review to make sure I felt the same way as I did when I first read it.

  26. Lottie Eve

    Oh, this series looks so, so good! Why am I always the late one to the party? Laura Whitecomb sounds like a fantastic writer!

    Thank you so much for this review, since it helped me learn about the books :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, I don’t know that you’re that late, Lottie! The first book came out ages ago, I dare say well before YA and blogging was as big as it is now. And it’s also a lesser known series. :) I’m so glad this review has piqued your interest in trying it, though! Let me know what you think of it if you remember.

    • Lottie Eve

      Well, I literally just ordered it, so I don’t think I will be forgetting :P I’ll be sure to let you know!

  27. Rebecca

    Wow! I HAVE to start this series!!! What a glowing review, Wendy. Thanks so much for bringing the Light series to my attention.

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, the review glows because the book glows. :) I hope you have the opportunity to read it sometime, Rebecca.

  28. Sangu Mandanna

    Want. Want. Want.

    But it’s not here in ebook form for some reason, which means no instant gratification. I HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE HARDCOVER TO ARRIVE. (Or go look for it in shops, but either way I can’t have it now.)

    Love the review, Wendy!

    PS. Have you read CHIME by Franny Billingsley? Not a ghost story or much like ACSoL, really, but deliciously creepy and with such a unique, marvellous voice – I think you may like it!

    • Wendy Darling

      I want you to have it! Regional ebook restrictions are the worst, they make me very cross.

      Let me know if you have any trouble finding it in the UK, Sangu, I’m happy to send you a copy from here. I glanced quickly at Book Depository and didn’t see it there, but fingers crossed the rights were sold overseas and you can get it. And thank you, I’m so glad to find you’re a kindred Laura Whitcomb fan!

      I have had CHIME specifically recommended to me over and over again by other readers who know my love for tricky YA and beautiful writing, so I really need to get on that soon. Especially knowing that you’re a fan as well. :)

    • Sangu Mandanna

      CHIME is honestly gorgeous! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it when you do read it :-)

      And thanks for the lovely offer, but UL is on Amazon UK so now I’m just waiting for it to get here. Still scared it won’t live up to ACSoL, but your review’s definitely made me more hopeful!

  29. Heather Roddenberry

    YAY!! I am so glad to hear you loved this one Wendy because I am so ANXIOUS about reading it. I loved A Certain Slant of Light (we’ve discussed this, right?) but OH MY GOSH I was totally OVERWROUGHT with emotion while reading it. I am not really the type of reader that cries, I can probably count on one hand the number of books that have had me in tears, but ACSOL had me sobbing, like the really embarrassing, messy, ugly kind of crying. So, I really want to see what happens with Jenny and Billy but I am also REALLY freaked that I am going to have another gut wrenching reaction to it, you know?

    However, your thoughts ease my nerves and make me more curious than anything else to give Under the Light a try. So happy you vetted it for me:) Awesome review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Heather–I am so excited for you to read this! I was super nervous about it too, but it exceeded my expectations. I really hope you’ll be satisfied by it, too.

      Both of these books are so different from any other books out there–they are so somber and serious, but touched with lightness and beauty, too. They touch me on a deep level that doesn’t get touched all that often, so I know what you mean.

      I will be stalking you for updates. :)

  30. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I just saw a review of this first book on someone’s blog today! It’s kismet. I need to read both it and this second book that has you waxing poetic. I so adore when an author’s writing is so stunning, you’re swept away by it.

    • Wendy Darling

      Clearly, it’s meant to be and you’re meant to have it! I want to kiss this book to pieces, so yes, I love the writing, hah. I hope you will, too.

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Juju–I love that cover, too. It goes well with the first one, although it’s lighter in tone. (Both literally and figuratively.)

  31. Kelly

    Oh yey! I recently read a review for this that just tore it to pieces, so it’s nice to hear the other side of things. I’m hoping that I’m one of those people who can keep an open mind and appreciate the stunning prose, because the concept behind this series is just so intriguing!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh no, someone tore it to pieces? That is so sad. The first book is a pretty polarizing read for a lot of different reasons, but it seems strange that someone who made it to book two would dislike it that much.

      I would love to hear what you think of this series, Kelly.

  32. Julie@My5monkeys

    wow . what an awesome review. I hadn’t heard of this book, so going to add this book to the reading pile :) Sounds like my book seriously

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s not very well known, Julie–it’s written in a very adult literary fiction kind of way, so maybe that’s why. I hope you enjoy it when you get around to it!

  33. Danny

    Wow… what a beautiful and convincing review:) I haven’t read the first book, but I know when a sequel is that good the first book needs to be awesome too! Thanks:))

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, thank you Danny! It’s rare when a sequel outdoes the original for sure–I’m glad to hear you’re going to give this series a shot sometime.

  34. Keertana

    I skimmed this review since I haven’t read the first book yet, although I do have it, but I’m thrilled you loved this one! I know Tatiana over at The Readventurer wasn’t a huge fan, which made me wary about picking this up, but I’ll give it a try now for sure once I’ve finally read A Certain Slant of Light. Great review, dear! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      As much as I was looking forward to reading it, I was also so afraid it wouldn’t live up to expectations–but it more than did for me, Keertana. I’m certainly very interested in your thoughts when you do read the first one–it’s not for everyone, but I think you might respond to it.

  35. Elizabeth Fama

    These two books sound like they’re for me! (I already have A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT on my Kindle, at your recommendation.)

    • Wendy Darling

      Dear, dear Ms. Fama–this book was positively written for you. You can be sure that whenever I mention “literary YA with difficult themes” I’m thinking of you, Nova Ren Suma, Cat Hellisen.

      I’m so looking forward to hearing what you think of ACSOL!