A Certain Slant of Light

( 307 )

Overview

In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen—terrified, but intrigued—is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people ...

See more details below
Paperback
$8.99
BN.com price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (141) from $1.99   
  • New (15) from $1.99   
  • Used (126) from $1.99   
A Certain Slant of Light

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99
BN.com price
(Save 11%)$8.99 List Price
Note: Visit our Teens Store.

Overview

In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen—terrified, but intrigued—is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.

After benignly haunting a series of people for 130 years, Helen meets a teenage boy who can see her and together they unlock the mysteries of their pasts.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
The Teen Discover designation is reserved for those special young-adult titles: books with such a strong narrative they demand an audience beyond that of the market for which they were penned. And Laura Whitcomb's debut novel meets our criteria head-on, with a compelling story of two spirits seeking a deeper connection.

Helen is a disembodied spirit who "attaches" herself to humans in order to possess their bodies. Unable to remember the circumstances of her death, and with no idea why she's in this precarious state of limbo, she knows this much: she's been haunting the living world for 130 years. But when Helen inhabits the body of a high school teacher, everything changes. For though he remains quite unaware of her presence, a certain boy in his class is clearly able to see Helen. This realization, and Helen's subsequent introduction to him, rocks her world.

Uncomfortable with the boundaries of her existence, Helen continues to test them and takes hair-raising risks -- often for love. Moved by her passions, she is stymied by limits placed on her that she doesn't yet understand and is unable to control. Despite the supernatural realm it explores, A Certain Slant of Light is nothing sort of chilling in its evocation of a world that's starkly real, and a newfound love that's positively sublime. (Holiday 2005 Selection)
From the Publisher
"Whitcomb writes with a grace that befits Helen’s more modulated world while depicting contemporary society with sharp insight. In the subgenre of dead-narrator tales, this book shows the engaging possibilities of immortality–complete with a twist at the end that wholly satisfies."—School Library Journal School Library Journal

"A highly senual, supernatural story of two spirits caught in purgatory. . . . Mesmerizing."—Publishers Weekly Publishers Weekly

"Whitcomb is generous with atmospheric detail . . . and she creatively pulls together a dramatic and compelling plot that cleverly grants rebellious teen romance a timeless grandeur."—The Bulletin Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"[An] original, opinionated, sexy, and romantic novel of the afterlife." —Horn Book Horn Book

"Whitcomb writes beautifully . . . this will be irresistible to teens." ––Booklist Booklist, ALA

