The Light Jar
By Lisa Thompson
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 978 1 4071 7128 9
Lisa Thompson’s debut novel, The Goldfish Boy, put her on the map as a writer to watch out for because of its highly original plot. After its success came the question: would she be able to do it again?
Many writers struggle with their second novel when their first leaves readers with almost impossibly high expectations. Fortunately, Thompson’s The Light Jar shows just as much originality and imagination as The Goldfish Boy did.
The Light Jar is a mystery/thriller for young adult readers. Thompson showed in her debut that she knew how to perfectly plot a page-turner, and here again, it’s the story that keeps readers hooked. But Thompson’s clever plot is not all-surface stuff. Underneath the action and motives that keep it all going, we have psychological and social themes that take the reader deep into the story. And at the end, Thompson pulls off a surprise that few readers will see coming.
The opening chapter wastes no time getting the plot into top gear. Eleven-year-old Nate and his mum have driven away from their home in the middle of the night to find safety in an old cottage that they once stayed in on holiday. The reason? They are running away from Gary, Mum’s emotionally abusive live-in boyfriend.
Domestic abuse is a tricky subject to be tackled, but Thompson does not shy away from presenting the bleakness of Nate’s situation. Gary is a dark presence looming over much of the novel, but Thompson is careful not to overembellish the reason why Nate and his mum are on the run.
Things take an unexpected turn the day after Nate and Mum arrive at the cottage, when Mum drives off to buy supplies and doesn’t return.
In the days that follow, Nate has to deal with being abandoned in the middle of nowhere. He befriends Kitty, who lives in a nearby mansion. But he knows how dangerous it would be to reveal the real reason he and Mum are there – Gary must not find out where they are hiding.
At first, Kitty seems innocent enough. She is just a lonely young girl looking for friendship. She fills her time trying to solve the clues from an old treasure hunt that once occupied the inhabitants of the mansion where she now lives. Against his better judgment, Nate becomes involved in Kitty’s game with unexpected results.
All in all, The Light Jar is an absorbing read propelled by a clever plot and intriguing characters.
It’s a classy piece of fiction to be enjoyed by anyone who likes getting lost in a book.
John Millen can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org