book review, young adult

The Breaking Light by Heather Hansen (Review)

Title: The Breaking Light
Author: Heather Hansen
Type: Fiction
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia
Imprint: Skyscape
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Date published: April 1, 2017
Page Count: 256
Source: Publishers


A physical copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

In a stratified society where contact with the sun is a luxury reserved for the elite, those kept prisoner in the darkness will do anything to find the light. Arden—beautiful, street-smart, and cynical—is one of the citizens of the lowest Level, known as Undercity, of an off-world colony. A blackout band traps Arden in her district, but as sister to the leader of the most powerful gang in Undercity, she has access to Above.

There she meets Dade, one of the few lucky enough to be born into the sun-kissed families who reside in the Towers soaring above the rest of the city. But life isn’t perfect in the sky. Dade, desperate to escape his upcoming arranged marriage, has a secret of his own, and he’s willing to risk everything for it.

An unlikely romance develops between the two teens—but their love faces opposition from above and below. When her gang pressures Arden to help break the grip of the elite and end Dade’s interference with their drug trade, she is forced to make a deadly choice between love and family loyalty. But will the brewing class war destroy the world around them first?

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Going into this book, I knew that I was intrigued by the whole star-crossed lovers theme that the synopsis promised, and I went in mainly looking forward to that. I didn’t really have expectations regarding the world. But it turns out that I liked the idea of Hansen’s sci-fi setting quite a bit! It’s been a while since I read a book that’s set on a different planet, so that was refreshing for me, and the whole layer of gasses keeping the sunshine from reaching the planet’s actual surface idea was neat too. I’d heard of sunshine themed sci-fi books like this before, but this was the first time I’d come across the issue of sun for the rich, and no sun for the poor being portrayed quite in this way.

A lot of thought also went into the different levels of the city in which the book is set, with the poorest at the bottom, and the richest in the high rise buildings that emerge out of the gasses that keep the light from touching the ground, and make it possible for the wealthy inhabitants of the planet to be exposed to sunlight. There are gangs, there are politics, drugs, and disease all tied to this specific planet, and their issue regarding sunlight. The author definitely put some time into developing this world, and I really appreciated that.

The characters, on the other hand, I feel needed a little bit more fleshing-out. I didn’t really connect with Arden, or Dade, although I really wanted to. This was not because I found them dislike-able, but rather because they just seemed incomplete. They are well on their way to becoming quite interesting characters, but I found that they weren’t just there yet, and this made itself evident to me when I did not click with them, and also due to their decision-making, and dialogue with each other, and other characters (although mainly with each other). Some of the decisions that they made, or thoughts that they had, almost felt a little contradictory, or like they didn’t fit with the type of character they were assigned to. As for the dialogue…it ties in with my next point.

As I mentioned, the star-crossed lovers romance plot was the main draw for me, and don’t get me wrong, Arden and Dade are most certainly star-crossed! I enjoyed how Dade and Arden interacted, the societies, and levels of the city, etc. that they each came from, and how that affected their interaction. There was definitely a lot of chemistry between the two lovers as well, which was great! I know that it can be difficult to portray this, and that it’s also difficult to get that kind of chemistry out of two characters that one has decided to write and pair up together. My concern was more for the “love” aspect, rather than the “lust” aspect of the romantic plot. One can fall in lust at first sight, and it’s believable that this can happen, because it’s all based on physical appearance, and pheremones. When it comes to love, however, I tend to feel that more time is necessary. The physical part of love is important, of course, but the feeling of love is also tied to personality, and just the essence of another person.

I did not feel as if Dade and Arden knew each other long enough for such feelings to be believable, which made their actions and dialogue feel a little awkward, or just out of place, for me. This is not a major issue, of course, since the solution would simply be that more time pass from point A (their first meeting) to point B (the end of the book). And like I said, I did otherwise enjoy reading this book. I will be reading the sequel (The Stolen Sky, Dec 5, 2017) for sure, and recommend The Breaking Light to those who enjoy star-crossed lover plots, and science fiction YA!

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Heather Hansen was born in California, the oldest of five children. She always knew she wanted to be a writer, and she wrote her first book, a murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie, in seventh grade. Unfortunately, she never could figure out who the murderer was, so the book went on for hundreds of pages, introducing new characters only to kill them off in the most gruesome ways her twelve-year-old imagination could invent. Her teacher was equally impressed and horrified.

Heather has a degree in English from California State University Fullerton and has traveled the world with her husband, a retired Marine. Her favorite place they’ve lived is Okinawa, Japan, where she had her choice of ramen, Japanese curry, and sushi every day. Along with their two teens and three dogs, they now live in Las Vegas, where she spends her time writing all day and eating Nutella with a spoon. The Breaking Light is her first novel.

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