The vivid sea setting in Katya Balen’s new middle grade novel THE LIGHT IN EVERYTHING is a captivating character in its own right, and its changeable nature is the perfect backdrop for Zofia’s stormy personality and Tom’s quiet stillness. The reader meets these two contrasting characters before they meet each other, and we are helpless onlookers as Zofia and Tom are swept into a blended family neither wants to be a part of, with the prospect of being half-siblings to a new baby fast approaching on the horizon.
Fiercely possessive of her father, her friends, and the status quo, Zofia unleashes the full force of her nature on poor Tom, whose anxiety and fear of the dark stems from an abusive father who is now in prison.
While Zofia storms and rages, Tom makes himself smaller and smaller, folding himself up like the paper creations he makes to soothe his anxiety. Fear of change is the undertow they are both fighting against, albeit in very different ways.
The ebb and flow of the dual narrative is very effective at pulling us through the increasing drama, and Balen’s skill at concentrating the thrust and conflict of this story solely on this pivotal moment in the children’s lives is truly astonishing. Long after I finished reading the novel, I found myself thinking about it, not only to indulge in the trademark beauty of the author’s words, but also to reflect own how, at the end of the story, Zofia and Tom managed to be so different, and yet so similar, all at the same time.
Sydney Smith’s dynamic cover beautifully captures the turbulence and bluster of this wonderful book.