Gives Light by Rose Christo

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

I have so many feelings about this book.

To summarize my emotional experience with Gives Light, I want to post a picture of me clutching my chest while lying on the bathroom floor in fetal position. Instead, I will try to dissect why I love this fabulous novel by Rose Christo.

Feeling #1: Appreciation. Gives Light screams of diversity. The protagonist, Skylar, is a half-white, half-Shoshone sixteen-year-old who cannot speak and has feelings for a boy. Diversity has come up a lot in recent conversations about young-adult literature, and this book hits it right in every way. Christo keeps the main plot compelling – Skylar, whose mother was murdered when he was little, moves to the Nettlebush reserve and befriends the son of his mother’s murderer – while weaving in details about Shoshone culture, tradition, and history. Gives Light is a book that makes me think: I am ignorant. I am still ignorant. But thanks to this book and its characters, I am a little less ignorant than I was yesterday, and I will gain even more knowledge if I keep exploring tomorrow.

I don’t like to break promises, and that was the only thing keeping me from turning and running away. Because I was having those thoughts again, that I didn’t belong here, that I was rubbing salt in an open wound. The same dance had been performed centuries ago and had ended in spilled blood and tears. The Natives had danced and the whites had slain them for it. And really – can you think of anything more ridiculous to fight over? A dance? The eyes on me were patient and expectant. I could feel myself split in two, the two halves of my own history. I was the fallen Plains children and I was the usurpers who had taken their lives and their land. That didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t make sense to me.

Feeling #2: Admiration. Christo’s writing flows like water, the kind of water that leaves you feeling refreshed, satisfied, and thirsting for more. She balances so many different elements in Gives Light: Skylar and Rafael’s relationship, Skylar’s familial strife, the unique setting of the reservation, and the culture of the Shoshone people. Her prose kept it all on track, and while I felt enamored with Skylar and Rafael’s characters, I still searched online for images of promontories and grottoes to even better visualize Christo’s imagery-laden writing. These feelings of appreciation and admiration grant this book a five-star rating, but the following emotion gives it a spot in my heart as one of my favorites.

I can’t possibly describe the effect that a simple smile had on his face. I can try, but even now I know I won’t do it any justice. Because when he smiled, he showed all his teeth – like a wolf – but it was inexplicably innocent, free from ferocity. When he smiled, there was a light in his eyes that didn’t usually occupy his visage. When he smiled, his dimples were deep, like laugh lines, and I saw the missing tooth at the back of his mouth and the hidden laughter he had bottled up for years.

Feeling #3: Adoration. Skylar and Rafael. Skylar and Rafael. Skyfael. Oh, how I love these characters. Skylar, a boy with orphan Annie hair and a jacket he never takes off, comes to Nettlebush reserve and meets Rafael, a brooding loner and the son of the man who murdered Skylar’s mother and left Skylar mute. An unexpected duo, they spend time together and start to heal the hurt within both of their hearts.

For the first 20% of the book I felt a little unsure of their relationship, but after that initial fifth, I fell in love with them. Rafael’s moody tendencies and how he punishes himself for his father’s crimes, Skylar’s growth from the boy who hid his scars to the young adult who lets people see them, even the simple moments when Rafael sang so Skylar could learn a song on his flute – these two have won my adoration and my affection without a doubt. Together they bond over the burdens their families have placed upon them, and they turn those burdens into gifts that they share with one another.

He broke away from my mouth and trailed his lips down the front of my throat. I felt his lips close around my scars. He kissed away their ugliness. His lips parted in tingling butterfly kisses that drained the strength from my knees. I realized he was mouthing words against my skin.

Not words. Just one word.

Mine.

Feeling #4: Anticipation. Thank goodness there are three more books in this series. I cannot wait to read them, and I also cannot wait for others to read Gives Light and fall in love with the Skylar and Rafael like I have.

Highly, highly recommended for fans of young-adult fiction who desire a diverse and heartfelt story. Gives Light reminds me of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and those who know about my ardor for that book know that that is not a comparison to be taken lightly.

*you can also check out my reviews of Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz and Runaway by Alice Munro here and here, respectively

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16 Comments

Filed under 5 stars, Book Reviews, Books

16 responses to “Gives Light by Rose Christo

  1. Laras

    Out of curiosity, when you begin a book, do you start with any type of preconceptions and ideas of how the book will be or do you let the narrative take over first and let you think about it after?

    • Laras, thank you for the thoughtful question! I feel like it’s a mixture of both for me. Because of Goodreads, the internet, and word of mouth, it’s almost impossible to completely avoid biases or preconceptions of books before I begin them. Still, I try to make sure that I keep an open mind when reading – usually if the book is good the narrative will take over and I’ll think more deeply about how I was affected by the book after I read it. Because I review every book I read it’s helpful for me to sometimes compare first impressions/thoughts and my later feelings.

      What about you? Is it a combination of beginning with preconceptions and then thinking about it after, or do you stick with one?

      • Laras

        Sorry for the late reply Thomas! My notifications weren’t on.

        I honestly think you’re right, it is unavoidable to have some bias even from reading the blurb alone. It’s definitely a mixture. One of the best feelings for me is picking up a book that I feel is going to be great, and having those preconceptions/expectations fulfilled – as selfish as that sounds. So in a way I like to have the preconceptions to excite me into reading the book. However that doesn’t mean to say I’ve never picked up a book I was skeptical about only to be absolutely drawn to the story.

  2. Well this is definitely going on my Goodreads TBR now!

  3. Sounds like a great book! I’ll definitely see if I can find it somewhere :)

  4. Well if it is as good as “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” (which I also loved), then it must be good. Adding this to my to-read list now.

  5. WOW. This review is utterly gorgeous, Thomas-you had me from your very first fetal position image, and each subsequent sentence and praise of the book’s emotions and themes and writing have convinced me that I need this book NOW! Thank you so much for the review, I’m adding it to my TBR list immediately.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • Thank you so much Wendy! I feel like you would appreciate Gives Light on several levels. Hope you enjoy it if/when you have time to read it amidst your book-filled and busy schedule.

  6. Aww, Gives Light!! <3 I love this series so much. This first book especially."Christo’s writing flows like water, the kind of water that leaves you feeling refreshed, satisfied, and thirsting for more." YES. THIS.

    Skyfael – haha, I love it.

    Beautiful review! You made me want to revisit these beautiful boys :)

    • Aw, thank you! Have you read the others in the series? I’m a little scared to venture forth and pick up the second book, just because this one was so superb.

  7. Julia

    Sigh. I really adore this series. It’s just so different from the regular cliched M/M books I usually abhor. I think Christo’s strength is in how she is very straightforward but also intriguing at the same time. Like, she conveys the purity and intensity of the boys’ feelings for each other, but at the same time she also draws a realistic portrayal of the real world around them, which is complicated, messy and hopeful at the same time. It’s mesmerizing. It’s the only M/M series that I give four stars to. Great review, btw.

    • Julia, I think you articulate well what makes Christo’s writing so wonderful. Even though Skylar and Rafael have such intense feelings for each other, her writing still renders them realistic, and it provides the perfect amount of detail about their surroundings. I’m assuming when you say “the only M/M series that [you've given] four starts to” that you’ve read the later installments? Still deciding whether I should or not, ugh, the anticipation. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      • Julia

        Yes, I have. ‘Why the Stars Stand Still’ is the last book, I think. Christo should write more. Seriously.
        Also, I really think you should read the whole series. Totally worth it.

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