Publishers Weekly
By turns whispery, giddy and urgent, Molina's voice skillfully rides the emotional roller coaster of this gothic-style romance carried on by Victorian-era ghosts who come to inhabit nubile 21st-century teenage bodies. Helen, a passionate lover of literature who's been "light" since her death 130 years ago, has spiritually attached herself, invisible, to human hosts for decades. But when she is one day seen by a kindred spirit literally in James, a ghost now inhabiting a teen junkie's form, everything changes. Helen takes over the body of Jenny, the "empty" daughter of strict fundamentalist Christians. As humans, the two ghosts experience new sensations; they navigate contemporary social and romantic mores and also remember more about their own past lives among the living. The intriguing premise and eerie execution of this tale will arrest romance and ghost story fans alike. A few expletives and some graphic sexual encounters keep this firmly in the older listener category. Ages 14-up. (June) n Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
"Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you're a ghost." Helen has been dead for over 100 years, and this is the first time that anyone living ever noticed her. It's not that she hasn't followed humans—she has. In fact, she has had several human hosts over her time as a ghost. Attaching and following a human is the one way she can keep at bay the blackness and cold that threaten to envelop her. But the living, even her hosts, never take note of her. Then one day, she senses that a student in her current host's English class is looking at her. Over the next few days, Helen not only comes to understand why the teen can see her, but falls in love with him. Told from the viewpoint of a ghost, the story is neither a typical ghost tale nor a typical teenage love story. The reader's fear does not drive the plot. Instead, we see the living through the eyes of the nonliving. Helen's new friendship with a teen underscores her sadness and loneliness. In this way, Whitcomb's descriptions and slow pace are more reminiscent of Anne Rice's vampire novels than of Stephen King's works. Older teens drawn to Rice's work as well as those who enjoy love stories with a twist will definitely want to read this insightful and unusual take on life and love. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2005, Houghton Mifflin, Graphia, 288p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Debra Smith
VOYA
For 130 years, Helen haunted a series of hosts. Helen reached for the first and "dragged [herself], hand over hand, out of the earth and quaked at her feet, clutching her skirts, weeping muddy tears." As each of her hosts died, she found another to cling to, until she haunted Mr. Brown in his classroom where James first saw her. James is a soldier who died years before, inhabiting Billy, a teen whose spirit has given up his body after a drug overdose. The connection between Helen and James is immediate and overwhelming. James and Helen search for a body for her to inhabit so that the lovers can touch physically. Together they explore their powerful attraction, combining adolescent yearning with mature desire. Jenny, the girl that Helen has possessed, is from a strict religious family that has suffocated her spirit. Billy has a history of drug abuse and family violence. The two ghosts must learn to live in these contemporary families with no prior knowledge of the students' lives. This compelling, supernatural love story explores the meaning of life, the afterlife, forgiveness, and religion. Helen and James come to terms with their earlier lives and help the teens they inhabit before they find full redemption. The reader has sympathy for the complex characters, even those whose actions one hates. The writing is almost poetic in the description of Helen's sensations as she explores the world in a physical body. Whitcomb is a new author to watch. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Graphia/Houghton Mifflin, 288p., Trade pb. Ages 15 to 18.
—Deborah L. Dubois
Children's Literature
Helen has been dead for 130 years. One day, while she is haunting a high school English teacher, she realizes that someone in the room is able to see her—boy who the week before had seemed quite unremarkable. But once he saw Helen, questions were answered and understood. This book is about the love story that develops between the two of them, as they discover their former lives and more about the children whose bodies they have come to possess. This book is a combination of harlequin romance with paranormal activity. Although well written, this book is not appropriate for children as topics such as sex, drugs, smoking, drinking, and supernatural events are mixed together for the story line. The author expounds her thoughts on post-mortal existence, and brings them together in quite an intriguing story line. This novel is about the struggle to remember and love. 2005, Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages Adult.
—Nicole Peterson
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Laura Whitcomb's compellingly complicated story (Graphix, 2005) combines dead spirits, existential angst, teens in modern families inhabiting both ends of the neglected/overprotected spectrum, unprotected teen sex, accusations of misconduct against a teacher, and requited love. Helen, who died as a young woman in the mid-19th century, has not been able to attain her final rest. Across the years, she has attached her invisible self to one living "host" after another, staying by each one's side so as to maintain enough life force to work through whatever happened at her death-and in her own life-that won't allow her to go peacefully. The hosts have no conscious sense of her presence-she does them no harm-and Helen moves on to a new host when her current one dies. In the 21st century, she's been attached to a high school English teacher. Helen realizes that a student in one of the classes sees her quite clearly. In fact, the contemporary student, Billy, is actually a young man named James who, like Helen, died but has gone a step beyond haunting a living host to inhabiting the living body of one. Lauren Molina's performance of this ghost story is appropriately breathy, although some of the characters-including James-sound too young because of her high voice. The denouement here is exciting and unexpected, giving listeners much to ponder and discuss: Are such hauntings plausible? How responsible are overly protective parents for poor decisions their teens make? When is circumstantial evidence really enough for anyone to draw absolutely certain conclusions?