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Thursday, December 15, 2016

What Light, by Jay Asher. Razorbill, Random House. 2016. $24.99 ages 12 and up

"Before they split, the whole family used to go nuts this time of year," he says. "We went hardcore, from decorating to all these things we did with our church. Sometimes even Pastor Tom would go caroling with us. But when Dad moved to Nevada, I found out everything did stop for him. His house was this dark and depressing place to visit. Not only were there no Christmas lights ... "

I have waited ten long years to read a new novel by Jay Asher. The waiting is over, and he does not disappoint. In this Christmas charmer, we meet Sierra and learn she is the daughter of Christmas tree farmers. They live their life in Oregon except for the month they spend every year in California, selling the trees they have so carefully grown for customers, new and old.

Sierra's dad knows what can happen during the busy Christmas season. He fell in love with Sierra's mother while they were still in high school and working at a Christmas tree lot. So, he imposes strict, unreasonable rules for his daughter to prevent the same thing happening to her while she is so young. Those rules have not much bothered Sierra - until she meets Caleb.

They have an instant connection. Caleb has a troubled past, and doesn't want to talk about it. As she learns more about him, his kind and generous spirit, and his feelings for her, Sierra falls hard. Of course, there is going to be conflict. When she learns about his broken family, and the part he played in his sister leaving to live with their father, Sierra must come to terms with the Caleb she knows and the one that has others talking. Will they overcome the issues causing her conflicted feelings? Is it even worth it when Sierra will soon leave for Oregon and may not even be back next year? There is enough drama and charm to keep readers turning the pages, and wanting to know the decisions they make together.

This family story of love, hope and forgiveness is sure to find a legion of fans. The writing it witty, personal, and an exploration of accepting the past with the help of someone who cares deeply. If you know a teen who likes romance, mixed with realism and overcoming diversity, this is a great Christmas gift.

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