How the Light gets in by M. J. Hyland

How did I get the book? Magic Box Book

Genre: Contemporary

Synopsis: Lou Connor, a precocious, gifted, and unhappy sixteen-year-old, is offered a place as an exchange student in the United States, something that she hopes will take her far away from her bleak life of poverty in Sydney, Australia. Having endured a childhood with an emotionally crass, deadbeat family, she welcomes the opportunity to live the middle-class life she has long dreamed of. But soon after she moves in with her host family, the Hardings – who live in a prefabricated mansion in a nameless Chicago suburb – Lou’s acute need for acceptance and love runs up against the Hardings’ suffocating pursuit of a particular form of suburban perfection.

200words (or less) review: How the Light gets in is a thought provoking story with a protagonist that isn’t always likeable. Lou is a highly intelligent teen who travels to America as an exchange student. It’s clear early on that while Lou knows she needs to fit in she doesn’t know how to go about it.

To begin with she tries, making up the “right” answers for her host parents, the Hardings, about her own background but as she settles in she returns to her quiet self. The same way Lou expected America to re-create her, the Hardings expected this perfect teen to join their family and neither dream works out.

As Lou unravels it’s hard not to sympathise with her. MJ Hyland portrays Lou both as understanding the consequences of her actions but sometimes Lou comes across as very young. It’s those occasions that endear a rather complex character to the reader.

How the Light gets in is not a happy read it brings home how life can be really unfair – sometimes because of what you do and sometimes because of what other people do.

Recommend it?


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