I’ve been on a young adult kick recently, which is odd for me because I tend to not enjoy young adult books. I’ve lucked out, though. I’ve actually been enjoying the recent flood of young adult books that have come my direction. It’s been a refreshing change of pace from my usual reading routine. Lightbringer is one of those young adult books I didn’t expect to enjoy, but ended up appreciating more than I anticipated.
Lightbringer takes place both in our world and in a parallel world called The Never. This parallel world is a place where life and death exist together. Readers will have a little terminology to grasp (for example, the terms used to describe the dead like Rider, Walker, Lost and Shade), and The Never does take a little time getting used to. But once the reader is familiar with the rules that govern this world, it becomes obvious that McEntire has done a wonderful job of seamlessly blending our world and the world inhabited by ghosts to create something wonderful, enticing and new.
Lightbringer is refreshing in that none of the book is wasted on the protagonist, Wendy, coming to terms with her role as a Lightbringer, or a person who brings lost souls into the light. Instead, when the book starts, she is already fully aware of her role, and while there is a bit of a backstory as to how she was trained to handle her abilities, the book is written as if the reader already understands what Wendy’s role is, and is comfortable with it. Another interesting aspect of Wendy’s abilities is that the author never really addresses what happens after Wendy brings the souls into the light. Actually, Wendy herself doesn’t seem to know what happens to them, other than the fact that she’s sending them into the true afterlife. Thus, the reader is left wondering if Wendy is doing these souls a favor, or dooming them to some less happy place. Wendy’s ability, therefore, is rather ambiguous. As the story progresses, Wendy starts to question what she’s doing and all the things she was taught, which leaves her, as well as the reader, in an interesting fog of confusion which adds to the emotional depth of the book.
Wendy herself is a character of extremes. She can be understanding and loving on one page, and a few pages later shock the reader with her abrasive, angry attitude. While the reader may feel sympathy with her plight in life, there are occasions where her negative attitude can be grating. In this way, I personally feel she truly reflects a teenage girl (as most of them can be rather hot-and-cold at times). Thankfully, others around her point out this attitude flaw and she remedies her behaviors. However, her unwarranted snapping at others can be rather off-putting, though more positive aspects of her personality nicely balance her negativity.
The antagonist, the White Lady, should be mentioned as McEntire does a wonderful job at making her incredibly easy to loathe. While many authors are good at making a fitting antagonist, I doubt I’ve ever seen one so artfully done in a young adult book. Though readers may guess who the White Lady is before the big reveal takes place, it’s still great reading about her. The White Lady’s dialogue, especially toward the end, might really enflame the reader; it’s actually quite entertaining to read such a well-done negative character in a young adult book.
Lightbringer does take some time to get into, and some might quibble with the pacing, but at the end of the day this is a refreshing twist on paranormal young adult fiction. Lightbringer isn’t filled with sappy, unbelievable romance, nor does it have a large chunk of the plot dedicated to the protagonist coming to terms with her abilities and her new understanding of the world. Instead, the reader is thrown into a story where the protagonist, an incredibly strong, if hot-and-cold, teenager is dealing with her life as a high school student trying to keep her family together and find her mother’s lost soul. It’s a touching tale, and a harrowing one, and absolutely not what you’d expect from a young adult book about ghosts. It’s a fantastic change of pace, and one I highly recommend.