by Emily Ziff Griffin
Cover Artist: Jacket Photo by 123RF / photof963, Thiti Adeong
Review by Mel Jacob
Simon Pulse Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781507200056
Date: 05 September 2017 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
First, Light Years, a young adult quasi-science fiction novel, has garnered many positive reviews and only a few minus ones. However, while the work has a nice heroine, a fast-moving plot, and plenty of obstacles to overcome, it is a mishmash of science, shamanism, animal spirits, and other belief systems mixed into the brew. Hence, it is neither fish nor fowl and thus not easily categorized.
The heroine, sixteen-year-old Luisa Ochoa-Jones, has synesthesia. She experiences colors and smells that she associates with specific people, places, or events. At times, this makes it difficult for her to function normally. She is an applicant for a fellowship offered by a large corporation headed by a man named Thomas Bell. If she is accepted, she can gain financial independence from her parents. Her mother likes the acknowledgment of Luisa's work and intelligence but is determined to reject the money.
A plague hits the country and deaths escalate rapidly. Called ARNS, Accelerated Respiratory and Neurodegenerative Syndrome, it has no cure and a 100% fatality. Luisa's mother is a biomedical researcher and hopes to find a cure.
Acquaintances begin to die, including her best friend Janine. Then Luisa's father becomes ill. She is determined to find a cure and she and her brother Ben join Kamal and Phoebe on a trip to California to Front Line. It is an organization dedicated to helping people and to fight ARNS.
The journey has many strands and introduces influences as noted above from many sources. Luisa must work through the data, her personal history, and all she has learned to find a solution the disaster. We gain insight into Luisa and her condition, but only a little sense of others except possibly her father. Readers will have to make the decision of whether this novel speaks to them.