Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Three Reasons to Read The Way the Light Bends

Do you love electric, heartrending stories about the bonds that bind families? Do you enjoy stories told in carefully-cracked lines of free-verse poetry? Do you long to travel to New York through vividly-woven world-building?

If so, you have to give Cordelia's Jensen's work a try. Keep reading to find out why you should pick up The Way the Light Bends (or click here if you're interested in Skyscraping, her debut novel centered around the NYC AIDS crisis), but whichever book you start with, I know you'll be a fan.

the book

The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen | Goodreads

Publisher: Philomel Books
Release: March 27, 2018
Source: Author
ISBN: 9780399547447
Virtual twins Linc and Holly were once extremely close. But while artistic, creative Linc is her parents' daughter biologically, it's smart, popular Holly, adopted from Ghana as a baby, who exemplifies the family's high-achieving model of academic success.

Linc is desperate to pursue photography, to find a place of belonging, and for her family to accept her for who she is, despite her surgeon mother's constant disapproval and her growing distance from Holly. So when she comes up with a plan to use her photography interests and skills to do better in school--via a project based on Seneca Village, a long-gone village in the space that now holds Central Park, where all inhabitants, regardless of race, lived together harmoniously--Linc is excited and determined to prove that her differences are assets, that she has what it takes to make her mother proud. But when a long-buried family secret comes to light, Linc must decide whether her mother's love is worth obtaining.

three reasons to read it 

I'm a firm believer that YA needs more families, more present parents, more sibling relationships—and when I say all of this, I mean YA needs more families like Cordelia Jensen writes them. In both her debut and her upcoming novel, she creates bittersweet family bonds that feel emotional and true-to-life. Whether you're cheering for Linc to convince her parents that her artistic pursuits are worthwhile or racing to uncover the family's shrouded, storied past, you'll be completely absorbed in this family's strained-yet-somehow-loving home.

Best of all, though, is Linc's relationship with her twin, Holly. The pair used to be inseparable, but lately their lives have diverged due to differing interests, Holly's boyfriend, and more—leaving Linc feeling lonely and left-behind. The result is a relatable, uncomfortable, fascinating dynamic. It's perfect for fans of The Upside of Unrequited who related to Molly's struggle to come to terms with the fact that she and her twin might not always be each other's #1 person.

One of this story's key interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts is Linc's perceived inability to succeed in school; her academic struggles create immense tension between her and her parents and deeply impact her self-worth. These conflicts provide plenty of room for character growth—on the part of the protagonist and her parents—but best of all, seeing a protagonist with average academics is refreshing in and of itself. The Way the Light Bends reflects the reality, as so many contemporary YA books do not, that not every teen has a 4.0 GPA, that not every teen feels stereotypically book-smart—and most importantly, that straight As in high school are not a prerequisite for a successful life. I loved watching Linc pursue her dreams despite her confusion in geometry class, and I want to cheer for more characters with an academic standing like hers.

I'll admit it: I'm not usually a fan of the in-verse storytelling style. It's not a deal-breaker by any means, but verse writing has to truly captivate me to have me as invested as classic prose. That's why Jensen's stunning ability to tell rich, deeply-felt stories using sparse wording impresses me all the more.

In my review of Skyscraping, I wrote that Jensen's broken free verse creates an emotional, breathless voice, as if the narrator is bursting with a vital story but is too emotional to tell her tale in anything more than short explosions of words. A similar analysis can be applied to The Way the Light Bends; while Jensen's upcoming novel isn't quite as much of a tearjerker as her debut, its verse still conveys a breathlessness, an inability to tell the whole truth. But this time, the breathlessness comes from Linc's passion for her art; the brokenness from her fear to share her true self with her family. The result is a fast-paced, captivating story that reads like the staccato clicks of a camera shutter—but manages to create an image as cinematic as a Pulitzer-winning photograph.

Have you read any of Cordelia Jensen's work, and do you love it as much as I do? What are your favorite books about family, and what are your favorite novels in verse? Let me know in the comments!

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