Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow

The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Hardcover, 304 pages, Simon Pulse
Genres: YA, Contemporary

A poignant and unexpectedly funny novel about Francis - one of the best and bravest teenage boy narrators since Adrian Mole. This is an emotionally honest story about wanting the very best from life, even when life shows you how very bad things can be.

Francis Wootton's first memory is of Kurt Cobain's death, and there have been other hardships closer to home since then. At fifteen years old he already knows all about loss and rejection - and to top it all off he has a permanently broke big brother, a grandma with selective memory (and very selective social graces) and a mum who's at best an acquired taste. Would-be poet, possible intellectual and definitely wasted in Tyne and Wear, Francis has grown used to figuring life out on his own. Lower Fifth is supposed to be his time, the start of an endless horizon towards whatever-comes-next. But when he is diagnosed with leukemia that wide-open future suddenly narrows, and a whole new world of worry presents itself. There's the horror of being held back a year at school, the threat of imminent baldness, having to locate his best shirt in case a visiting princess or pop-star fancies him for a photo-op . . . But he hadn't reckoned on meeting Amber - fierce, tough, one-of-a-kind Amber - and finding a reason to tackle it all - the good, the bad and everything in between - head on. In Bloom is a bright, funny, painful and refreshing novel about wanting the very best from life, even when life shows you how very bad it can be. It is a novel about how to live.

My Review

Francis Wootton is a normal kid. Well, as normal as a 15-year-old English boy with few friends, a love of literature, and a dastardly case of leukemia can be. He’s supposed to be strong and stoic in the face of potential death, but how can he be when his mother is seemingly going off the deep end and his big brother keeps stealing their food? In pops Amber, another teenager stuck in the chemo ward. And once Francis sees her, it’s kind of… err… not really, love at first sight. But there is chemistry.

Francis is an eclectic character. His mannerisms, jokes, views on life, and everything else about him will make you smile from ear to ear. And his interactions with his family, while sometimes sad and depressing (but that’s bound to happen with any story about sick children), are the stuff of every YA readers dreams. For once there is a family depicted in young adult literature that is so imperfect that it’s beautiful and wonderful. Instead of this book focusing on the dynamic between two love-struck teenagers, it focuses on the overall relationships a young, sick boy would have with those around him. You get to know his overbearing-ish mother, his broke brother, and his crazy grandmother all without detracting from the storyline.

While Amber is somewhat of an acquired taste, her romance with Francis is incredibly realistic. And unlike the somewhat romanticized version of love that’s in popular “sick lit” today, the characters are not only emotionally flawed, but physically flawed as well. There are facial blemishes; disappearances of hair…everywhere; and most importantly, but unfortunately for the characters, there is an abundance of sickness.

While The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise is a fantastic depiction of real people, both the sickly and the not so, remember that this book is written from the perspective of a boy in England, so the first few pages might be a little hard to get into, but once you get used to the dialog, the story will be well worth your time. Just don’t forget to keep a couple of tissues handy.

*Note: I borrowed a copy of this book to review for Book Review Board of Missouri. This in no way altered my opinion/review.

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