“I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” — Emily Dickinson
I didn’t realise it at first, but the title for one of the #LoveOzYA books I read recently—I Am Out With Lanterns—is in fact an Emily Dickinson quote which sums up the story (and teenage life) pretty accurately. I Am Out With Lanterns is a beautifully-written, honest portrayal of teenage life and the struggles and the triumphs of high schoolers. Being a teen is a time where so many of us are searching for who we really are and what meaning our lives hold. And so many of us are still out there with a lantern, looking for ourselves. Maybe that’s a lifelong process.
So in celebration of the release of I Am Out With Lanterns and the conversations about searching for yourself that have arisen, I thought I’d share five novels I’ve read that have tied me to different places and different times in my life. I think there’s something so magical about reading a book and having those feelings and the atmosphere in which you read the book stay with you long after you’ve read the final page. Here are my most memorable ones…
The Things I Didn’t Say — Melbourne, Australia
I remember reading The Things I Didn’t Say while I was sitting on the lawn out the front of the State Library of Victoria in the sunshine. Not only was this book memorable because I completely and utterly loved it, it’s also one that’s stayed with me because I read the part that talks about the protagonist going to the State Library right as I was there. There’s nothing more magical than reading a book in the place its set.
I’ll Give You The Sun — Napier, New Zealand
I’d been desperate to read I’ll Give You the Sun ever since it was released, but it wasn’t until my trip to New Zealand where I had two weeks off to do nothing but read and write (and some touristy stuff too) that I got the chance to read it. And when I started reading it, I just couldn’t stop. I remember reading some as I waited for my pizza order in Napier, then reading it in the car as we drove up the coast, and then sitting on the bed at our hotel and sobbing over the final pages. I’ll Give You the Sun will always remind me of New Zealand because of that.
The Book Thief — Sydney, Australia
The year I read The Book Thief was the first year I attempted to compete a reading challenge of sorts and read 100 books. It was New Year’s Eve and I was on my 100th book of the year — The Book Thief. Talk about cutting it fine! So I stayed in our hotel room before we went out to see the fireworks and binge-read the last third of that spectacular novel. I can still remember how accomplished I felt when I turned the last page and then went out and saw the fireworks over the harbour with my family.
Mercy Point — Dubrovnik, Croatia
As Mercy Point was our July Book of the Month for The YA Room and I knew I was going to be away for the majority of June and July, I took it with me to Europe! I read the majority of this incredible novel on an island just off Dubrovnik, with peacocks wandering around and the crystal blue sea spanning out in front of me. It was the perfect choice of book to read while I was away because I just couldn’t put it down! Whenever I think about that ending, I think about that serene little spot in Croatia.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo — Osijek, Croatia
Although I listened to the audiobook of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in a number of locations on my Europe adventure, the most memorable place I read it was in Osijek. I had a couple of hours to wander around the quaint little city and listen to this stunning book as I wandered down streets I’d never explored before and made my way down the river. Being in Osijek was one of the highlights of my trip just because of that reason—spending time listening to what would become one of my favourite books of 2018 while seeing the world.
One of us is in the dark.
One of us is a bully.
One of us wants to be understood.
One of us loves a girl who loves another.
One of us remembers the past as if it just happened.
One of us believes they’ve drawn the future.
But we’re all on the same map, looking for the same thing.
Year Ten begins with a jolt for best friends and neighbours Wren and Milo. Along with Hari, Juliet, Ben and Adie, they tell a story of friendship, family, wild crushes, bitter feuds, and the power of a portrait.
As their lives interwine, images could bring them together, and tear them apart.
I honestly can’t even begin to explain how perfect I Am Out With Lanterns is. I was initially a little hesitant to pick it up without rereading the companion novel again, The Other Side of Summer, but I quickly realised that this one could be read on its own. Whereas The Other Side of Summer takes place between the end of primary school and the start of high school, I Am Out With Lanterns is set in Year 10 and follows the lives of Summer’s older sister, Wren, and their adorable neighbour Milo. This book was such a treat to read and I loved every single page.
What I loved most about I Am Out With Lanterns is how much of an accurate portrayal of teen life it is. We get to see it all—the quotidian, the shocking, the heart-wrenchingly beautiful—and that was what made this novel the spectacular read that it was. I also loved the representation and how it featured a diverse cast of characters, particularly featuring queer characters and a boy with autism. It was also interesting to read about Ben, who seemed to be an outlier and very sure of himself, who was cruel to people he thought unimportant, because we got to see the cause of his behaviour and read about him as a person and not the villain he could have been portrayed as.
I also loved getting to know the other five characters—Wren, Milo, Adie, Juliet, and Hari. They were all flawed, complex people and it was refreshing to read about people who were learning recognise both their strengths and their faults instead of being painted as ‘perfect’. They’re each so unique in their own ways and their voices felt believable and genuine. I really admire how Emily Gale decided to write about these teens with a myriad of different circumstances and lives, and how she managed to write them all so beautifully while keeping the rawness of teen life at the forefront. It was just perfect. This is a book you need in your life.
Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? Do you have any vivid memories of reading certain books in specific locations? Is I Am Out With Lanterns on your TBR? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Penguin Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!