When the Vasquez siblings’ father left, it seemed like nothing could remedy the absence in their lives–at least, until a shimmering figure they called Luz appeared in the canyon behind their house.
Luz did what their father didn’t. He shot hoops with Hank’s own hands, he showed movies behind Ana’s eyelids, and he spoke kindly to Milo. But when Luz left, he took something from each–Hank’s hands, Ana’s eyes, Milo’s ears–and with the new school year, the Vasquez siblings must carry on.
Yet this won’t be as easy as they thought it’d be because Luz changed everything about how they see the world and themselves.
OH MY GOSH THIS BOOK.
I picked this up at my library in the uncatalogued section (where they have some ARCs) on a whim, and I regret nothing.
When I started reading it this Friday night, I knew nothing about it. I hadn’t read the summary and I probably wouldn’t have actually started if I didn’t schedule this post weeks ago thinking I would read this book before then.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting–maybe something fake-poetic based on the vague-ness of the title, but it ended up not being a fake-poetic intentionally-vague largely-metaphorical-but-truly-unhelpful type of novel.
It had a delicious magical-realism atmosphere (despite not being magical realism), themes on friendship and family and living through a loss, and a very impactful narrative.
It was good. It was so good.
I haven’t read a book this good since December (ok, that’s not very long but still). This is what I’d call a true 5 star read because it was amazing emotionally (I had such a fantastic and enjoyable time reading) and technically (it was written very well).
I almost couldn’t put this book down.
It was just very entertaining–I was sucked into the narrative and I wanted to read more, more, more and I wanted to know what happened to the Vasquez siblings.
At first, it was a little funky because the first chapter of each part is in third person omniscient so there’s a lot of bumping around from character to character without distinguishable breaks, so it made it a little confusing until I realized what was happening. But after, it switches to third person limited and it feels more comfortable.
It was very nuanced and had some half-flashback half-not-flashback scenes that were executed really well in my opinion. It could have been hella confusing to read present, past, present, past happening all in one page, but I think Thomas made it work and the parallels she put into it made it so interesting.
And the entire plot was very interesting. I had no idea what was going to happen/what had happened (I didn’t read the summary) before I started, but Thomas introduced the whole story to us very well.
Luz is an alien/spirit/parasite/something that inhabited all three of the Vasquez siblings and left a ton of damage in its wake.
This book deals with the aftermath of Luz and slowly exposes what he did to make the entire family so traumatized. It reveals everything to you bit by bit and it just pulls you into the story with the mystery behind Luz and what he did and where he came from.
The characters are all so complex, and I loved how even the side characters were developed really well.
Ana struggles with self-harm as well as having a crush on her brother’s ex-boyfriend and living life after Luz and dealing with the loss of her best-friend after actions Luz made her do. I loved her story of healing and how she slowly began to get better as school started–making new friends and actually closing her eyes.
Hank struggles with touching anything with his hands after Luz did something to them and this affects his basketball performance, all while his actions under the influence of Luz haunts him and the halls of the school.
Milo has to have his headphones in his ears or else he’ll hear the Roaring Nothing and begin screaming–and this isn’t something that his classmates or his second grade teacher find to be conducive to learning. He’s dealing with the loss of his “Dad” (Milo believed Luz was his “Dad” coming back) and it broke his heart all over again.
They’ve all got a ton of problems, but through the narrative, they work to overcome this. Their growth and change as people after a surreal encounter mimics that of growth and change after a non-surreal but equally-traumatizing event, and I really enjoyed this.
This might just seem like 400 pages of character growth, but let me tell you–spicy things happen that I can’t spoil. (Is Luz really gone…?)
The magical realism atmosphere was delicious–it was spooky (and got creepier with Luz) and it also had this very nice rhythm to the narrative so it never lagged or did anything funny.
There are so many things that I could talk about that I love about this book, but then I’d just write the whole book all over again! There was symbolism, parallels, foreshadowing, and all sorts of great technical use of writing techniques in this book that took it from just being entertaining to being amazing. I have zero criticism because it was beautiful, it was capturing, it was a very great read.
This makes the list to one of my favorite books. I’d totally recommend to everyone and anyone.
Thank you so much to my library and Bloomsbury Kids for providing me with an (uncatalogued) ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Are you going to read When Light Left Us? (Say yes!)