Light Years by Emily Ziff Griffin (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Griffin, Emily Ziff Light Years. Simon Pulse, 2017 304p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5072-0005-6 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5072-0006-3 $10.99 R Gr. 7-10

When Luisa’s synesthesia kicks in during her interview for a fellowship with Thomas Bell, a giant in the tech world, Bell soundly dismisses her. Her personal disappointment, however, is soon eclipsed by a growing epidemic that takes the life of her best friend and sickens her father. When she is sent a mysterious message implying that she may already be in possession of a cure, Luisa heads out to California with friends, hoping someone from the massive volunteer effort there can clue her in to the messenger’s meaning. What makes Griffin’s world particularly frightening is its similarity to our own—Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are still musical powerhouses, but deadly global terrorist attacks have upped policing and put everyone on edge. The threat of militants and infection gives Luisa’s cross-country trek urgency and tension, but there’s also room for character development, especially as Luisa struggles with her relationship with her parents and with the challenges caused by her synesthesia. It’s that condition, though, that combines with her coding program (which tracks the pervasive sentiment of the population around certain events) to get a hit on the virus’s cause which seems related to Bell; the revelation that the deadly illness is spread by compassion for its victims and designed to rid the world of sentiment is particularly thought provoking. While there’s an element of mysticism that doesn’t quite jibe with the book’s tone at the end, a sequel seems likely, and readers will want to join Luisa’s efforts fight for empathy and humanity.

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