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First Light Hardcover – June 26, 2007

45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The father of 12-year-old Peter is a glaciologist, his mother, a genetic scientist. Peter is thrilled when his father decides to take the family on his latest excursion to Greenland to study the effects of global warming. Fourteen-year-old Thea lives in a secret society called Gracehope under the Greenland ice. After finding a map that leads her to the surface, she becomes obsessed with seeing the sun and bringing her people back above ground. Peter and Thea accidentally meet on the surface and discover, through a secret kept by Peter's mother, that their destinies are unexpectedly joined. This debut novel is slow to start, and Stead's world building isn't quite convincing. There are some gaps in Gracehope's invented mythology, and the motivations behind the creation of the underground utopia are vague and simplistic. But the icy setting and global-warming theme are well realized, and middle-school fans of Neil Shusterman's Downsiders (2000) and Jeanne DuPrau's Books of Ember will also enjoy this solid, well-meaning fantasy. Jennifer Hubert
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“Peter and Thea are vividly realized. . . . Gracehope itself is sketched with sure strokes, its icy setting and its matriarchal social structure fresh and believable.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“Stead’s debut novel rests on an intriguing premise. . . . It is a testament to the storytelling that the existence of this parallel world and the convergence of Peter and Thea’s stories, told in separate chapters, are both credible and absorbing. Young readers will find this a journey worth taking.”—Publishers Weekly

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books; First Edition edition (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375840176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375840173
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rebecca Stead has written four novels for children: When You Reach Me (A New York Times bestseller and winner of the Newbery Medal and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Fiction); Liar & Spy (Winner of the Guardian Prize for Children's Fiction and a New York Times Book Review Notable Book for Children); First Light (a Junior Library Guild Selection and a New York Public Library Best Book for Teens); and, most recently, Goodbye Stranger, which will be published in August 2015. Rebecca lives in New York City with her family.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By L. K. Messner on March 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
First Light was hard for me to put down. Peter Solemn's world is rocked in the very first chapter when his father, a glaciologist, announces the family is going on a research trip to Greenland. Two chapters later, we meet a second main character, Thea, who lives under the arctic ice in a society created generations ago by a group of people fleeing persecution in Europe.

What I loved most about this book was that it plunged me into not just one, but two fascinating new worlds. Greenland itself really qualifies as an alien landscape of sorts, and Stead's rich details bring it to life. (Is there really a Volkswagon Road there where the company tests new models? So cool!) Thea's world beneath the ice is painted vividly as well with terrific techno-details about the innovations of that new society called Gracehope. I've added Gracehope to the list of imaginary places (along with Hogwarts and Narnia) that I long to visit some day.

I'm not giving too much away if I share that Peter and Thea cross paths along the way. Their stories intertwine in ways that are surprising but perfect and believable at the same time. First Light is a great read -- a fantastic mix of science fiction and adventure with plenty of real science mixed in, too. Teachers looking for titles to integrate with earth science and environmental units will especially love this one.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By SZAA on October 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
First Light by Rebecca Stead is told by two narrators. The first, Peter, is the son of a glaciologist and a genetic scientist. He is thrilled when his parents decide to take him on an expedition to Greenland, where they will be studying different aspects of glacier ice caps and the effects of global warming. Thea, the other narrator, lives in a city underneath the ice in Greenland, called Gracehope. Thea and Peter meet accidentally and without warning, the two worlds collide in what could be disaster.

The novel was a bit slow in the beginning, but picked up in pace and excitement towards the middle. The was very reminiscent of Jeanne DuPrau's City of Ember books, though I almost liked the setting in First Light better. It has been said that people can really survive surrounded by who knows if there really is a Gracehope out there! :-)

I was a little disappointed in this title, though I very much enjoyed just wasn't quite as fabulous as everyone has said. I think that's why I would much rather read a book before so many other people get their hands on it, that way my view isn't skewed and I don't get my expectations too high! At any rate, I still enjoyed the book, it was well written and I look forward to seeing other works from this author.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes I stop myself in the middle of the day and think random thoughts. Thoughts like, "Why am I so freaked out by pigeons with deformed feet?" or, "Is there a logical reason why grass never became a delicacy?" and even, "Did I like science fiction as a child?" That last question pops up more than the others, maybe because it's worth pondering from a contemporary marketing/librarian standpoint. The conventional wisdom will tell you that science fiction for kids doesn't sell. Of course, dig a little deeper beneath that statement and you'll find exceptions to the rule. Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien series, Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time or The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau all come to mind. DuPrau's book is the best example of a successful science fiction novel (what with the movie and all) and it seems appropriate to mention it in terms of the most recent title I just read. "First Light" by Rebecca Stead is a meticulous melding of science fiction, ecological fact, and crisp storytelling. Melding global warming and DNA, and set against a magnificently chilly backdrop, Stead creates a cohesive, gripping story without allowing her book to fall apart into incomprehensible goo.

Two kids. Two lives. First of all you have Peter. He's happy enough living in New York City, but when his dad informs the family that they're taking some months off to join him on his expedition to Greenland, the kid is seriously excited. It's a pity that he's been getting these headaches though.
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Format: Paperback
In First Light, readers learn about the goings on in the life of a 12-year-old boy from New York City, who tags along with his glaciologist father (and microbiologist mother) on a trip to northwest Greenland (to study the effects of global warming on the ice sheet), alternately with that of a 14-year-old, progressive-thinking girl who lives in a matriarchal, underground world. That the two, Peter and Thea, will eventually connect in some way is obvious from the start, but author Rebecca Stead does a good job of laying the necessary groundwork prior to their expected encounter. That such a world (Thea's) could exist in the first place, remain undetected for so long, and have evolved as it had (complete with light, oxygen, dogs that live as long as humans, and trees that grow below when they don't above the surface) requires a huge stretch of the imagination and the collision between these two worlds (one scientific, the other a combination of science fiction and fantasy) will not likely be easy for the science minded, though younger readers, (like my fourth and sixth grade bookworms, who liked it) may be better at accepting such a situation.

Worst of the book: that the connection between the two kids becomes clear sooner (even to a semi-clueless reader like me) than it should, and the notion that (p 264) "[Grace] must have known things that science hadn't discovered yet" (when the technology, we're talking electron microscope level, was unavailable). Additionally, that a math mistake (in a book about science!) could get past author and editor (Peter is studying (p 14) "Square roots and exponents..."and tries to solve "Eleven to the third degree,") is disappointing. Best of the book are surprises revealed about several of the characters as well as the idea of the adepts.
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