Reviews for First Light


Booklist Reviews 2007 April #2
The father of 12-year-old Peter is a glaciologist, his mother, a genetic scientist. Peter is thrilled when his father decides to take the family on his latest excursion to Greenland to study the effects of global warming. Fourteen-year-old Thea lives in a secret society called Gracehope under the Greenland ice. After finding a map that leads her to the surface, she becomes obsessed with seeing the sun and bringing her people back above ground. Peter and Thea accidentally meet on the surface and discover, through a secret kept by Peter's mother, that their destinies are unexpectedly joined. This debut novel is slow to start, and Stead's world building isn't quite convincing. There are some gaps in Gracehope's invented mythology, and the motivations behind the creation of the underground utopia are vague and simplistic. But the icy setting and global-warming theme are well realized, and middle-school fans of Neil Shusterman's Downsiders (2000) and Jeanne DuPrau's Books of Ember will also enjoy this solid, well-meaning fantasy. ((Reviewed April 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
Fourteen-year-old Thea lives in Gracehope, a hidden community underneath the ice. When Peter's family goes to Greenland, their paths intersect and they discover a close connection. Peter and Thea are vividly realized, and their frustrations with the secrets kept by the older generations are keenly felt. The story is immediate and compelling, and Gracehope itself is sketched with sure strokes. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
Fourteen-year-old Thea lives in Gracehope, a hidden community underneath the ice. When Peter's family goes to Greenland, their paths intersect and they discover a close connection. Peter and Thea are vividly realized, and their frustrations with the secrets kept by the older generations are keenly felt. The story is immediate and compelling, and Gracehope itself is sketched with sure strokes. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #4
In New York City, twelve-year-old Peter's often-melancholy mother is keenly interested in the headaches that have begun to plague him; underneath the ice in Greenland, fourteen-year-old Thea misses her mother, who died trying to find a way to allow their hidden community, Gracehope, to survive. These parallel stories play themselves out as Peter travels to Greenland with his parents on a trip to research global warming and Thea braves her controlling leader-grandmother's displeasure trying to complete her mother's mission. When the two children's paths inevitably intersect, Thea has risked surfacing and has made her way out of Gracehope with a friend, and Peter must help them get back home, where Thea and Peter discover that their connection is much closer than they'd thought. Peter and Thea are vividly realized, and their frustrations with the secrets kept by the older generations are keenly felt. Gracehope itself is sketched with sure strokes, its icy setting and its matriarchal social structure fresh and believable, its remarkable companion dogs (called Chikchu) infinitely beguiling. Less believable is Gracehope's origin story, but readers will not care too much about that, so immediate is Gracehope's Ember-like peril and so compelling is Peter and Thea's determination to understand both their own worlds and those they've just discovered. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2007 June #1
With the impending threat of global warning as an ominous backdrop, teens from very different worlds find they have much in common. Twelve-year-old Peter and his parents leave Manhattan on a scientific expedition to Greenland where Peter's father and his assistant will study the effects of global warming. After settling into the frozen world, Peter senses his parents share a secret, while he experiences migraines with strange visual effects. Meanwhile, below Greenland's surface, 14-year-old Thea lives in Gracehope, an amazing underground colony settled generations before by a persecuted group of people from England. Descended from Gracehope's original founder, Thea is convinced the future of her people lies above the ground. While Peter's visions draw him toward Gracehope, Thea's convictions draw her toward the light. As Peter struggles to figure out his parents' secret, Thea grapples with secrets in her own family. Alternating between Peter and Thea's stories, this compelling contemporary ice-age mystery introduces two engaging characters whose personal courage is tested as they discover one another's worlds as well as the truth about themselves. Thoroughly enjoyable arctic adventure. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 June #3

Stead's debut novel rests on an intriguing premise--that a group of people with unusual powers was forced to flee England generations ago to live peacefully below the ice in the "cold world" of Greenland. Fourteen-year-old Thea is a strong-willed resident of Gracehope, named after the woman who sacrificed her life to fulfill her dream of resettling her community safely under the glaciers. However, Thea, the last woman in Grace's direct bloodline, insists that her ancestor's intention was never to stay in Gracehope forever, but to rejoin life on the surface. Her life is forever changed the day she and her cousin find a secret tunnel to the world above and meet Peter, the 12-year old son of two scientists from New York who are ostensibly researching global warming. Peter is a reticent child who, like his mother, suffers from headaches and unusual ailments. After a long build-up, including a seemingly ancillary scientific puzzle about DNA, the story takes on a livelier pace as the central mystery unfolds--the connection between Peter and Thea. It is a testament to the storytelling that the existence of this parallel world and the convergence of Peter and Thea's stories, told in separate chapters, are both credible and absorbing. Young readers will find this a journey worth taking. Ages 9-12. (June)

[Page 54]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 August

Gr 5-8-- Stead's debut novel is an exciting, engaging mix of science fiction, mystery, and adventure. Thea lives in Gracehope, a world hidden inside Greenland's ice cap. Her English ancestors, hunted and slaughtered as accused witches seven generations earlier, retreated beneath the ice, settling in the cold world. But now, the population has increased to 600; births are limited and food rationed. Thea believes that the intent of the Settlers was to one day return to the world above. She and her cousin, Mattias, find the passage to that world, but in the process Mattias is hurt. Alternating with Thea's story is that of Peter, a seventh grader from New York City who is in Greenland for six weeks while his father, a glaciologist, investigates the melting ice cap. Thea's and Peter's lives cross when he finds the passage and Thea asks him to help with Mattias. He learns that his mother has a connection to Gracehope, and that his parents are trying to locate it and warn the people that, due to global warming, the community is sinking. Readers may wish that the fascinating underworld setting was described in more detail, and that the reason for the Settlers' abandoning the world above was revealed more clearly and sooner. But, Peter and Thea are fully developed main characters. Thea especially, with her growing independence from her family and her determination to help her people, is a strong and memorable protagonist. A great discussion starter of issues ranging from global warming to shunning and building a new society.--Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

[Page 126]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2007 June
With global warming in the news, Stead's debut novel is a welcome addition. Twelve-year-old Peter is excited to join his parents on an expedition to study global warming in Greenland. His father, a glaciologist, and his mother, who is researching the impact of positive DNA mutations on cells, have made several trips, but it is the first time for Peter, who discovers how little there is to do. His boredom ends when the sled dogs drag him into a howling blizzard and he discovers a red circle imbedded in the ice. It marks the entrance to Gracehope, an underground hidden world to which fourteen-year-old Thea's people escaped years ago and which his parents have been trying to locate. The two worlds collide when Thea and her cousin Mattias locate the other end of the tunnel and climb up to explore a world they had only heard of, where the horizon is more than just a definition. When Mattias falls in a crevasse, Peter helps Thea rescue Mattias and guide their sled back down the tunnel into Gracehope. Chapters alternate between Thea's and Peter's perspective, familiarizing the reader with the self-sufficient colony of Gracehope and the role that Peter, who has inherited unique visual skills, and his mother, who grew up in Gracehope, play in the future of this safe haven that is slowly being destroyed by a world their leader shuns. It is an intriguing look at how global warming is affecting the arctic regions, deftly woven into a coming-of-age story.-Ruth Cox Clark PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94017-0. 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.

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