-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What should be a sure-fire ghost story/romance fails to ignite a spark. Helen is a spirit that cleaves to hosts, unsure of why she's bound to earth. She picks very literary hosts (including Emily Dickinson), such as her current high-school English teacher. It is at school that Helen is "seen" for the first time, by teenager Billy Blake. Turns out Billy is actually "James"-another spirit who's figured out how to inhabit a body. He and Helen fall in love, and he convinces her to find a body so that they can have sex (semi-graphically depicted, and somehow also coldly so). Their hosts both have troubled homes (one drugs, the other religion, both with messed-up parents), leading to a predictable close. Unsurprising plot, under-developed characters and adequate prose doom this first novel. The love story, and the device of a spirit gaining flesh, should be emotionally rich fodder, yet Whitcomb takes these nowhere. Young women will be drawn to this book, and will probably finish it, but unless the collection needs another forgettable easy-sell, skip it. (Fiction. YA)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618585328
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 160,859
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 780L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Whitcomb grew up in Pasadena, California where she lived in a mildly haunted house for 12 years. She has taught English in California and Hawaii. The winner of three Kay Snow Writing Awards, she was once runner up in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest for the best first sentence of the worst science fiction novel never written. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her dog Maximus.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead. I was with my teacher, Mr. Brown. As usual, we were in our classroom, that safe and wooden-walled box—the windows opening onto the grassy field to the west, the fading flag standing in the chalk dust corner, the television mounted above the bulletin board like a sleeping eye, and Mr. Brown’s princely table keeping watch over a regiment of student desks. At that moment I was scribbling invisible comments in the margins of a paper left in Mr. Brown’s tray, though my words were never read by the students. Sometimes Mr. Brown quoted me, all the same, while writing his own comments. Perhaps I couldn’t tickle the inside of his ear, but I could reach the mysterious curves of his mind.
Although I could not feel paper between my fingers, smell ink, or taste the tip of a pencil, I could see and hear the world with all the clarity of the Living. They, on the other hand, did not see me as a shadow or a floating vapor. To the Quick, I was empty air. Or so I thought. As an apathetic girl read aloud from Nicholas Nickleby, as Mr. Brown began to daydream about how he had kept his wife awake the night before, as my spectral pen hovered over a misspelled word, I felt someone watching me. Not even my beloved Mr. Brown could see me with his eyes. I had been dead so long, hovering at the side of my hosts, seeing and hearing the world but never being heard by anyone and never, in all these long years, never being seen by human eyes. I held stone still while the room folded in around me like a closing hand. When I looked up, it was not in fear but in wonder. My vision telescoped so that there was only a small hole in the darkness to see through. And that’s where I found it, the face that was turned up to me. Like a child playing at hide-and-seek, I did not move, in case I had been mistaken about being spotted. And childishly I felt both the desire to stay hidden and a thrill of anticipation about being caught. For this face, turned squarely to me, had eyes set directly on mine. I was standing in front of the blackboard. That must be it, I thought. He’s reading something Mr. Brown wrote there—the chapter he’s to study at home that night or the date of the next quiz. The eyes belonged to an unremarkable young man, like most of the others at this school. Since this group of students was in the eleventh grade, he could be no more than seventeen. I’d seen him before and thought nothing of him. He had always been vacant, pale, and dull. If anyone were to somehow manage to see me with his eyes, it would not be this sort of lad—this mere ashes-on-the-inside kind. To really see me, someone would have to be extraordinary. I moved slowly, crossing behind Mr. Brown’s chair, to stand in the corner of the classroom beside the flag stand. The eyes did not follow me. The lids blinked slowly.
But, the next moment, the eyes flicked to mine again, and a shock went through me. I gasped and the flag behind me stirred. Yet this boy’s expression never changed, and next moment, he was staring at the blackboard again. His features were so blank, I decided I had imagined it. He had looked to the corner because I had disturbed the flag a little. This happened frequently. If I were to move too quickly too near an object, it might tremble or rock, but not much, and never when I wanted it to. When you are Light, it is not the breeze of your rushing past a flower that makes it tremble. Nor is it the brush of your skirts that starts a drape fluttering. When you are Light, it is only your emotions that can send a ripple into the tangible world. A flash of frustration when your host closes a novel he is reading too soon might stir his hair and cause him to check the window for a draft. A sigh of mourning at the beauty of a rose you cannot smell might startle a bee away. Or a silent laugh at a misused word might cause a student’s arm to prickle with an inexplicable chill.
The bell rang, and every student, including this pale young man, slapped books closed and stood, with a scrape of chair feet, shuffling toward the door. Mr. Brown snapped immediately from his bed dream. “I’ll bring a video tomorrow,” he said. “And don’t fall asleep during it, or I’ll make you act it out yourselves.” Two or three of his students groaned at this threat, but most were already gone, mentally if not physically.
So this was how it began. When you are Light, day and night have less meaning. The night is not needed for rest—it’s merely an annoying darkness for several hours. But a chain of days and nights is the way in which the Quick measure their journeys. This is the story of my journey back through the Quick. I would climb into flesh aagain for a chain of six days.

