January Book Review: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth


Caroline Owen

Novel: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth, 368 pages (hardcover), YA Fiction/Fantasy

Warnings: suicide, depression, self-harm

Themes: adolescence, separation, grief, guilt, love, family, mental health issues, struggling with depression, self-discovery, identity

Weymouth’s YA debut pays homage to Narnia in a gut-wrenching and lyrical novel that is sure to leave your heartstrings tugged-at and aching.

British siblings Jaime (20 years old), Philippa (18 years old) and Evelyn (16 years old) have lived double lives for the past six years in a Narnia-like world called the Woodlands, where they were transported to amidst bomb airstrikes in  London six years prior to the beginning of the novel. Living in the Woodlands, the siblings found themselves to be refugees of World War I and admirers of the Woodlands’s scenery and its inhabitants. This is especially true for Evelyn, who considers the Woodlands her true home; she has “a Woodlands heart.” Evelyn and her siblings integrate into mythical society and are called upon to defend the Woodlands against enemy kingdoms, which they do reluctantly, unsure if humans are capable of warring against magic. After living and fighting alongside the woodland creatures for six years, the three teens are forced back to London by the Guardian of the Woods who summoned them to the Woodlands six years prior and re-integrate into London society.

Evelyn becomes distraught after returning to a war-raging London, believing that her heart belongs in the Woodlands. She tries desperately to return to the woods, however, is unable to after several attempts. Evelyn, already struggling with mental health issues and severe depression, falls into a downward spiral and isolates herself from her friends and family, unable to cope with dismal and inhospitable London, a world which “is not her own.” Evelyn’s siblings become increasingly concerned about her mental state, especially Philippa, who feels responsible for Evelyn’s suffering. After Evelyn becomes missing, partly due to a falling-out she had with her sister Philippa and grief of separation from the Woodlands, Philippa must face her own long-held guilt and fear in hopes of finding Evelyn, a journey which proves to be tragic and extremely difficult.

Overall, The Light Between Worlds is a fantastic novel and serves as a great complement to Narnia and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as a supporting novel that provides additional insight into the children’s experiences after returning to the regular world. TLBW  has a greater focus on mental health and Evelyn’s disappearance than the fantasy aspects of the Woodlands, so it may not be satisfactory for readers interested in high fantasy. Despite that, the way that Weymouth portrays the struggles of each teenager (Evelyn with depression, Philippa with guilt, and Jaime with family burdens) and centers on the lesser-shown parts of Narnia is very interesting. Additionally, there are several instances where poems are written in the text, often symbolizing Evelyn’s despair, which increases the complexity of the novel. Despite its high ratings, there is a slightly unsatisfactory ending. The conflict resolution at the end of the novel was underdeveloped. Not only that, the entire novel’s worth of issues were “solved” with a few lines of dialogue and a minute collection of sentimental phrases. Nonetheless, the novel is witty, emotionally involving, and eye-opening relative to themes of exploration, self-discovery, and identity.