Book Review: The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise
ashley | An easy way to win me over is to mention Kurt Cobain in your opening lines. This goes for all life encounters. The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow knows who it is catering to, Kurt Cobain is the sixth and seventh word in and that’s all it takes for me to open myself up to this book.
I say open myself up because I was initially hesitant to pick this up. It screamed The Fault In Our Stars to me, being about kids with cancer and the like, and I didn’t want to constantly compare the two as I read through. But by that sixth word I already knew it would be different and was happy to have my presumptions shattered.
Frankie won me over right away. Wise beyond his years, yet equally naive, he seemed both dark and light, hopeful and hopeless. It was an interesting mix and the kind of underdog you are always kind of rooting for.
I liked his family and how he interacted with them. They weren’t perfect, his dad was missing, his mom was a bit of an alcoholic, his brother liked to cause trouble, but they all still cared for each other (maybe excluding the father) and watching them come together to deal with yet another family tragedy was kind of heart warming and heartbreaking at the same time.
Amber, on the other hand, is supposed to steal the spotlight of this book, she is the one who supposedly changes Frankie’s life and is that light in all of his darkness. He immediately falls for her and falls for her hard. But my initial impression of her wasn’t as bright. She seemed a little one dimensional and wasn’t overly positive or all that hopeful and there was absolutely no chemistry between them.
If anything, I thought Amber’s overwhelming bitterness and apathy acted against Frankie, dragging him down and cornering him into a limited, one dimensional existence. I actually started to like him less the more he got to know her and the more the book wet on. Sure, they knocked a couple first young experiences off their bucket list, but this wasn’t the one great big love you hope to see everyone find in their lifetime. She didn’t inspire him to live his life to the fullest or experience new perspectives, she basically gave him this false comfort in some quasi relationship and he spent most of that time thinking things were grander than they actually were. If Frankie’s life is being cut short by such an awful disease, I would have hoped he would have found a more celebratory partner in crime.
That said, I did like the flow of the book and the angle the story took. It is a story about kids with cancer and a lot of it takes place in a cancer ward at a hospital, but somehow that doesn’t totally dominate the book. There are a lot of feelings expressed from everyone involved and this turns into more of an example of how people cope when life deals you a terrible hand.
It also stood alone alongside The Fault in our Stars, which was a relief, but I actually think this would have been a stronger read if it just focused on Frankie and his odd family, leaving him to find his sunrise somewhere else.
March 10, 2015