I read Stead’s debut novel First Light when it came out in 2007 and remember quite enjoying it. Having recently enthusiastically reviewed her latest Liar & Spy which was recognizable as being by the same person who wrote When You Reach Me (which I also reviewed), I became curious about this first book. If I read it now, familiar with those other two books, would it also feel like a “Rebecca Stead” work?
I remembered aspects quite well — the dual narratives, one of a boy going with his mother and father scientists to Greenland and the other of a girl in a hidden underground world. I enjoyed again the wonderfully developed settings, the characters, and the completely riveting plot. I vaguely remembered it, but not well and became pretty engrossed, finding it necessary to finish the last of it in one big gulp.
As for that familiar Stead voice of her subsequent two books, it is there if you look for it, but I’m not so sure I’d have recognized if I didn’t know going in who the author was. There are elements that she develops further in the later books. Say her great love of NYC. Even though a big chunk of the book is set in Greenland, the early parts in New York are filled with the little touches that are so Stead: local food places in particular. At one point in Greenland Peter’s mother gives him a box of chocolates from a shop they both love. And speaking of mothers, this one, like those in the other two books is mighty interesting indeed. Then there is another thread going through all three books: science. This one has to do with DNA. Finally, Stead loves mysterious things and this book, like the other two, has a juicy plot twist. I think it is that twist — the carefully building up of bits of information cunningly dropped in at points, the life-threatening moments that lead to the reveal — that will be most recognizable to Stead fans.
If you are a Rebecca Stead fan and haven’t read this title I recommend it. And even if you’ve not read any of her books, do check this one out. It is a highly engaging and enjoyable adventure with a lot to think about along the way.