The Light of Fireflies by Paul Pen
This book had so many twists and turns that I had to finish it in one day. After finishing the book, I was completely stunned, there had been so many moments where I knew what would happen, and where I wouldn’t know. I also had many mixed emotions. Overall, I think the main feature of the book that mad it so compelling was the way it was told.
What makes this book so unique is the perspective of the protagonist. The protagonist is an eleven-year-old boy, but it seems to be told from a point in the future. The book is similar to a family drama detective novel in which the detective is the son who must discern the truth about his life. The majority of the actions and thoughts are recorded by this eleven-year-old and, like most children, he misses things or does not ascribe significance to them. At the same time, there are moments when the future or present him makes remarks about how he should have noticed something. These make the perspective of the novel very interesting and as an older reader, I am able to investigate and read between the lines of the conversations that the protagonist over hears. Additionally, everyone has their own agenda and, being a child, it is hard for the protagonist to discern who is telling the truth (since a lot of events trigger a string of revelations about his home).
Perhaps that is also another feature that makes the story so compelling: the universality of some of his internal emotions. While I cannot say that many have experienced conditions similar to his, all of the readers have had to discover the reality of our world. The quest for truth and the process of growing up is one we all must undergo, yet for this boy there are untold secrets that greatly change the way he must figure out the truth in the world. We can relate to his struggle to question the things he has always taken for granted, to investigate the people in his life, and how betrayal by those who are closest to us feels.
I will not discuss a lot of the plot elements, or how I felt at certain points because this book warrants a fresh read. I want to retain as much mystery so that you can go on that journey yourself.
I am still processing the ending and I have many mixed feelings about the characters in the boo and that seems to be a good sign. None of these characters are one dimensional. They all have aspects that makes them more complicated, harder to emphasize that make them human. Even the ending itself I have questions and complicated feelings. I ask myself, what would I do if I was in their shoes?
This book is for anyone who wants to read a story about a family who deals with issues of loyalty and guilt. How can we forgive our loved ones and how do we move past their actions? What is the price of guilt? How far would we go for family?
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