*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Way the Light Bends
Author: Cordelia Jensen
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Virtual twins Linc and Holly were once extremely close. But while artistic, creative Linc is her parents’ daughter biologically, it’s smart, popular Holly, adopted from Ghana as a baby, who exemplifies the family’s high-achieving model of academic success. Linc is desperate to pursue photography, to find a place of belonging, and for her family to accept her for who she is, despite her surgeon mother’s constant disapproval and her growing distance from Holly. So when she comes up with a plan to use her photography interests and skills to do better in school–via a project based on Seneca Village, a long-gone village in the space that now holds Central Park, where all inhabitants, regardless of race, lived together harmoniously–Linc is excited and determined to prove that her differences are assets, that she has what it takes to make her mother proud. But when a long-buried family secret comes to light, Linc must decide whether her mother’s love is worth obtaining.
I should start of by prefacing this review with a fact: I don’t enjoy poetry and I actively avoid it. BUT I really LOVED Jensen’s free-verse poems that tell the story of a teen girl, her family, and the life she desperately wants to live. I didn’t realize this book was entirely written in free-verse when I picked it up, and then when I did it took me days to work up the oomph to actually open it. However, Jensen’s story that she weaves through the brief lines of each poem is so charged with emotion that you can’t help but get caught along in the story’s grip. This is a coming-of-age story of self-discovery and exploration.
The speaker, Linc, seems to pale in the shadow of her adopted sister, Holly. Or at least, that’s how she feels. She’s not as smart or as athletic. She’s not as popular and it seems like she can never do anything right. But she finds herself in her art, something that isn’t understood by anyone except for a few of her closest friends. Linc knows deep down that she needs to pursue this passion, but she faces road blocks at every turn. Linc is this amazing character who I really deeply related to. I felt a kinship with her as well as this immense amount of sympathy and desire for her to succeed.
Poetry really was the perfect platform to share Linc’s story. Like her love of photography, each poem is a snapshot of a moment in time in her life. Poetry also allows for the tumultuous feelings of teenage-hood to emerge. It’s such a charged time in everyone’s life and these poems so eloquently express these feelings in an elegant way.
What I didn’t like about this story is the incredibly drastic and unaccepting stance that Linc’s parents take throughout the book. It was completely unfathomable to me that her parents continually tried to pressure her into fitting into this idea they had of the best way to succeed when she is so clearly struggling to meet their expectations while vocalizing her own desires as best she can. I am fortunate to have grown up in a home with a mother who encouraged me to do whatever I chose to do and who lifted me up to succeed where I felt I was talented. So, it was difficult to connect with the overall story in this book when I couldn’t fathom such extremely stubborn parents.
Overall though, it is a beautful book and I’d highly recommend. It’s quick and enjoyable.