I stayed shamefully close to my Mr. Brown for the rest of the day. When you cleave to a host, it is nnnnnot necessary to shadow the person from room to room. I would never follow a male host into the bath, for instance, or into the marriage bed, man or woman. I learned from the beginning how to survive. From the moment I found my first host, I had been devoted to the rules that kept my punishment at bay.
I remembered all my hauntings clearly, but only a few images stayed with me from the time before I was Light. I remembered a man’s head on the pillow beside me. He had straw-colored hair, and when he opened his eyes, he was looking not at me but toward the window, where wind was rattling the pane. A handsome face that brought no comfort. I remembered catching a glimpse of my own eyes in the window reflection as I watched this man ride away on a black horse through the farm gate, the horizon heavy with clouds. And I remembered seeing a pair of frightened eyes looking up at me, full of tears. I could remember my name, my age, that I was a woman, but death swallowed the rest. The pain, once I was dead, was very memorable. I was deep inside the cold, smothering belly of a grave when my first haunting began. I heard her voice in the darkness reading Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale.” Icy water was burning down my throat, splintering my ribs, and my ears were filled with a sound like a demon howling, but I could hear her voice and reached for her. One desperate hand burst from the flood and caught the hem of her gown. I dragged myself, hand over hand, out of the earth and quaked at her feet, clutching her skirts, weeping muddy tears. All I knew was that I had been tortured in the blackness, and then I had escaped. Perhaps I hadn’t reached the brightness of heaven, but at least I was here, in her lamplight, safe. It took me a long time to realize that she was not reading to me; nor were her shoes spotted with mud. I held her, yet my arms did not wrinkle the folds of her dress. I cried at her feet like a wretch about to be stoned, kissing the hem of Christ’s garment, but she didn’t see me, couldn’t hear my sobs. I looked at her—a fragile face, pale but rosy at the cheeks and nose as if it were always winter around her. She had gray duck-down hair piled on her head like a bird’s nest and sharp green eyes, clever as a cat’s. She was solid and warm with a fluttering pulse. She wore a black dress with mismatched buttons, the elbows worn thin. Tiny spots of ink dotted her butter- colored shawl. The cover of the little book in her hands was embossed with the figure of a running stag. It was all real and blazing with detail. But I was shadow, light as mist, mute as the wallpaper. “Please help me,” I said to her. But deaf to me, she turned the page. “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird . . .” As she read aloud the familiar words, I knew what I was. I stayed by her side for hours, afraid that if I looked away from her or tried to remember too hard how I had come to be in hell, I would be thrown back there. After a score of pages, my host closed her book. I was frightened by the idea that she might put out the light when she went to her bed, and this panic made me fall on her again. I threw my head into her lap like a heartbroken child. The book fell from her hands and dropped through me onto the floor. I was startled at the painless flick of sensation. My host bent to retrieve the book of poems, and as her body passed through me, I felt myself dropping down and then soaring up again as if I were on a child’s swing. A most peculiar expression came over her face. She placed the volume carefully under the lamp on the desk beside her and took up pen and paper. She dipped at the ink and began to write:

