The Light FantasticSarah Combs Publisher: Candlewick Released: 09.13.16 Review by Emily Yee | July 26, 2016 at 2:30 PM
“Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you.”
Basically: Seven lives across the country are about to change permanently in a day thanks to the Mastermind’s Plan, and they have a lot more in common than you might think.
Especially in the wake of recent events, The Light Fantastic hits home, and it hits home hard. Alternating narrators piece together the story of what happened on April 19th: from April’s Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, to Gavin’s superfluous use of hashtags, to Phoebe’s second thoughts about the Plan, Sarah Combs intertwines each one of their narratives to create a psychological thriller that reflects the attacks that unfortunately have become a part of today’s reality.
What drew us to pick up the book was the Plan mentioned in the back matter, briefly described just enough to get us hooked. Essentially, the Plan is a series of tragedies born out of heartbreak and shame set to unfold across the country on Senior Skip Day, but not all of the Assassins are completely on board with it. In a last minute attempt at redemption, they seek out what it means to live and how to move on from anguish through embracing the interconnectedness of their lives with others.
With gorgeous prose, Combs does an incredible job of going deep into detail about each of the seven narrators’ lives, unrepentantly revealing truths about teenage angst and what it means to grow up. Just the fact that she’s able to juggle multiple points of view that switch every chapter while keeping each character’s individuality and voice intact demonstrates her fearlessness and skill as a writer. For us, Gavin’s characterization stood out the most in his unapologetic wittiness and determined optimism about the future, despite the intensity of the novel. Even if it sometimes felt like scrolling through a twitter feed with the sheer number of hashtags included, his narration is refreshing in the way he chooses to see the best in every situation.
Combs’ writing style reflects a poetic stream of consciousness, one that flows from one character to the next in almost a dream-like way, with a steady buildup of an exploration into violence without ever becoming graphic. But while her writing seems to spiral and escalate atmospherically, she keeps us grounded with references to recent tragedies as a reminder that her work of fiction is a lot more real than you might originally think.
In the end: Read it; The Light Fantastic is one of those eye-opening novels that will stay with you for weeks on end.