First Light by Rebecca Stead is one of my favorite recent finds. It reminds me of The Giver (by Lois Lowry) intertwined with a modern-day story that ends with more hope. (I liked it better than The Giver, if you couldn’t tell from that short summary.)
I’m not usually a fan of dystopian literature, although I read it because my students do (or have to). I like to read fluffy, fun books with lots of action and humor, and dystopian fiction usually doesn’t fit that description, even if it’s for kids.
But what I liked about this book was that it had a satisfying ending (a mystery with a proper solution that had good hints but didn’t give too much away), mainly thanks to the intricate interweaving of the two main story lines. I also liked the details about the glaciers and the dogs a lot. The beginning was a little confusing, but there’s enough realistic fiction in it for readers to relate to and anchor themselves with.
I don’t usually quote from other people in my reviews, but as I was refreshing my memory for this one (I don’t have a copy of the book yet, although one is in my Amazon cart to buy later), I found this great quote about how Stead started this book from her website for the book:
Rebecca plunged into First Light, stopping now and then to research. She decided that her story took place in Greenland, where dog sledding is part of everyday life, and suddenly she had a cast of dogs. She discovered that a glacier can conceal a freshwater lake, and that ﬁrefly light is triggered by oxygen. A glaciologist told her how to scare a polar bear with a flare gun, and why he loves his bread maker.
First Light also hints at other things she’s learned, such as the fact that children don’t need to be shielded from truth. They are often much braver than the rest of us.
This book is a great introduction to dystopian literature for upper elementary to middle school students, but it’s engaging enough for adults to enjoy as well. I liked this book better than When You Reach Me, the book Stead won the Newbery Award for. When You Reach Me was more confusing even though it only had one story line (which is about time travel and has references to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle).
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter F.