Title: The Escape of Light
Author: Fred Venturini
“I was the burned freshman, the recluse who was destined to be shunned and ridiculed, at least according to my arsehole inner voice, yet here I was, fresh off of a starring role at an awesome party, getting courted by the captain of the basketball team, and the prettiest girl I’d ever seen not only knew my name but flirted with me. So I tried out for basketball.”
The Escape of Light is a coming-of-age novel whose protagonist, Wilder, was severely scarred when he was a child and now has to try and live a normal life with very visible scars on his face and body. Navigating high school is already tricky, but for Wilder, it’s extra hard, and as he begins his sophomore year, he’s about to discover that the new people he’ll meet will complicate things even more.
The tone of this novel really reminded me of John Green’s style; I don’t often like YA, but although the protagonist of this novel was a teenager, it wasn’t at all guilty of the YA stereotypes which I don’t like. A good example (and part of the reason I like John Green) is that the dialogue wasn’t just “text talk” or trying to imitate a young person’s language and just completely missing the mark. It was realistic, authentic, and felt relatable. Plus the quippy remarks between Wilder and his friends were funny and plausible, made me like the characters, and definitely part of this reason I enjoyed this novel so much.
I think there were parts of the novel which could have been fleshed out a little more, most specifically the basketball element. I would have liked to see more of that part of Wilder’s life, and perhaps gain more of an understanding about why it means so much to him. On the other hand, I really like the character Lane – she was likeable, quirky, and it would be easy to see how she would be everyone’s favourite character in the book. Again, she was also very plausible and if she had been based off a real person, I wouldn’t have found that hard to believe at all.
There was something very compelling about how Wilder dealt with his situation, and his outlook on life, despite the hand he had been dealt. He’s definitely not the kind of person that would want everyone’s sympathy, but at the same time, you can’t help but think he definitely didn’t deserve what he got. I don’t think Venturini wrote this novel with the point of making you feel sorry for Wilder, but rather, see what can happen if you don’t let your past haunt you.
Beginning with Wilder recounting how he got his scars, and ending with the high-school prom, this novel was the perfect coming-of-age story, with a sympathetic protagonist, and an enjoyable and fast-paced storyline. Venturini got the voice of his characters spot-on and allowed for enough twists in the plot that I was never bored or able to anticipate what would happen next. He has succeeded with The Escape of Light, and I would happily read his work again.