Tuesday, February 14, 2023

This Raging Light, by Estelle Laure

Lu has been stuck taking care of her kid sister since her parents left (Dad was committed and Mom left town shortly thereafter).  Still in school herself, Lu has to figure out a way to hide the situation from the neighbors and her teachers.  But as bills come due and there's no source of income, it is pretty rough.  At first, Lu falls back on the help of her best friend Eden, but that friendship is stretched to the breaking point when Lu falls romantically for her twin brother (who is already in a relationship).  With everything collapsing around her, the last thing Lu really needs is to embroil herself in infidelity.

And that's probably one of the bigger problems with this story, which pulls me back and forth between really caring for this girl and hating her various mistakes.  It would help if there was something interesting about the guy to like.  At no point in the book did I get the sense that the two of them even liked each other.  There's no heat at all between them.  Allegedly the boy has been in this super serious relationship for the past two years and then, despite the fact that Lu and him have known each other for ever, suddenly he can't live without Lu and he's ready to dump the previous Love of His Life.  Nope.

This is a tough genre to love:  I always always always find these child abandonment stories to be cruel and nasty.  In this one, Laure pulls her punches by producing an endless parade of helpful adults.  That keeps the suffering to a minimum, but it also feels manipulative as we get presented with these really bad situations which all turn out OK in the end.  And it presents a different problem:  once Laure has miraculously solved all of Lu's financial, legal, and ethical problems, she's left with no story.  So then it's time to bring in a weird out-of-the-blue accident that sends one of the characters to the hospital in a coma.  That's the point where you know the story's in trouble!

This was Estelle Laure's first novel and she's written plenty of good ones since.  It's been nothing but up since this one!

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