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A Book with Lots of Hype: Lightlark by Alex Aster

15 Mar

Booktok is a subcommunity of TikTok that is known for tiaras, their loud and proud love of various tropes, and of course, their passion for books. It is a powerful force on social media, used by both readers and authors alike to promote books they love and books they are writing and has pushed quite a few authors into massive popularity.
One such author is Alex Aster.

Before her YA debut, she first published The Emblem Island middle grade duology, but it was the teasers she released for Lightlark that really seized Booktok’s attention and was quickly steeped in controversy upon its release.

On a technical level, Aster can write well, she has good use of authorial voice for things like description and her style overall is easy to read.

The novel itself has quite a few interesting concepts. An island that appears every thousand years to hold a tournament, royals fighting to the death to end curses placed upon them and their land, escaping from said tournament through a secret heist so that the characters might have a chance to live, attempting to seduce a king while a supposed enemy shows romantic interest in the main character, that and many other ideas are presented in this novel.

And that is precisely what also holds this novel back.

While many of these ideas are intriguing in concept, they all lack one main thing. Focus. Many novels have B or even C plots, all of them interconnecting back to the main events and Aster attempts to do the same with these plot threads, but it all becomes more entangled and confusing the further along you read. At one point, one of the mentioned plot threads is implied to have unknown and potentially dangerous consequences and at a later point, yet it is implied that this same plot thread will somehow lift the curses the rulers are afflicted with. It’s a moment that would make most readers raise their eyebrows and wonder why there’s even a tournament in the first place if this heist is all that is needed to lift the curse.

Readers who detest love triangles will find themselves infuriated as this one seems to play out in full, despite Aster prompting on TikTok that she was going for enemies-to-lovers. One has to wonder if Aster was attempting to subvert expectations with this.
The curses are also told to the reader rather than shown to them, the novel simply telling us they’re bad. While Isla’s curse could be disastrous in the future, it doesn’t hold the same weight when the curses that face the others have far more impending consequences. Given what we learn about her later on in the novel, one would think that Aster would have selected that secret to be her curse rather than the one she decided to go with.

Pacing is another issue this book struggles with. Before the novel’s tournament can take place, there’s an event known as the Centennial, which serves as both a celebration and opening act, allowing the rulers to display their skills before they are forced to face in combat. It’s a premise clearly inspired by The Hunger Games and while that in itself is fine, Lightlark lingers on this event with little interaction going on between Isla and the other characters. The only thing that truly keeps any action going on at all is the heist subplot and even that is drawn out longer than necessary. It’s a good twenty-five chapters into the novel before we see her interact with the other characters for more than just a few pages.

The actual tournament itself takes much longer to get to then it should for a book who advertises that its plot is centered around said tournament. Had Aster attempted to put more focus into the tournament part of the plot, a good portion of the preliminaries could have been cut out and condensed into something more streamlined.

Strangest of all is the tournament itself. It is revealed that the event is something else entirely and not a tournament in the sense that most readers would be familiar with. While killing is allowed after The Centennial, there is no fighting between the rulers. Instead they all gather for a series of meetings to discuss which realms deserve to live and which one should ultimately fall. While this in and of itself is a terrifying prospect and one that could work if written well, the reader has instead been misled into thinking they would be reading about a tournament where the rulers must fight to the death to break their curses. Instead they get something akin to a political debate, which would be fine if that was what the book had been advertised as from the beginning.

A sequel is implied to be in the works and while the reception to this book has been met with mixed reception, perhaps Aster and her editors will acknowledge the criticism given and ensure the sequel is more focused and not riddled with the inconsistencies that plagued the first one.

Overall, while there was some potential, Lightlark, in my opinion, fails to deliver to its intended audience and is a frustrating read to those who simply want to get lost in a good fantasy.

What do you think? Does Lightlark live up to the hype? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Written By:
Lauren Lapinski
Information and Digital Services Assistant

Hoboken Public Library’s 2022 Best Books for Kids and Teens

28 Dec

Easy Readers
Sir Ladybug
by Corey R. Tabor
Sir Ladybug is a gentle knight who, along with his friends, is called on  a quest to rescue a caterpillar from being eaten by a hungry chickadee. This funny story offers a good start for young readers.

Princess in Black and  Mermaid Princess
by Shannon Hale
The Princess in Black and her friends are enjoying a day of sun and sea on the royal boat when a real, live mermaid Princess  emerges from the waves. She needs their help protecting her sea goats from being eaten by a greedy kraken. 