A suitor bent upon one knee Death asked me for my hand

I could tell by the black stains on her fingertips that, most likely, these were not the first lines she had ever written. I couldn’t tell whether I had inspired her, but I prayed that I had. If I could do some scrap of good, perhaps I would be granted entrance into heaven. All I knew was that this saint was my salvation from pain and that I would be hers until the day she died. And that’s what I called her, my Saint. She was as poised as a queen and as kind as an angel.
I was confined to her world but was not her equal. I could fantasize that we were sisters or the best of friends, but I was still only her visiting ghost. I was a prisoner on leave from the dungeon—I knew nothing of my crime or the length of my sentence, but I knew I would do whatever I could to avoid being tortured. Alone in the lilac air of her country garden, I glided ’round her while she wrote hundreds of poems, her hair and her eyes slowly growing white. One evening, when I had been moving with her along the road to the woods and back, we stopped to observe a fly struggling in a web while a spider waited on a leaf and watched. I could feel my Saint devising a poem about the possibility of spider amnesty, but what I didn’t realize was that she had stopped watching them and had marched home and was already dipping in ink before I turned to find her gone. At first I thought she must be just a few yards ahead, hidden by the hedges at the curve of the road. I rushed toward our home, but it was too late. The old pain returned, first to my feet, like ice slippers, then up my legs, slowing me to a crawl. I could still see the road in front of me, but as I fell forward, I heard a splash and cold rods shot up my arms and into my heart. I called to her until my mouth was full of water. The evening had gone black as my grave. I was back in the hell I’d known before I’d found her. I tried to do what I had done the first time I’d heard her voice. I thrust out my hands, feeling blindly for her skirts, but I felt only wet wooden boards. Clawing at them, I felt a corner and then a flat shelf, then another shelf. I dug into the boards and pulled myself up. When I reached out this time, I felt a shoe. The darkness swam into warm light. I looked up to see my Saint standing on the wooden steps of her pantry, a pen in one hand and a half-written poem in the other. She gazed out at the dusk garden as if she’d heard an intruder in her rose bushes. I was lying on her steps, one hand gripping her shoe, thanking God for letting me come back to her. After that I was ever so careful about staying close to my hosts. On my Saint’s final day, I hoped so passionately that she would take me with her into heaven that I lay in bed beside her, listening to her breathe. She had no nurse, no housekeeper. We were completely alone. I didn’t understand how much I would miss her until she lay still as the earth under my head. My Saint. My only voice on the air, singing or testing a metered line aloud. My only companion on autumn walks. My page-turner by the fireside. I prayed for God to let me go with her. I couldn’t recall my past sin, that deed I had done before my death that had banished me from heaven, but I prayed now for God to let me work off my debt beside my Saint. Remember how I had tried to comfort her when she was lonely, I prayed, and how I inspired her when her pen began to scratch out line after line of verse.
But God neither answered my prayer nor explained Himself. There was not even a moment when her green eyes turned to me in recognition. My friend, my Saint, had simply gone. The familiar cold began to tug at my feet, blistering up my legs, twisting ice into me. I was saved only by the insistent knocking at the door below. I swam down the air, through the bedroom floor, the hall ceiling, the wooden door, and, desperate not to be thrown to the darkness again, embraced the body that stood there. A young man who had been corresponding with her for a year, praising her verse, had chosen that day to call on her for the first time. He stood with a bouquet of violets in one hand, looking up at her curtained windows with disappointment. I shut my eyes, pressed my face upon his hand, and prayed to God to let me have him.
Eventually my prayers were rattled by the sound of horses’ hooves. I found myself sitting in the safety of his carriage at my new host’s feet beside the violets he had discarded. And so I was delivered again by a rescuer unaware. I called him my Knight because he had come to my aid when I was in distress. He was a writer, widowed and childless. He wrote stories of knights and princesses, monsters and spells, tales he would have told his dear ones at bedtime. His publishers would print only his books on Scripture, not these enchanting stories. This made him angry and caused him to walk about stiffly, like one who can never take off his armor. I tried to be his friend, and I believe I softened his words more than once so that his books would be accepted and keep his cupboards in bread. I had another close call with hell while at the theater with my Knight. He had gone with two friends to see a production of Much Ado About Nothing. As I stood in the box beside his chair, I fell in love with the costumes and fun of the players. I was as close to my Knight as two posts on the same fence, yet in the moment when I made a wish, I broke a mysterious rule of haunting. I watched the lovers in the pool of light below and wished one of them were my host. A chill beat through my heart. I slid down through the floor and half into my old grave before I could stop myself. I gripped my Knight’s hand and dangled there. “I take it back,” I prayed. “I want my Knight.” I struggled halfway in and out the window of hell for the rest of the act. An icy pain pulled at me from below as if I were standing on the floundering ship of my own floating coffin, the winter sea up to my hips. “Please let me have him,” I begged. Finally, as the curtain fell, I was washed up onto the warm, dry carpet beside my Knight’s feet. After that I was careful what I wished for. At the end, as my Knight slipped away in a dim corner of a hospital room, I found that again I was losing my only friend. I prayed again to God to let me go with my host, but no answer came. What saved me this time was quite a different voice from those of my first hosts. A playwright who had broken his arm was laughing with a comrade in the next hospital room, repeating the adventure that had caused his injury. I left my Knight’s bedside, pulled out of the coldness that was already sucking at me, and tilted through the adjoining wall, folding my arms around this silly youth. I held him