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A Certain Slant of Light by [Whitcomb, Laura]
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A Certain Slant of Light Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 302 customer reviews

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Length: 291 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Audible Narration:
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Grade Level: 7 and up

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up–Laura Whitcomb's compellingly complicated story (Graphix, 2005) combines dead spirits, existential angst, teens in modern families inhabiting both ends of the neglected/overprotected spectrum, unprotected teen sex, accusations of misconduct against a teacher, and requited love. Helen, who died as a young woman in the mid-19th century, has not been able to attain her final rest. Across the years, she has attached her invisible self to one living host after another, staying by each one's side so as to maintain enough life force to work through whatever happened at her death—and in her own life—that won't allow her to go peacefully. The hosts have no conscious sense of her presence—she does them no harm—and Helen moves on to a new host when her current one dies. In the 21st century, she's been attached to a high school English teacher. Helen realizes that a student in one of the classes sees her quite clearly. In fact, the contemporary student, Billy, is actually a young man named James who, like Helen, died but has gone a step beyond haunting a living host to inhabiting the living body of one. Lauren Molina's performance of this ghost story is appropriately breathy, although some of the characters—including James—sound too young because of her high voice. The denouement here is exciting and unexpected, giving listeners much to ponder and discuss: Are such hauntings plausible? How responsible are overly protective parents for poor decisions their teens make? When is circumstantial evidence really enough for anyone to draw absolutely certain conclusions?–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 9-12. In sensuous prose, Helen, who has been dead for 130 years, describes what it's like to live as Light, clinging to a human host, then reentering an empty human body and becoming physically and emotionally attuned to the world. Helen is startled when she realizes that a student in her host's English class can see her. James, too, is Light, but he has taken over the body of Billy, who almost overdosed on drugs. Their joy at finding one another turns quickly to love, and James helps Helen locate an empty body that she can inhabit. Fellow student Jennifer seems the perfect choice, but the unhappiness in her fundamentalist family, as well as the chaos of Billy's household, mix uneasily with the pleasures the spirits are rekindling. Whitcomb writes beautifully, especially when she is describing the physical delights of sexual love and the horror the spirits endure as they fight through their personal hells to reach the other side. Unfortunately, her stereotypical portrayal of a Christian family is so unnuanced that it jars when juxtaposed with the rest of the writing. Still, in many ways this will be irresistible to teens. Watch for more from Whitcomb. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 3580 KB
  • Print Length: 291 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (September 21, 2005)
  • Publication Date: September 21, 2005
  • Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,086 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I bought this book for my two older daughters to read due to the reviews and the subject matter being similar to other books they have enjoyed. However, I read the book before they did just to see what it was about, and I am so very glad I did! At the end I was just crying, but in such a good way.

I don't consider myself religious, more of an agnostic. Even though the book spoke about heaven, etc., it wasn't in such a way that made it overbearing. It actually questioned certain beliefs more than anything, so I did not think there were any sort of religious overtones in the book that tried to explain life, death, and what comes after in an arrogant, this-is-the-way-it-is-so-do-NOT-ask-questions-or-doubt-it-in-any-way tone.

What it was is an extremely touching, moving book with such a great conclusion. I most definitely did not think there should have been more, it was, as another reviewer called it, beautiful. It is an atypical love story which shows the power of forgiveness, all in a story that teens and adults can relate to.

Really, this is a wonderful book, you just have to read it. I know my children will love it, although since they are not adults, as the characters in the book are, they may not be able to relate to some aspects of the story, like how strong a mother's love is and why you would punish yourself for things you thought you had done wrong.

I hate to think there are people that think this book is only for older teenagers. If your kids are allowed out in the real world at all without earplugs and blinders, the sex, language, and drug references in this book are *not* going to surprise them. Sorry for having to say that, but it isn't cynicism, just unfortunately, reality.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of my top 5 books of all time. I absolutely loved the story of Helen and her struggle to leave this world peacefully. I had no idea it was a young adult book until I saw the reviews on here! Anyone who enjoys unique, beautiful stories will devour this book. Told from a unique perspective and mingling with the living and dead, I couldn't put it down. The ending was wonderful. I'm buying it as gifts for all my 'bibliophile' friends. Kudos to the cover artist as well.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The pain, once I was dead, was very memorable. I was deep inside the cold, smothering belly of a grave when my first haunting began. I heard her voice in the darkness reading Keats, 'Ode to a Nightingale.' Icy water was burning down my throat, splintering my ribs, and my ears were filled with a sound like a demon howling, but I could hear her voice and reached for her. One desperate hand burst from the flood and caught the hem of her gown. I dragged myself, hand over hand, out of the earth and quaked at her feet, clutching her skirts, weeping muddy tears. All I knew was that I had been tortured in the blackness, and then I had escaped. Perhaps I hadn't reached the brightness of heaven, but at least I was here, in her lamplight, safe."

It was more than 150 years ago when the dead woman's tortured spirit became a "prisoner on leave from the dungeon." Helen can not be seen, nor heard, nor felt, although her emotions can occasionally send "a ripple into the tangible world." During those years, Helen has cleaved to a series of unwitting hosts, learned through trial and error the rules by which she must abide in order to prevent a return to her hell, and has periodically chosen another acceptable and convenient person to haunt (preferably one with some tie to literature, which she so loves) for when her current host grows old and dies.

The latest of Helen's hosts is an English teacher, Mr. Brown, and it is in his classroom that it happens:

"Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you're dead. I was with my teacher, Mr. Brown.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
First of all, let me say that the person who rated it low for his own mistake of not realizing it was a YA book is wrong. You can't down a book for meeting the criteria of its genre. That's your fault. And the person who rated it low as a parent who didn't like the sexuality, understand this: the characters were not teenagers. They were using teenagers as vessels, but they were adults when they died and they'd been "around" for a lot longer than that. That being said, I still think this is for older teens (17+).

There are some interesting books that have come out recently that get people to question what happens to us when we die and how the decisions we make in this life affect that. A Certain Slant of Light does this in a very interesting and somewhat creepy way. If you want something for younger teens, check out Elsewhere.

Imagine punishing yourself for generations because of a mistake you thought you made. Imagine having to attach yourself to human beings to avoid the pain that you think you will endure in hell. Imagine getting close to these humans, only to see them leave you again and again as they LIVE and you do not. Now imagine feeling love but not knowing how to realize that love. If you had another chance at life, would you take it? At any cost? These questions and more are explored in the provocative tale A Certain Slant of Light.
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