This Raging Light, by Estelle Laure

Lucille, a 17-year-old high school student, has a lot on her plate. Her father had a mental breakdown and has vanished. Her mother has skipped town as well, leaving her to look after her younger sister, Wren. To top it off, she’s falling for her best friend’s brother, who has a serious girlfriend. With very real adult problems lurking, Lucille is holding it together – just.

The story follows Lucille as she attempts to juggle some major challenges in her life. While the cover hints at a romance, it is so much more than a cliché young adult love story. Lucille must figure out how to pay the bills, maintain a household, keep her grades up and raise her sister, all while battling with her own emotions.

This Raging Light has a lot going on. There are endless story threads – Lucille’s family drama, a complicated love, a tricky friendship issue, an accident and a mystery – and it can get a bit overwhelming. Unfortunately, the threads aren’t all bundled up together in a nice resolution at the end either. In fact, you are left hanging, which makes rumours of a sequel more interesting. Or maybe the author wants it to be like life — sometimes there just is no answers.

Despite this confusing finale, it is a fast-paced story which is poetically written. It will suck you in from the first page as you race to find out what exactly is going on. I was moved to tears at one particular point I was so caught up in the story. This was because Laure creates such real, vivid characters.

Lucille is a fantastic, strong, authentic voice. Laure has a way of making you want to reach in the pages, hug her and take care of her and Wren. It was also nice to read about a young woman who doesn’t wallow when things don’t go her way. Lucille takes the bull by the horns and gets things done, but she is also fragile and fickle. Wren is the sweetest little girl and every support character feels alive.

Laure has also realistically and honestly told a story of family dysfunction. There are so many themes and morals, that it would make a great addition to a class book list for high schools. It is perfectly aimed at the young adult market. The only one niggle is Eden’s smoking habit. While it’s not mentioned that she smokes to keep her weight down it is implied through her passion of ballet. It’s a habit that isn’t addressed or resolved, which doesn’t quite sit right for a younger audience.

This is Laure’s debut novel and it is a little obvious. Some of the Lucille’s internal monologue is clunky and requires a second reading. While this may have been an attempt to portray indecisiveness, it doesn’t pay off. With a bit of polishing however, Laure has plenty of potential to become a stand-out writer. This Raging Light is certainly an impressive beginning.

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Rebekah is an Otago-based mother of two young girls. The former journalist and primary school teacher has a soft spot for New Zealand authors and young adult fiction. Follow her on Twitter.

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