hard until I knew I was with him. This lad, my Playwright, was nothing like my first two hosts. He had parties in his rooms almost every night until dawn, slept until noon, wrote in bed until four, dressed and went to the theater to work, then dined out and started the whole celebration again. I don’t think he was at all aware of me. He and his friends seemed to do little else than make light of their talents. His plays made people laugh, but the only time I seemed to be influential was on certain dark mornings when he would wake after only an hour’s sleep, frightened by a nightmare. I would sit at the foot of his bed and recite poems written by my Saint until he fell back into dreams. He drank too much, ate too little, and died too young and quite suddenly at one of his own parties. A sweet gentleman poet, who was a guest at the event, caught my Playwright as he fell, like Horatio cupping Hamlet’s head in his large hand. I chose him instantly. My new host—I called him my Poet—was more susceptible to my whisperings than the previous one. When his mind would dry before a poem was complete, I would take great pleasure in speaking ideas into his sleeping ear. Like Coleridge with his vision of paradise restored, he would wake the next morning and turn my straw ideas into golden lines. He fell in love unrequitedly with several other gentlemen, some inclined toward men and some not, but he never found a mate. My Poet became a lecturer in his later years and mentored a seventeen-year-old named Brown. My Mr. Brown was a devoted student and wrote such passionate stories and listened so purely to all advice, I chose him in advance. I could tell months beforehand that my host was going to heaven without me. I cleaved to Mr. Brown when he came to say goodbye to my Poet. Mr. Brown was moving west to enter a university three thousand miles away. I chose him partly because he loved literature so very much, but I also chose him because he had a kind heart, an honest tongue, and a clear honor and yet seemed totally unaware of the fact that he was virtuous. This made him especially appealing. I had a half memory of being fooled by a handsome smile, but Mr. Brown’s face seemed a true mirror of his spirit. I felt even more attached to him than I had to the others. Perhaps that’s why I called him by his name.
I had learned the rules of my survival well during those decades—stay close to your host or risk returning to the dungeon, take what small pleasure you can from a vicarious existence, and try to be helpful. And I do believe that I was helpful to Mr. Brown when he was writing his novel. From the time he was eighteen, he would spend at least an hour a day working on his book. He kept it in a box that once held blank paper. He would sit in a park or at a table in the library, composing one paragraph each day. He had more than two hundred carefully handwritten pages but was still on chapter five. I would sit beside him or pace around him, watching him think. Each page was as precious as a poem. When doubts or thoughts of mundane life staid his hand, I would try grasping his pen to urge him on, but my fingers would only pass through. I discovered that the best way I could help him become unstuck in his writing was to place my finger on the last word he had written. This always brought his pen back to paper and a smile back to his lips. It was a tale of brothers fighting for opposing kings in a medieval setting as rich and mysterious as Xanadu. I longed so to talk to him about this character’s name or that character’s motives, about a phrase here that described a river and a word there that described a dying man’s eyes. I would fantasize, as he slept, long conversations we would have if he could see and hear me—the two of us sipping tea or walking in the country, laughing together over brilliant ideas. But that would never happen, of course. And so it went, my favorite hour of each day spent with him and his book, until the writing stopped the day he met his bride.
They saw each other across a lecture hall and met in the doorway as they left. There was an uncomfortable familiarity about it all. The way she smiled at him, the way he was thrilled when she laughed at his joke, the little excuses each had for touching the other. Her hand on his arm as she asked a question, his knee touching hers as they drank coffee at a tiny table in a pub so noisy they left to take a walk. None of my hosts had lived with a lover. And I’m ashamed to say I felt jealous when this girl moved into his life. At first I pretended I disapproved because he’d stopped working on his novel, but I knew that wasn’t the only reason. An instability clutched me, and I found myself afraid of shadows and loud noises. I wanted to stop him, but although she had inadvertently halted his writing, she was undoubtedly making him happy. I wanted to warn her that a man might seem ideal and then turn cold and distant with no cause, but after all, it was Mr. Brown she was falling in love with. It would be a lie to argue that he wasn’t worth the risk. And so because I loved him, I let her be, and because I feared pain, I learned to follow at a distance when they were together. I felt lonelier than I had ever been with any host, but I tried to love her as if she were my daughter. She had no quality I could easily complain about. It would be a sin to whisper discouragement in his ear. And so they were wed when he was twenty-three and she twenty-one. I taught myself to ignore the pangs I felt when he would tickle her while driving in the car or when she would rest her feet in his lap during breakfast. The intimacy hurt because it wasn’t for me. I was Mr. Brown’s and he was mine, but not the way she was his. Not the way he was hers.
I taught myself the new rules to survive. Move out of the room when they kiss, enter the bedroom only when it is silent, cherish my time with Mr. Brown when he is at work. I obeyed these rules, and one day I was rewarded. Mr. Brown brought out his old tattered box, put it in his briefcase, and drove us to work an hour early. For more than a year now, Mr. Brown had been spending an hour each day, before his first students arrived, working on his novel with me beside him. Feeling inspired by this gift, I had tried to warm myself to his bride by whispering recipes in her ear while she was baking cookies or a cake. I thought I was being as gracious as her own mother might be, until a package arrived from her grandfather, an album of photographs of Mrs. Brown as a baby. The cub-ear curls of her hair and the dimpled backs of her tender hands bit at me like sleet. I couldn’t look at them, coward that I was. I wasn’t her mother. I had chosen Mr. Brown. And he had chosen her.

