A darkly funny thriller about one boy’s attempt to unravel the mysterious phenomenon affecting students in his new town, as he finds a way to resist sinister forces and pursue hope for them all.
Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has some deeply important job with an energy company that he refuses to explain to Wallace who is, shall we say, suspicious. Not that his father ever listens to him. Just as Wallace is getting settled into a comfortable life in Kentucky, his father lets him know they need to immediately depart for a new job in a small town in Upstate New York which has recently been struck by an outbreak of inexplicable hysterics–an outbreak which is centered at the high school Wallace will attend.
In the new town, go from disturbing to worse: trees appear to be talking to people; a school bully, the principal, and the town police force take an instant dislike to Wallace; and the student body president is either falling for him or slipping into the enveloping darkness. Bright Shining World is a novel of resistance, of young people finding hope and courage and community in a collapsing world.
I got a strong Stanger Things vibe after reading this description, and dark humor gets me every time.
I cannot emphasize how much I adored Wallace’s voice. I couldn’t contain my laughter at his internal monologue and snarkiness, but it was also easy to sense his vulnerability behind the humor. His past is heartbreaking, and his present isn’t much better with his father moving him around the country every few months. His awkwardness at his new school is endearing, and the supporting characters are just as likable.
The strange occurrences in the town – trees talking, weird visions, the outbreak of hysterics – and how it all relates to his father’s mysterious job had me forming theories (all incorrect) for several chapters, and the way the teens come together to fight for a common cause is admirable and heroic. Then the story spirals in a direction that was difficult to understand. I have no problem suspending disbelief in books – most of the time it increases my interest – but it still has to make sense to me within the confines of the story. Throughout the last half or more of the book, I was confused about what was going on, but kept reading because I assumed a logical explanation waited at the end – which is so abrupt I felt sure pages were missing. Maybe there’s a sequel?
The first part of this book is fabulous with a comedic, endearing MC, enjoyable supporting characters, and a curious mystery, but for me, the last half was difficult to follow and the abrupt ending left me baffled. Overall, it was an entertaining novel, and maybe other readers will have a better understanding that I did.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.