Darkest Light by H. Goto
Goto, Hiromi. Darkest Light. Toronto: Razorbill Canada, 2011. Print.
Darkest Light is a sequel, of sorts, to Goto’s 2009 fantastic allegorical work Half World. However, Darkest Light takes on a more nuanced approach to its characters’ struggles, asking the question, ‘Can a person who has done wrong rehabilitate himself?’ Half World drew its lines of good and evil in a more traditional way, with an outcast heroine battling an evil force living in the world between the dead and the living. In contrast, Darkest Light slowly unravels the mystery of the life of its protagonist, Gee. We see the recurrence of some of the same characters from Goto’s first book in the series, including the knowledgeable wise-woman, Ms. Wei, and the outcast heroine, Melanie Tamaki. But Darkest Light turns its focus on Gee, the baby brought out from Half World by Melanie, and who is now sixteen, having lived with Ms. Wei since. Illustrator Jillian Tamaki has collaborated on this book as with the Half World, and the style of her shadowy sketches captures Goto’s descriptions of Gee.
Gee has grown up lonely, his Popo (Ms. Wei) his only friend; there is something about his ghostly physical presence and his deep-black eyes that put off almost all others, humans and animals alike. After a confrontation with two classmate bullies, he meets neo-Goth, Cracker, a young lesbian who feels some kinship with Gee’s physical and emotional difference. When Ms. Wei’s life is endangered by some of the demons of Half World, Gee and Cracker enter the world to save her.
Goto has taken an interesting path to investigate the question of how to atone for one’s wrong actions by going into the world of fantasy, where the most evil of all the Half World demons tries to change, tempted by his old lovers and friends, as well as by the power he used to wield. Goto’s writing can, at times, read as flat, and the demons in Half World are exaggerated enough to be more cartoonish than frightening. But the emotion she evokes between Gee and his grandmother and Cracker is quite moving, and her book is likely to appeal to young readers who recognize the struggle to find their own paths in the world that doesn’t welcome difference.
Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Allison Sivak
Allison Sivak is the Assessment Librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Library and Information Studies and Elementary Education, focusing on how the aesthetics of information design influence young people’s trust in the credibility of information content.