In the middle of June, during Milo’s birthday party, the Vasquez siblings encountered an alien being called Luz. Luz took control of Hank’s hands, Ana’s eyes, and Milo’s ears. Everything was great, Hank was a basketball star, Ana could see memories play behind her eyelids, and Milo had a father figure who spoke to him. But now, at the end of summer, Luz has left them without explanation, leaving Hank, Ana, and Milo feeling betrayed and unsure of who they are anymore.
But the Vasquez siblings don’t want to go back to school, everyone has seen the white tent that went up around their house and heard the rumours of a cockroach infestation, but few would understand the loss that Hank, Ana, and Milo are experiencing as they try to return to a life without Luz. Each sibling copes with Luz’s absence differently; Hank avoids using his hands and refuses to speak to Milo, Ana tapes her eyelids open, never blinking, and Milo combats the “loud nothing” by constantly listening to music through his father’s headphones. While the first few months are the hardest, the Vasquez siblings slowly open up to those around them. Hank rejoins the high school’s basketball team, Ana joins the high school’s musical production of Little Shop of Horrors, and Milo learns sign language to converse while wearing his headphones.
Inspired by the movies Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.: Extra-Terrestrial, Leah Thomas has written a compelling, character-driven novel focusing on how individuals resume their lives after they’ve come in contact with alien forces. Hank, Ana, Milo, and their mom, Maggie, have multiple chapters from their own perspectives, providing the reader with knowledge of how each Vasquez family member was impacted both by Luz’s presence and absence.Each character feels like a real person with their own hopes, goals, and fears, particularly Hank, Ana, and Milo, who each have radically different personalities, although one can still see their similarities as siblings.
One of the more intriguing aspects of When Light Left Us is that Luz isn’t physically there nor talked about in the present day. Basically everything that we know of Luz’s personality, thoughts, and goals are revealed through Hank, Ana, Milo, and Maggie’s flashbacks, with the characters hardly every talking about who Luz was in the present day.
Overall, When Light Left Us by Leah Thomas is one of the most intriguing and well-written young adult science-fiction books I have read. The struggle of the Vasquez siblings is so engrossing that it’s a challenge to put the book down.