Review: This Impossible Light

this impossible lightSummer is an exciting time working in Classroom Services here at Mackin. With the end of one school year comes the a fresh start to the new one as teachers revamp their classrooms and add updated titles to their classroom libraries. At the heart of each classroom library list that I recommend to teachers is the philosophy that students must be able to see themselves in the books they’re reading. We build lists that are culturally diverse and representative of the hard issues teenagers face daily.

In the new novel in verse This Impossible Light (2017) by Lily Myers, 15-year-old Ivy is facing challenges many teens can find all too relatable. Opening the novel, we learn that Ivy’s father recently left her mom—coinciding with her brother’s departure to college and her best friend’s summer vacation to Paris. Ivy is left alone in the once lively, now empty house; it’s just Ivy and her mother who isn’t at all the same.

To make matters worse, at the start of the new school year, Ivy’s best friend Anna is back from Paris and seems to be completely changed. She has a new friend and a new love for drinking at parties. Ivy can’t fit in like other girls. She feels too big—too tall and too wide.

Ivy becomes obsessed with controlling her life. If she works harder, studies harder, bikes harder, and eats less—then she will be thin, and she will earn the scholarship she needs to get out of the house like her brother did. Somehow, though, through her struggle to gain control, Ivy is losing control more than ever.

There are so many reasons this book belongs in classroom libraries. As a teenager, like many teens, I also struggled with my relationship with food. The way Ivy describes how she feels about food reminds me about my same struggles—telling me how realistically Myers represents the emotions involved in eating disorders. I also see important questions teenagers need to discuss including the complications of friendships over time and the complications when parents are no longer perfect.

Ivy’s love for math adds a whole new dynamic to this book, opening up some interesting cross-curricular activities involving math.

Finally, novel in verse is an important text-structure which teenagers need to experience. It can sometimes be intimidating to read in verse, but this novel is an easy and quick read that will leave students with new reading skills under their belts. The form also allows plenty of opportunities for teachers to pick apart the text into small sections for students to analyze in a close-reading session.

While I highly recommend this novel for high school classroom libraries and for teachers to consider making available to students for literature projects, I was not blown away by every aspect of the novel. I felt a flatness in the relationships within this novel. While I understood that Ivy and Anna were once best friends, I never got the chance to see the raw happy friendship in the novel. I never quite felt the relationship in a way that would have added depth. I also would have liked to see another level to Ivy. The entire novel is written in a very depressed tone—I would have loved to see more of Ivy before she was depressed so that I could have really felt like I knew her as a friend. Instead, I only saw her depression, taking away from really knowing her entire character.

Again, I do highly recommend adding this book to your high school classroom library for the upcoming year. This novel opens up much needed space to talk about relationships, body image, and eating disorders. Also, I don’t mean to overlook what a great opportunity this book creates for a cross-curricular activity with a math class. It could be so much fun to apply some of the math Ivy mentions in the novel. As someone who’s not a math wiz, and can’t go into much detail here, but I’m sure your next door math teacher could help and would love to get involved. Also don’t forget that this novel offers teenagers a new writing style to analyze, and it’s a quick and easy read.

Enjoy!

Title reviewed:
This Impossible Light by Lily Myers. 9780698188846. 2017. 9-12.

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