Review Detail

Light Years Featured
Young Adult Fiction 1797
Sci-fi Light
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
A dystopian-leaning mid-apocalyptic YA with a pandemic premise and a code savvy heroine.

The book takes place in a slightly alternate version of the present-day U.S., several years after a catastrophic presumed terror attack (referred to as the Blackout Bombing.) Thousands of people died and those responsible were never captured. The result was a weakened central government and the emergence of a popular govern-less organization called Front Line—which seemed to develop from volunteer first-responders who filled the void in the aftermath.

The story is told exclusively through the first-person present-tense eyes of 16-year-old Luisa Ochoa-Jones, a gifted coder with grand ambitions. Though she is tightly controlled and not outwardly very emotional, Luisa’s unusual neurological response to emotion has resulted in her taking a strong interest in the emotional reactions of others. So much so, she’s come up with an algorithm that scans the internet for pervasive emotional responses to a particular image. (A social media scraper, of sorts.) The data can then be sorted into geographical locations. It’s this algorithm, which she calls ‘LightYears,’ that she is (in the first chapter) pitching to a famously successful tech entrepreneur in hopes of winning a highly competitive fellowship. Of course, her priorities are forced to re-order when a deadly mystery illness begins sweeping across the globe…

What I liked:

The heroine is unique in that she apparently has a form of Synesthesia.
Synesthesia being a neurological condition/disorder (occurring in 1-4% of the population) which blurs the distinction between the five senses. Meaning, a person literally perceives something in a sense besides the sense that’s being stimulated (i.e. the sight of certain colors, shapes, or numbers may be perceived along with a particular taste or smell, or vice versa. Certain sounds or smells may concurrently be experienced as colors or textures…etc.)

Depending on the frequency and intensity, this involuntary extra perception can sometimes be overwhelming and/or disorienting for the person affected. And that’s precisely the case with Luisa. She thinks of her condition as sensory misfires, and explains the experience thusly: “Smells come with flashes of color, sounds have tastes, sights bring the sensation of temperature or touch. Certain people or places can spark complex reactions.”
For her, emotions tie in with this cross-perception effect. She indicates early on that her grandmother was the same way, and people viewed her as crazy—and so Luisa hides her condition from everyone but her immediate family.

I appreciated that, while the main character was Hispanic and there was some well-woven and openly translated Spanish involved, her ethnic background served as natural enrichment rather than an artificial focal point.

The prose itself is distinct—a strong voice with sometimes borderline poetic qualities. There were moments that memorable quotes and characterization bits punched through and lodged in my memory. Here’s one particular instance that manages both:
"My dad may be a recovering addict with five years of sobriety under his belt, but my mother is a recovering martyr with two decades of resentment under hers."
(And there you also have Luisa’s parents neatly summed up.)

What Didn’t Work For Me:

I was disappointed that Luisa’s neurological condition wasn’t actually named in the book. Not even when she finally reveals that part of herself to her love interest. She gives him only a few examples, explaining that she always thought it made her “weak” and “weird.” Sadly, this ended up feeling like a missed opportunity to better inform readers about a real neuro atypical issue in an unobtrusive way.

(While there are some great explanations of synesthesia out there, I personally favor the Good Mythical Morning version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj7vukZT9sI )

Unfortunately, this reader wasn’t able to connect with any of the characters as well as I would have liked. Ben was whiny and indecisive, Kamal seemed bland (outside of the novelty of being British and Muslim), Phoebe was domineering, manipulative, and frigid to an unrelatable degree… and Luisa was difficult to empathize with—which is discouraging, given we spend the whole book in her head.

Luisa presents as an aloof, calculating mind and a regular party girl with reverse Peter Pan syndrome. Once the apocalypse kicks in, she also turns out to be the kind of girl who’s apparent first instinct, when gifted a holy book by an uninfected quarantine camp worker, is to throw it in the garbage. And despite her purported high intelligence, she made a number of inexplicably senseless decisions toward the end that—along with a seeming late shift from the apocalyptic genre to the new-age spiritual/paranormal—may cause a distancing rift between the reader and the main character, as well as the reader and overall believability.

This reader’s biggest reservation centers around the perplexingly vague ending. Beyond a simple cliffhanger, it’s the kind of ending that raises more questions than it answers, and perhaps calls reality itself into question. All of the repeated symbols and spirituality never quite congealed into something sensical. (I still don’t understand the significance of the scar on Luisa’s knee, though it was brought up often enough to be blatantly purposeful.) It does at least seem clear that more books must be intended, so readers may simply have to wait to find satisfaction.

Content Note: The first half of this book is pretty laden with coarse language—f-bombs in particular—primarily from the lone viewpoint character. (Oddly, as the situation becomes more dire and apocalyptic, the language eases up—just when it would be easier to contextually overlook.) The book also contains numerous scenes involving casual underaged drinking, including one in which it is encouraged/facilitated by an adult.