Now I was afraid that the rules of my world were changing again. I had been seen by a human. Sitting on the sloped roof of Mr. Brown’s small house while he and his wife slept and dreamed below, I studied a crescent moon hung crooked in a plum purple sky and thought about what it would be like to truly be seen. I imagined standing before the young man who seemed to see me and letting him look as long as he wished. How was he doing this? Had he somehow chosen me? I had two strong and seemingly contradictory sensations. One was a fear of being seen by a mortal—as if beheld naked when you know you are clothed. The other was an almost indescribable sensation of attraction—the vine curling toward the sun’s light in slow but single-minded longing. I wanted to see him again, to see whether he really was that rare human who saw what others could not. Nothing was more disturbing to me, and yet nothing compelled me more. By the next school day, when the same group of students entered Mr. Brown’s classroom, I deliberately stood in the back corner of the room. I wanted to know whether the boy could see me and not have to wonder whether he was looking through me at a map of the world or a grammar lesson. I stood still as marble in the far corner between the window frame and the cupboard door. I remained calm so that nothing, not even a speck of dust on the floor, would shift from my presence. And I watched the students enter, one by one, dragging their feet, pushing each other and laughing, listening to private music with wires in their ears, and then, finally, the boy with the pale face, moving, almost gliding to the desk he always sat in, near the back, in the middle.
I moved not an inch and waited. The shuffling died down, the murmurs ceased as Mr. Brown began to speak. The boy sat leaning back, his long legs in denim stuck out in the aisle, his white shirt rolled up at the sleeves, shirttails out, his dark green bag of books lying under the chair. I waited. And then he moved. He let the paper that had just been passed back to him slip off the desktop on purpose; I was sure it was on purpose. And when he sat up and bent to retrieve it from the floor, he turned his head and looked back into the corner of the room where I stood. His eyes met mine for one moment, and he smiled. I was shocked, shocked again though I had longed for it. He sat back up and pretended to read the page, just as the others were doing. How is this happening? I thought. He couldn’t be as I was, Light. I had never seen another like myself. I felt that it was impossible—an instinct told me so. I had never truly believed in mediums, but perhaps this strange boy was some sort of seer. He seemed to have no interest at all in sharing his knowledge of my presence with his fellow classmates or Mr. Brown. It made no sense, and although I was still nervous and full of longing about him, now I was also angry. How dare this chimney sweep of a boy shatter my privacy so matter-of-factly and so completely? What made it worse was that in that moment when he smiled at me, his face flushed. He looked alive and healthy for the first time. It was as if he’d stolen something from me. I felt humiliated, for some reason, and I stormed straight out of the room, without looking back, making a flock of papers flutter off the front row of desks.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
The Teen Discover designation is reserved for those special young-adult titles: books with such a strong narrative they demand an audience beyond that of the market for which they were penned. And Laura Whitcomb's debut novel meets our criteria head-on, with a compelling story of two spirits seeking a deeper connection.

