There are times — not often I will admit, because seriously, who wants to be a teenager again?–but there are times when I wish I had been a teenager in the world that teenagers live in today.
Even aside from the almost infinite treasure chest of social interactions, information, and media available online, writers are falling over themselves to produce books aimed at this age group. And they’re not the trite first-date, where’s-my-makeup, Daddy-wouldn’t-buy-a-saddle-for-my-pony nonsense available when I was a teenager. Many of them are enthralling fantasies that recognize that teenagers are all different, that young people on the verge of adulthood can be politically engaged, curious, and insightful.
Joe Kipling’s Blinded by the Light, the first book in a dystopian series set in Britain after a virulent plague, was a case in point: an engaging, well-written novel about a society dominated by fear. The believable and frightening depiction of a world of gated communities and insurmountable social rankings raised Blinded by the Light head and shoulders above many other dystopian YA series, which were being churned out at such a rate that many felt repetitive and bland. Rather than reproducing Twilight or The Hunger Games, Kipling’s novel had refreshing echoes of Alduous Huxley and George Orwell.
Light the Way continues the story where Blinded by the Light left off. Kipling sensibly spends little time on exposition, and if you haven’t read the first book, you probably should before you read this. This turns out to be a good choice, allowing Kipling to focus on developing new characters, predominantly Charlotte, who is taken from her parents when she is found to possess an immunity from the virus and taken to the ominous LightHouse, where children are turned into mindless slaves. Free of the need to explain the new society, Light the Way has a faster pace than the first novel. Joe Kipling is a minimalist writer, and it only takes a few strokes of her pen to create young characters who are both believable and likable.
Light the Way is an ideal read for older children and teenagers who like stories that entertain but also make them think.