When my publisher was putting together the advance copies of What Light, I asked if I could write a letter to introduce the book to the booksellers, librarians, and anyone else getting an early look. They also added a photo that I took at one of the farms I visited while researching the story.
Here's what it looks like in the advance copies:
And here's what it says:
"...make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with light."
Since the debut of my first novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, the themes of hope and forgiveness have been at the center of my interactions with teens. Many have told me they finally felt understood within the pages of that book, even if it could never reflect all parts of their lives. Others, while they could appreciate the book, didn't see it as a reflection of their experiences. A novel about their lives, sadly, would not get hailed as "a brave, honest look at the teen years." So, after a recent book tour that had me speaking to such a variety of students in all fifty states, I felt drawn to explore hope and forgiveness again, but in a new way.
The story of What Light has been glowing in my mind for a long time. I read a newspaper profile about a family with a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Every year, they hauled the trees south and sold them on a lot where I live in California. The part of their story that stood out most concerned their children. When not selling trees, they attended a nearby public school or hung out with friends. When the holiday was over, the whole family went back home. Two sets of friends? A defined timeline? There had to be a story there! But it would take about a dozen years before I found it.
I continuously brainstormed and took notes even after I began work on Thirteen Reasons Why. That book describes the suicide of someone who lost hope in the future and was unable to forgive the past, though hope and forgiveness are found by someone left behind. If I were to address those themes a second time, I wanted to bookend them in an uplifting story about love.
I looked closer at my notes for What Light and saw that potential. It would let me revisit many similar issues, but through different lenses. Love rather than hurt. Overcoming rather than succumbing. Forgiveness--especially the forgiveness of self--rather than guilt.
I wrote this book for the teens I've met who've had too many dark days but hold on to hope that things can get better. And I wrote it for the teens I've met who have mostly good days but who still encounter sadness and difficult decisions.
It is a story I've wanted to share for a long time: What Light.
"...behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light."
--William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
You can find out more about What Light, or pre-order it, by clicking here.