The prose in this debut shows a lot of promise, but for me, the narrative didn’t quite come together. Readers who enjoy more in-depth worldbuilding and/or a sense of closure may want to hold out until the next book releases for a better sense of where this may be headed.
Report this review Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

Comments

Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Imber (Book One of The Thanatos Trilogy)
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The locks are failing. The...
Awesome Dog 5000 (#1)
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Marty, Ralph, and Skyler might make the ultimate secret combo...
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Althea Gibson was the quickest, tallest, most fearless athlete in...
The Big Game
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Danny Owens is dedicating his seventh-grade season to his Super...
Race to the Sun
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect...
Suffragette: The Battle for Equality
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Imprisonment, hunger strikes, suffrajitsu — the decades-long fight for women’s...
Catherine's War
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
A magnificent narrative inspired by a true survival story that...
Dangerous Alliance
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older...
Dugout: The Zombie Steals Home
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Twins Stacy and Gina Cavallaro are on rival little league...
The Fountains of Silence
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco...
Dinosnores (Boynton on Board)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
“Honk SHOOOOOO! Honk SHOOOOOO! . . .” ...
Good Day, Good Night
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Now in a sturdy board book format, perfect for little...
TBH, This May Be TMI (TBH, #2)
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Told entirely in text messages, the second book in this...
Creep
 
3.3
 
0.0 (0)
The haunting tale of a family that moves into...
Girl at Heart
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
As the daughter of a successful Major League pitcher,...
The Last of the Firedrakes
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
She never felt like she belonged…until magic pulled her...

Latest Member Reviews

Roll With It
 
5.0
"Ellie and her mother live in Nashville; her father left when she was young and has another family. Ellie loves..."
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
 
4.0
"Zoe lives in Boston with her mother and stepfather. Her best friend, Trevor, lives next door, but as summer starts,..."
Race to the Sun
 
5.0
"Nizhoni Begay struggles a bit. She manages to embarrass herself on the basketball court, watches out for her younger brother..."
That's What Friends Do
 
4.0
"Sammie and David have been good friends ever since the girls in her class started avoiding Sammie because she didn't..."
Catherine's War
 
5.0
"Catherine is living at the Sèvres Children's Home since both of her parents were taken. It has a progessive school,..."
Speed Demon
 
5.0
"Tim has recently moved to town and is starting ninth grade at Hilton Prep. During gym class one day, his..."
Dangerous Alliance
 
3.7
"Lady Victoria 'Vicky' Aston has a good life. Her older sister is married to a charming Viscount; her family estate..."
Dugout: The Zombie Steals Home
 
4.0
"Gina and Stacy are twins who play for rival baseball teams. This flows off the field into intense and sometimes..."
Dinosnores (Boynton on Board)
 
5.0
"DINOSNORES is another absolutely charming and delightfully ridiculous board book from Sandra Boynton. Here, the dinosaurs get ready for bed,..."
Good Day, Good Night
 
4.0
"GOOD DAY, GOOD NIGHT follows a bunny on his journey from sun-up to sunset, as he travels around town, plays..."
TBH, This May Be TMI (TBH, #2)
 
4.0
"TBH, THIS MAY BE TMI is the second in a contemporary middle grade series, though it can easily function as..."
I've Loved You Since Forever
 
5.0
"This gorgeous board book celebrates the parent-child bond in an absolutely stunning way. I'VE LOVED YOU SINCE FOREVER suggests that..."
My Baby Loves Christmas
 
5.0
"Babies and toddlers will love the colorful celebration of Christmas in this delightful board book. MY BABY LOVES CHRISTMAS is..."
Riverland
 
4.0
"RIVERLAND is a riveting and complex middle grade magical realism novel. Eleanor and her sister, Mike (nickname, everyone except their..."
All You Need Is a Pencil: The Totally Sick Sick-Day Activity Book
 
5.0
"THE TOTALLY SICK SICK-DAY ACTIVITY BOOK is exactly what the title describes. There are crossword puzzles, places to doodle, word..."
Animazes
 
5.0
"ANIMAZES shows the migration patterns of fourteen different creatures. It shows that there are several different paths these creatures can..."
Christmas Cheer for The Grouchy Ladybug
 
3.5
"CHRISTMAS CHEER FOR THE GROUCHY LADYBUG talks about everything exciting Christmas has to offer. There's snowflakes, fires, bells, presents, stockings,..."
Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing!
 
4.7
"BABY LOVES THE FIVE SENSES: HEARING teaches everything you need to know about how hearing, the ears, and sound all..."
 
5.0
"In 1935, ten-year-old Alex Maki is disgusted when he finds out that his pen-pal Charlie is a girl. Still, they..."
Under the Snow
 
5.0
"When you see snow, you think of how pretty it is or how cold it is. UNDER THE SNOW opens..."