I belong to a few book clubs on Goodreads and one of the monthly reads was a YA book entitled Gives Light by Rose Christo. I often enjoy reading YA novels and I was not disappointed by this one.
The hero of our story is 16-year-old Skylar St. Clair, half white and half Native American who is not your typical teenage boy. He was almost killed when his throat was cut by his mother’s murderer 11 years ago and the attack left him physically unable to speak. Thus, we follow the story through Skylar’s thoughts (which are often clever, witty and laugh-out-loud funny) and his interactions with others. He lives with his mysterious father and during this particular summer, his father fails to return home. Skylar find himself placed on the Nettlebush Indian Reservation is the custody of his only living relative – his estranged Grandmother (but never call her Granny!), whom he has never met until now. On the reservation, he connects with his people and his roots as learns the customs of his tribe (the Shoshone). Here, Skylar discovers an entirely new side of himself and finally seems to find his place in the world.
But the story is a much more complicated than that. Shortly after his arrival at the reservation, Skylar meets a brooding, moody young man named Rafael who most of the people on the reservation tend to either dislike or fear. Skylar feels a flash of recognition when they meet and he soon realizes why: Rafael is the son of the man who murdered his mother. But even though they should be enemies, Skylar finds himself gravitating towards the surly young man and soon they develop an unlikely friendship. Through Rafael, Skylar learns the truth behind his mother’s murder and his own attack. As the story progresses, we learn much more about Rafael’s past and understand that he carries his own scars from the horrific events in his life and his fear that he will turn out to be *his father’s son*. A mystery also begins to unfold as the author brings to light the reason for the disappearance of Skylar’s father, why the FBI keeps showing up on Skylar’s doorstep and the truth about what really happened 11 years ago.
What follows is a tender yet intense coming of age story of first love as Skylar and Rafael slowly discover — then accept — their growing attraction to each other. But the book is much more that a simple love story. It is a novel about innocence, forgiveness, revenge and the scars we carry both on the inside and on the outside. It’s a story of acceptance and the importance of the connection we make with our community — and how important it is not to judge others based upon outward appearances for there is always so much more beneath the surface.
While heartbreaking in some places, I’m pleased to say that the book is not “angsty”(a genre that I’m not particularly fond of) and is actually a sweet and beautifully written story combining romance, excellent character development all wrapped up in a mystery that slowly unravels as the story progresses. After reading this novel, I learned that it is part of a 4 book series and I can’t wait to continue with the next book. Now if you’re looking for a hot, steamy, M/M romance, you won’t find it here (remember – YA novel). Instead, you will find an emotional yet gripping story of the unlikely friendship — then romance — of two boys with scarred and painful pasts. Again, it’s not a dark story, but rather a heartfelt, upbeat one with rich, well-developed characters and a compelling plot. I think that Gives Light is very likely the best novel I have read in along time and in my humble opinion, is not to be missed.
I give it 5 speechless stars out of 5!