Where the Light Goes by Sara Barnard, reviewed by Farrah (17)

Where the Light Goes is a devastating, raw and nuanced depiction of grief, familial relationships and the human psyche after a beloved family member takes her own life. It is a complex and realistic dissection of life in the limelight, media scrutiny and its real-world implications, that is thoroughly necessary in today’s society where life is so deeply influenced and dictated by the internet and the media. 

Sixteen-year-old Emmy Beckwith is the younger sister of Beth Beckwith, who is known to the wider world by her stage name of Lizzie Beck. The book begins with Emmy finding out that her sister has taken her own life. From there, Sara Barnard expertly manipulates the writing style and plot structure, using first person perspective, messages, transcribed voice notes, flashbacks and newspaper articles in order for the reader to attempt to understand Emmy’s lived experience and stream of consciousness; we are inside her mind and immersed in her awareness. The book carries on over an extended span of time and excels at emphasising that grief is non-linear, and does not abide by time periods or schedules. 

“A lingering and devastating portrayal of grief, but equally one that tells of loves longevity.”

Farrah (17)

The characters in Where the Light Goes are complicated and realistically-driven, as are the events that take place. Lizzie Beck rose to stardom at a young age, and its subsequent consequences are explored. Emmy has to grapple with the separate, distinct identities of her sister and ultimately recognise them as one amalgamated person, while reflecting on their loss of privacy, and the exploitation of Beth that continues on long her death, with the media capitalising on the real, tangible grief of those who really knew her, and falsifying their sympathies when they were so cruel to her while she was alive. 

Where the Light Goes reflects on grief and its tangible, visceral effects, while simultaneously considering how it impacts relationships and the trajectory of people’s lives. It urges you to evaluate how you behave online, and to remember that behind every screen, there is a real, human individual who is receiving the comments, backlash and media scrutiny.

This is not a book that you should enter lightly; please check the trigger warnings and consider whether these are topics you are comfortable with reading at the moment. If you do decide to pick up this book, you will find a lingering and devastating portrayal of grief, but equally one that tells of loves longevity, and characters and a story that will remain with you long after you turn the last page. 

What The World Doesn’t See by Mel Darbon, reviewed by Farrah (16) 

Maudie and Jake’s family is falling apart, with their mum struggling with her grief after the passing of their dad. One night she vanishes with only a note left behind, and no news of her whereabouts. When their aunt puts Jake in care, Maudie goes to desperate lengths to try to reunite her family, and she kidnaps Jake, taking him with her to Cornwall, hoping that when her Mum learns of the current situation, she will return.

“…a bond between brother and sister that is so beautiful and raw that it is almost tangible.”

Farrah (16)

What unfolds is a powerful and moving tale of grief, healing, finding oneself, first love and familial bonds. 

‘What The World Doesn’t See’ is a book that will stick with you long after you turn the last page, with very well written autism representation, and a bond between brother and sister that is so beautiful and raw that it is almost tangible.

The author Mel Darbon explains in the author’s note that she wrote from a very personal experience of having a sibling on the autism spectrum. Darbon highlights that whilst Jake’s experience (as well as that of her own brother’s) does not speak for the experience of everyone with autism, the novel clearly displays common obstacles faced by those like Jake, stemming predominately from people’s ignorance. Darbon’s writing, especially when we get to read from Jake’s point of view (since the story is told in dual narrative, allowing us to see life through the eyes of both Maudie and Jake) was very impactful. 

Ultimately, this book follows the physical and emotional journey of Maudie and Jake (and their mother), as they navigate their way through grief and towards healing, as well as the relationship between the siblings evolving as Maudie recognises what Jake is capable of, and allows him more freedom and opportunity to express his own independence.