I loved Jay Asher’s two previous books so I couldn’t wait to dig into his new novel, What Light. One of the things I noticed right off the bat is that the story has an incredible sense of place. I feel like I am at the gorgeous Christmas tree farm in Oregon and in her family’s trailer when they sell their trees during the holiday season in California. Sierra has two lives in a sense. She lives in Oregon on her parent’s Christmas tree farm. Each year at Thanksgiving they move to California for the holiday season to sell their trees at the same lot her grandparents ran many years ago. Sierra has a best friend in California she looks forward to seeing every year. Heather decides that Sierra needs a winter romance, but Sierra wants no part of it until she sees Caleb. Caleb has a dark past that has made him a bit of a pariah in his small town. But Sierra knows there is more to his story and sees the sadness in his eyes. At the same time Sierra’s parents are struggling with the economic challenges of opening the tree lot each year which would end their holiday tradition. This is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness. It gave me the warm fuzzies with its holiday atmosphere. I highly recommend this one on your holiday reading list. This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss how Sierra’s life is different in Oregon her time in California.
What makes Caleb more appealing to Sierra than Andrew?
Discuss what it would mean to have a vocation that you loved the way Sierra’s parents love their farm and seeing the customers faces as they pick out their favorite tree.
Discuss that moment where Caleb realizes Sierra has heard something about him.
Discuss how their relationship unfolds. How did Sierra and Caleb change each other’s lives?
Discuss how rumors can affect someone’s life.
Discuss Caleb’s relationship with his former best friend and how his family acted around him.
What do you think is next for Caleb and Sierra?
Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler’s The Future of Us takes us back to a time long before facebook. Only the privileged few had cell phones and it was cool to carry beepers. Emma and Josh are next door neighbors. They’ve been close friends since forever until Josh makes an unwelcome move. Now everything is awkward. Emma now has a computer and Josh shares his AOL start up disk with her. After the long dial up connection finally kicks in, she loads up AOL. But on the computer is a curious thing called “facebook.” On facebook she sees her future self 20 years later and she doesn’t like what she sees. Her husband hasn’t been home in days and she seems miserable. Josh thinks it is a prank until he sees his own future self. The difference is his future looks great because he is married to the hottest girl in school. Josh never gave her much thought because she was so out of his league. Things become interesting when he starts to talk to her. Is this dream girl really the one for him? Emma keeps making changes to see what happens to her future. That frustrates Josh because what happens if it messes with his? They also notice some things about other friends that worry them. But how much should they share and would anyone believe them?
I admit that I spend an absurd amount of time on facebook. My iphone has only made this worse. When I read the parts when Emma read her posts about her personal life it made me look at myself. Do I post anything that personal? Should I be embarrassed? I can see how flabbergasting the concept of facebook would be to a generation that just discovered the internet. I remember getting my aol account and thinking, “ok, this is cool, now what?”
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Is there a person you secretly hope to have listed as your spouse in the future?
How did you feel about the way that Emma kept changing her future? Was she too quick?
Talk about your ideal future. Would you want to know if you had a facebook crystal ball?
Talk about what happens when one friend “likes” the other and that person doesn’t feel the same way.
Discuss how Josh felt about Sydney. What happened as he got to know her. How did that change his future?
Discuss the butterfly effect.
Should Emma have warned Kellan about her future?