I received a review copy of this book for my stop on the blog tour at Donnie Darko Girl.
The Light of the World takes place in 1995, which music wise was the height of the decade for me. In the fall of '95, I was a freshman in high school, so while the subject of this novel is intense, the cultural references of that time were a fond trip down memory lane for me. I feel so old saying that since it's been nearly twenty years.
Kimmy is Chinese American, and I can't tell you how happy I was to read about a character from a different background than mine! There isn't enough diversity in books, so it was refreshing. Black wrote this story in a way that was believable and gave insight into the Chinese American culture in an organic way that added to the story rather than detracting from it.
To say that Kimmy has been through a lot would be an understatement. At the age of sixteen on the same day Kurt Cobain was found dead, she was sexually assaulted. The Light of the World does not shy away from dealing with her trauma as it shouldn't - otherwise, it would be trivialized and this is most definitely not a trivial matter.
Kimmy's fiance, Walter, treated her horribly and even made fun of the imaginary friend she used to cope with the sexual assault. He doesn't want her to go away to college, but I'm so glad she did anyway. She feels suffocated with him, and I can see why. I really didn't like him, and although she begins cheating on Walter with Franz, I had my suspicions Walter was also cheating on her.
During Welcome Week at her college, she meets Franz, a handsome German man. He's a few years older than her, but they find they have music in common and are sexually compatible. Be prepared for explicit sex scenes! Just saying. Franz is gentle with Kimmy, and I fell in love with him, too. No matter how many times she tried to ignore him or push him away, he remained patient. She wanted to be with him, but she was afraid of how much she wanted him.
The Light of the World is gritty, messy, and raw - Kimmy's life lays bare for all to see. I was swept up into her story and am definitely picking up the previous novel, Miss World, to read.