Annotation: Sixteen-year-old Wendy and her mother are both Lightbringers: humans with the ability to see Earthbound souls and send them into the Light. After Wendy’s mother mysteriously falls into a coma, however, she will do anything to find her soul and help restore her to life. When Wendy meets Piotr, a teenage ghost who dedicates his afterlife to protecting the souls of children, the two work together to search for Wendy’s mother and to try and find out why the children Piotr watches over have begun to disappear.
Personal thoughts: This was one of those novels that, after I finished reading it, I wasn’t really sure what to think. Since I live in Silicon Valley, I naturally enjoyed the setting and references to things like Great America, the Great Mall, etc. I also thought that the minor characters in the novel were interesting, especially Piotr’s fellow Riders. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what exactly was going on with Wendy, the White Lady, and Piotr’s missing children. I was struggling to understand what was happening, and it seemed to get more and more confusing with each chapter. I also found the relationship between Wendy and Piotr to be unsettling, even though I’ve read novels with human/ghost romances before. I’m interested to see what happens in the sequel, but I don’t know if I would recommend this title readily.
Plot summary: After she witnessed the death of her best friend Eddie’s father in a tragic car accident when she was twelve, Wendy, now sixteen, has been able to see Earthbound spirits: those who have died but continue to exist in the Never, a world similar to that of the living, but visible only to a select few. Wendy, like her mother, is a Lightbringer and has the ability to call forth the Light that sends souls into the world beyond the Never, setting them free and bringing them peace. Wendy can’t discuss her abilities with anyone but Eddie, and spends of her spare time training with her mom, trying to perfect her skills and learning about the intricacies of the afterlife. Everything changes, however, when Wendy’s mom inexplicably falls into a coma, her soul nowhere to be found. Wendy gives up reaping lost souls in order to search for her mother in the Never, hoping to find her and reunite her with her body, bringing her back to life. One day, Wendy encounters Piotr, the ghost of a Russian teenager who has spent his afterlife as a Rider: someone who protects the souls of children caught in the Never. Piotr is on a hunt of his own, trying to find out why some of the children he and the other riders in San Francisco watch over have begun to disappear. Piotr and Wendy decide to work together, and begin to form a relationship that seems to be more than just business. Can Wendy find her mother and help Piotr save the children he has sworn to protect?
Review: From debut author K.D. McEntire comes this interesting if somewhat strange new series that creates an afterlife that is much more than ghosts simply haunting graveyards and rattling chains. Set in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Lightbringer is the story of Wendy, a goth-girl who actually has something to be morose about. Unlike other stories with similar concepts, Wendy begins the story knowing about her powers and being familiar with how to send ghosts into the Light. Many novels that have had a protagonist discovering that they have some kind of supernatural ability tend to spend a lot of chapters focusing on said person learning how to do whatever it is they can do. That is not the case in Lightbringer. Instead, Wendy is more comfortable with her powers, and uses them to help solve the mystery of her mother’s condition and Piotr’s missing children. Although the storyline does have some interesting portions, however, much of the novel is, simply put, odd. The relationship between Eddie and Wendy is confusing, as are the details of her inevitable romance with the very-much-dead Piotr. There is also quite a bit of cussing, but it doesn’t always seem to fit in the moment. The end of the novel does pick up quite a bit and become exciting, but, overall, the story is a mixed-bag. The next installment in the series, Reaper, is set to be released on August 24, 2012.
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Hereafter by Tara Hudson, Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay, Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey, Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.
Themes: Ghosts, lost souls, reapers, death, the afterlife, mother/daughter relationships, sibling relationships, romance, San Francisco.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from authors Kristoper Reisz and Robin Wasserman.
Series Information: First installment in Lightbringer series. Second installment, Reaper, set to be released August 24, 2012.
Discussion questions:- Why do you think Wendy didn’t want a relationship with Eddie? Do you think it’s common for long time friends to develop romantic feelings for each other?
- Why do you think Wendy didn’t tell Piotr about being the Lightbringer? Do you think it was the right thing to do?
- Which of the Riders did you like the best? Why?
- How did you feel about Wendy and Piotr forming a romantic relationship? How would you feel about a friendship with a ghost?
- Were you surprised to learn the truth about the White Lady? Why or why not?