September 27, 2016

Flashbulb Moments • Leave Me + The Light Fantastic

Leave Me book cover
Leave Me by Gayle Forman
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: ARC downloaded from Edelweiss (Thanks!)

Leave Me is Gayle Forman’s first foray into adult fiction, and I certainly hope it isn’t her last! This novel is centered around Maribeth, who is a full-time mother, wife and employee. Her life is a delicate balance of all of the responsibilities she shoulders – and it comes crashing down around her when she has a heart attack. When she realizes that there are still so many expectations on her while she’s in recovery, she impulsively decides to leave everything – her husband, her children, her job, her friends – and escape somewhere where she can be on her own and not be responsible for anything but her own recuperation.

Before I get into my thoughts, here are a few questions to ponder. Have you ever experienced something that derailed your life completely? Have you ever wanted to step back from your day-to-day to take a break, to figure things out? Have you ever needed to reevaluate the choices you’ve made and the people you’ve surrounded yourself with and the things you have or have not done? I know I have personally gone through all these things. Having my own version of her story is what made Maribeth’s experiences easy for me to relate to. Gayle’s writing is also lovely, as always, making it easy for the reader to slip into Maribeth’s story. While I might not necessarily agree with all her choices or like how she feels about things, I could understand where Maribeth was coming from – a gift of Gayle’s storytelling style. This was definitely a read that made me think, even though it felt a touch too quick (and perhaps wrapped up too many plot points all in the same go). This has me looking forward to seeing another adult novel from Gayle in the future, as well as willing to declare that it is worth a read.

The Light Fantastic book cover
The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source: ARC from the publisher (Thanks!)

The only thing I knew about The Light Fantastic before cracking it open was that it was set against Senior Skip Day, which somehow gave me the impression that this was going to be a fun, quick read. Boy, was I totally, totally wrong. The Light Fantastic is a multi-narrator tale that manages to combine the power of being anonymous on the internet, the weighty emotions that cause people to make the choices they do and the hope that can still pierce like a ray of light into the darkest of times. It was by no means easy for me to read (and in fact, let me warn you know that if you get easily triggered anxiety and depression, this may not be for you), but it was definitely a book that left an impression.

As I said in my initial thoughts on Goodreads, it is so hard to talk about The Light Fantastic. It’s a complicated narrative, compelling in how it explores the teen psyche through multiple perspectives and also in the way that someone watching a plane crash can’t look away. Everything happens in the course of one unforgettable, intensely emotional day, a day that changes the course of all these lives forever. I appreciated the concept of combining these seemingly unrelated perspectives, anticipating the big reveal to show me how they were connected to one another, even though there were definitely narratives I favored over the rest. It still wound up weaving this really complex story tapestry by the end, and I liked that a lot. Even though I was at turns anxious, sad and terrified, I also felt the stirrings of hope, of belief in the good that exists in the world – which is no small thing. While I don’t necessarily feel like this is going to be a book for every reader, I think it will be a worthwhile choice for anyone who chooses to pick it up.


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