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.
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.