A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

A Monday Book Review

“Except for the librarian and a couple of mice, I spent more time in the school library than anyone” (40). Oh dear. Not another YA novel where the main character loves the library. But I’ve ranted about this before, so I’ll resist the impulse to do it again.

Because the majority of this book review is spent on a total tangent, I will say here that A Certain Slant of Light is an enjoyable read. The idea of two ghosts borrowing the bodies of two troubled teens and falling in love is the sort of plot hook that allows me to forgive the library-loving protagonist issue. The writing is quite beautiful in places and…I cried at the end. A Certain Slant of Light has more poetic prose than a typical commercial fantasy novel, which was pleasantly surprising.

That said, I can now jump into my rant. (Not about libraries.)

I am quite baffled as to why this novel is marketed as YA fiction. The two main characters are adults, although ghosts. Helen was 27 when she died, and has been a ghost for 130 years. James was 29 and has been a ghost for 85 years. That gives each character over a century of experience in the world! Just because they are “borrowing” two teenagers’ bodies does not make them teenagers, and some of their actions, as well as the main character’s thought processes and (prior) life experiences, place this book completely in the realm of general (adult) fiction. I wonder if young adults were the original audience Whitcomb had in mind.

But perhaps I approach this in the wrong way. Young adult fiction doesn’t have to feature teenagers as the main characters…although honestly I’m having a hard time coming up with examples which do not feature teenagers. Anything with animals? I would argue that  The Warriors series by Erin Hunter (starring cats) and The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (populated with all manner of animal characters) are more middle-grade fiction.

YA literature has to be something young adults want to read. But now I’m puzzling over the distinction, because some teens love “adult” books too. And with the YA market attracting more and more adults (for the LA Times article about this, click here), the distinction is problematic.

Can anyone come up with examples of YA books that do not feature a teen as the main character? Extra points if you think of one that features a main character over the age of 20.

For more information on Laura Whitcomb and her writing, you can visit her website by clicking here.


  1. Dana · March 23, 2010

    I am coming up with a big ol’ blank for YA books w/o a teenage protagonist.

  2. Neda · March 23, 2010

    I didn’t recognize the title but reading this I realized that i have listened to this on audiobook. I enjoyed it and I also got teary at the end. I am listening to a Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly right now and it’s written so nicely – I think you would like it.

    Hmm, YAs where the character is not YA … um, I think there is this book by Napoli where the character is a lion or something … BEAST? But then he turns human. I think?

    Nevermind. I don’t really know 😉

    • bethhull · March 24, 2010

      I put A Northern Light on my list! Thanks!

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