Recommended for ages 12+
April 19 is Senior Skip Day, and it’s April Donovan’s 18th birthday. It’s also four days after the Boston Marathon and 18 years after Timothy McVeigh drove a truck bomb through the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. April has a rare memory condition, hyperthymesia, which means she has photographic recall of her life’s events. This recall has spurred an obsession with tragedies that have happened in April, her birth month, throughout history. Elsewhere, Lincoln Evans – connected in his own way to April – is trying to understand his sometime girlfriend, Laura. Their teacher is distracted by another student’s chilling statement earlier. Across the country, a group of teens that call themselves The Assassins, led by someone calling himself (herself?) The Mastermind, are getting ready to set something terrible into motion.
The Light Fantastic brings together seven voices to tell the story of teens on the brink. There’s one adult voice here; a teacher’s voice, and she’s not there to be the heavy, the whistle-blower, or the accomplice. Each voice has a painful story to tell; each narrator has a tale to tell, intertwined with the events of April 19, 2013. It’s a tense, complex novel with some diversity to its voices. It felt a bit scattered at times – I think it may be the multiple narrators, backstories, and locations. Bringing everyone together online was helpful; I would have liked to see a little more of that interaction.
In these days when school and public violence surrounds us, The Light Fantastic is an important book to get into readers’ hands and get them talking. Booktalk this with A.S. King’s I Crawl Through It and by Marieke Nijkamp’s This is Where it Ends. Candlewick offers a free discussion guide with common core information.