Title: A Certain Slant of Light
Author: Laura Whitcomb

For three whole months, I had this book listed on my Amazon wish list. Finally, I decided enough-was-enough and bought it.

Honestly people, put down whatever book you are reading right now, get yourself to Barnes and Noble and buy A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.

This book caused me a long sleepless night... and not in a bad way. In fact, I quite literally could not put this novel down.

Whitcomb's A Certain Slant of Light is, to put it lightly, stunning. It is beautifully lyrical, cleverly plotted and definitely one of the best "ghost" books I've ever read.

Background on the book:
Helen died 130 years ago as a young woman. Unable to enter heaven because of a sense of guilt she carried at death, she has been silent and invisible but conscious and sociable across the generations. Her spirit has been sustained by its attachment to one living human host after another, including a poet and, most recently, a high-school English teacher. While she sits through his class one day, she becomes aware of James and he–unlike the mortals all around them–is aware of her as well. James, who also died years earlier, inhabits the body of a contemporary teen, Billy. James and Helen fall in love, he shows her how to inhabit the body of a person whose spirit has died but who still lives and breathes, and the two begin to unfold the mysteries of their own pasts and those of their adolescent hosts. - School Library Journal

In Short:

Whitcomb writes A Certain Slant of Light with a grace reminiscent of Austen and Dickinson. One of the best aspects of her writing is how cleverly she infuses Helen's century-old mannerisms with that of modern day society. For a first time author, Whitcomb manages to pull this off with a style that neither feels forced nor over done.

Most importantly, this novel can be described as a melting pot of emotions. With the core being an imaginative lesson on redemption, it's moral is clear: to move forward, you must first forgive yourself for whatever is holding you back. This tale also is a beautiful mix of first love, heart-breaking loss, forgiveness, betrayal and deep soul searching.

I love just about everything about this book. In the next section, I would write down all the quotes I liked, but there would be far too many. So for this review, I will only post an overview of my favorite things about this novel. Also, no dislikes this time around, people. This book is too good.

A few things I love:

- I love Helen's relationship with Mr. Brown. Her adoration and jealousy was compelling and realistic.

- I love the way Whitcomb describes Helen's anxiety of being seen by James.

- Love that her novel is riddled with poetic references (Billy's named after William Blake).

- Helen and James' relationship: steamy, but not trashy. A fine line to walk, but brilliantly done.

- While I find Cathy and Dan distasteful, I think the depiction of such blind faith is well written and interesting. I also like how Helen stands in stark contrast against this environment and how Jenny opposes it. Moreover, I like how Jenny and Billy's homes foil each other.

- Love that all the characters are flawed in some way. It makes them more than just words on a page. It makes them flesh and bones.

- Really enjoyed reading how Whitcomb builds to the climax. Throughly loved the episode with Mr. Brown and the point at the end when she allows herself to let go and become more than just the light.

All in All:

Due to its somewhat mature content, I would recommend this book to high schoolers and adults. It is an equally gorgeous and devastating novel fraught with sexual tension and emotional situations.

If you love books like The Lovely Bones and The Host, Laura Whitcomb's charmingly lyrical novel, A Certain Slant of Light will definitely haunt you until it's final page.

Rating for A Certain Slant of Light: A

For more information on Laura Whitcomb, check out her website! Also be sure to check out The Reader's Quill's interview with Ms. Whitcomb, as well as her music playlist!

P.S. Be sure to check back Thursday for another installment of our interview series: Thank Goodness for Books!

P.S.S. This book's title comes from an Emily Dickinson poem by the same name. Below, you can watch a pretty cool video for it:

Click here to watch!

  1. It's a testimony to the power of your review. At first I was like, "A ghost book? No way." But I pressed on and think that I need to read this book. I don't think I'm going to put everything else down (simply because The Corrections is far too awesome for that), but it will definitely go on my wish list.


    Posted on November 12, 2008 at 9:28 AM

  2. Glad to be of service. Also, The Corrections?


    Posted on November 13, 2008 at 1:39 AM


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