First Light
Rebecca Stead

Delacorte Dell
Hardcover/330 pages
ISBN: 978-0-375-84017-3
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". . . a pleasant read with a satisfying ending without objectionable language or situations."

In writing First Light Rebecca Stead has written a book that will appeal to both young girls and young boys.

The two protagonists in the story are twelve-year-old Peter, of the wider surface world and fourteen-year-old Thea of Gracehope, a civilization under the icecap of Greenland. The story opens when Peter’s father, a glaciologist, gets a grant that enables the family to go to Greenland while he does studies on the affects of global warming on the icecap. Once settled, Peter explores the area around their camp with his dog companion, Sasha. But the visions and headaches that had started in New York continue to plague him with even more frequency.

Thea believes fervently that Gracehope’s survival depends on reaching out to the surface. For years regulations limiting everything from births to food consumption have proved useless in stemming the depletion of resources. But fear of the people on the surface has been bred into generations.

One night Thea and her cousin, Mattias follow a map to the surface. While looking at stars and the night sky, Thea suddenly realizes why astronomy was taught in school. The founders always expected the people of Gracehope to return to the surface. Gracehope had been planned as a refuge not as a permanent home.

As the sun rises, they start towards home, but Mattias falls into a small crevice up to his shoulders. Thea is unable to lift him so she decides to go Gracehope for help. Before she reaches the tunnel she encounters Peter and together they get Mattias out and home.

After being graciously thanked, Peter is escorted back to the surface but asked never to return. Later that night he finds a sketch done by his mother of Gracehope’s lake. He now wonders if Gracehope has anything to do with his mother’s “depressions” that he has recently recognized as a debilitating sadness.

The next day when his mother is again “in another place,” his father’s term for her depressions, he decides to return to Gracehope to demand answers to his questions about his mother’s connection to it. But before he can reach the tunnel he has a vision and passes out. His mother finds him and takes him to Gracehope. With her arrival, Gracehope’s secrets are revealed and the people are finally able to move toward their future.

Stead’s style of writing is equally divided between narrative and dialogue and includes enough description to allow the reader to envision the world of Gracehope. The book covers a period of about six weeks, and the pacing is a bit uneven possibly due to the device of alternating chapters between characters. First Light is a pleasant read with a satisfying ending without objectionable language or situations.

Reviewer: Denise Lowe