Max and the Midknights: Tower of Time no. 3
by Lincoln Peirce
Max’s twin sister Mary is public enemy number one and has gone missing. It’s up to Max and the Midknights to find her and avoid crossing paths with trolls, pirates, and ruthless Kings.  

Mr. Lemoncello’s Very First Game
by Chris Grabenstein
A 13 year-old boy named Luigi Lemoncello dreams of being a showman. He gets his chance when a carnival comes to town and a famous barker offers him a summer job involving a puzzle and treasure hunt.  

Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa
by Julian Randall
While researching her documentary about her missing cousin, 12 yearold Pilar is transported to the magical island of Zafa. Here Dominican myths and legends come to life and her cousin is being held captive in a prison.

Different Kinds of Fruit
Kyle Lukoff
Annabelle enters the 6th grade and makes friends with Bailey, the new nonbinary kid in town. Then she discovers that her father has something in common with Bailey and she begins to see herself and her family in a whole new light.

Board books
Hello, Beautiful You!
by Andrea Davis Pinkey
This sweet book celebrates just how beautiful your little one is! Perfect to read while snuggling up together, this book is filled with rhythmic text and delightful illustrations that celebrate your little one.

Tummy Time
Your little one will love this interactive, double-sided book that engages their senses. Filled with vivid images, a mirror, as well as instructions parents can do with their little ones.  It’s exactly as the name suggests, taken up to new heights.

Picture books
Beauty Woke
by NoNieqa Ramos
Beauty – who is of Taino Indian, African and Boricua heritage is raised by her loving family to have pride in who she is and where she comes from. But hatred toward people who look like her bruises her heart.

Out of a Jar
by Deborah Marcero
Llewellyn, a little bunny overwhelmed by his emotions, hides away his feelings in glass jars. Then he discovers it’s not good to bottle up your feelings and life is more colorful when he sets his emotions free.

The Year We Learned to Fly
by Jacqueline Woodson 
A brother and sister are stuck inside on a rainy day.  Bored, they are told by their wise grandmother to use their minds. Using their imaginations, they are able to fly high above the city

Eyes that Speak to the Stars
by Joanna Ho
A young Asian boy notices that his eyes look different from his peers’. His father tells him that his eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars, shine like sunlit rays, & glimpse trails of light from those who came before.

Nothing More to Tell
by Karen M. McManus
Four years ago, Brynn left St. Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favorite teacher. The story made headlines after the teacher’s body was found by three students in the woods behind the school. 

Kingdom of the Feared
by Kerri Maniscalo
Emilia is determined to clear her sister’s name when she is implicated in the murder of a high-ranking member of a rival demon court. Her investigation forces her to face the demons of her own past and challenge the Prince of Wrath. 

Never Coming Home
by Kate Williams Ten teen influencers arrive on Unknown Island expecting to find a tropical paradise, but instead they discover a deserted resort, poisonous snakes, and secrets worth killing for. Will anyone survive?  

Once Upon a K-Prom
by Kat Cho
Instead of going to prom, 17 year-old Elena wants to spend her time saving the local community center. Then, her childhood best friend, now a Kpop superstar, returns to make good on their old pact to attend prom together. 

This Woven Kingdom
by Tahereh Mafi
A romance between two main characters with roots in Persian mythology. The story follows Alizeh, heir to the Jinn crown, forced to seek refuge as a servant girl to evade those who would have her killed.

The Agathas
by Kathleen Glasgow
Set against the backdrop of a wealthy oceanside town, this story follows two teenage girls – rich and popular Alice and her less popular, less rich tutor, Iris – as they work together to solve the murder of Alice’s exbest friend. 

The Final Gambit
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Avery’s fortune, life, and loves are on the line in the game that everyone will be talking about. To inherit billions, all Avery has to do is survive a few more weeks living in Hawthorne House, but the paparazzi are dogging her.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler
by Casey McQuiston
Chloe moves to Alabama and discovers she is the only student at her Catholic high school who is openly queer. She makes it her goal to become valedictorian, but must compete with the most popular girl at school.

by V.E. Schwab
This atmospheric tale follows the story of Olivia, a young girl living at Merilance School for Girls. Her mother disappeared and she has spent her days bring taunted by girls at school. Then, she is sent to live at Gallant, the family estate. 

You can view HPL’s top picks for adults here.

Children Picks From:
Melissa Medina, Youth Services Senior Library Assistant
Teen Picks From:
Jenn Sforza, Young Adult Librarian

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