Monday 21 March 2011

First Light

First Light by Rebecca Stead (Text)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921758256
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie.

Set on the ice in Greenland, this is the story of two teenagers, Peter and Thea, who come from very different places. Peter is visiting from New York with his glaciologist father on a scientific expedition. Thea lives beneath the ice in a land that never sees the sun. As the story progresses the lives of Peter and Thea intersect and secrets are explained. This is fantasy fiction suitable for older primary or younger secondary school students.

Thea lives in Gracehope, underneath an arctic glacier. Her ancestors retreated here after being hunted, generations ago. Ingenious inventions enable the population to breathe, build houses and eat. They skate everywhere and each person has a dog as a companion. Thea longs to go up to the surface, also a dream of her late mother.

Peter has just started noticing strange visual sensations, followed by a headache. His mother also gets headaches, and is withdrawn for periods of time. Although he doesn't understand, Peter knows that his parents are searching for something. As the visual disturbances increase, Peter finds himself more and more drawn towards finding out about his mother.  

The highlight of this book is Gracehope, a vividly imagined world with its own unique customs and people. The tie-in to the 'real' world is global warming which is a topical subject. However sometimes the explanations by Peter's parents can be quite expositional. The point of view swaps smoothly between chapters from Peter to Thea, eventually combining when they meet. The preface, with a vital clue to the secret, immediately sets the scene in fantasy.    

First Light is about having the courage to search for important things. It will be enjoyed by young adults who like to stretch their imaginations. 

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