Helen is a disembodied spirit who "attaches" herself to humans in order to possess their bodies. Unable to remember the circumstances of her death, and with no idea why she's in this precarious state of limbo, she knows this much: she's been haunting the living world for 130 years. But when Helen inhabits the body of a high school teacher, everything changes. For though he remains quite unaware of her presence, a certain boy in his class is clearly able to see Helen. This realization, and Helen's subsequent introduction to him, rocks her world.

Uncomfortable with the boundaries of her existence, Helen continues to test them and takes hair-raising risks -- often for love. Moved by her passions, she is stymied by limits placed on her that she doesn't yet understand and is unable to control. Despite the supernatural realm it explores, A Certain Slant of Light is nothing sort of chilling in its evocation of a world that's starkly real, and a newfound love that's positively sublime. (Holiday 2005 Selection)
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 307 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(198)

4 Star

(59)

3 Star

(32)

2 Star

(12)

1 Star

(6)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 308 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful

    This is a rare book. Amazing writing, and use of words. I finished it in two days, and each time I had to put it down because life got in the way, I couldn't wait to pick it up again. It was very touching. A little sad and haunting (excuse the pun). But I love(d) it and would recommend it to any avid reader willing to delve into new literature.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2008

    Absolutly and completely oustanding!

    This book completely made the top of my best book list. When Helen took the girls body and saw James, I almost cried. It was so amazing. The connection was amazing. Everything was amazing!I immediatly fell in love with James. This is a book you want to read over and over again, its a book that you won't want to stop reading. I was reading it during class and wouldn't put it down. I kept getting in trouble. When i got home my mom would say 'Jess, you need to go to bed, put the book down.' I would say 'Yeah, yeah. One more chapter.' I would constantly say that. This is a book for Twilight readers. It gives you a whole differant perspective on ghosts too. You WILL fall in love!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wow...What a Great Book

    This book was so good, and so ridiculously intense. It's one of those books that leaves you in a weird mood once you finish it, because you get pulled into the emotions of the characters. I read this months and months ago, and I still remember it. I'm going to reread it soon. This book is highly recommended, but if you're looking for a fun, lighthearted read, this isn't the book for you.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2007

    great read!!!

    It took me a day and a half to read this book and that is only because I couldn't take it to work with me. The plot is unusual and provoking. It has become my favorite book to share with others. Can't wait for another Laura Whitcomb release!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 12, 2011

    OhMyPuma(inside joke)

    The moment I flipped past the title page, I couldn't cease reading. This book is definately not the typical love story. As I was reading A Certain Slant of Light, so many emotions flew through me: joy, love, bitterness, lonliness. If this were the only book on Earth, I would be completely content.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 1, 2011

    Wow

    Wow I read this book in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. Very unique story that drew me in instantly. I found this recommended on Youtube and I'm thankful for it. Great find!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 26, 2010

    Great, but YA? Really?

    I really enjoyed this book, but the whole time, I kept thinking, "Did I really pick this up in the YA section? It must have been shelved wrong." The characters are late-twenty-somethings spirits who steal teenage bodies, and therefore have adult relationships, and obviously just think like adults. I've read in other reviews that a lot of other people recommended this book to older women... I think it just got catergorized wrong at the publishors level. That said, I really, really enjoyed this book. The plot visited many different sort of life-styles and sometimes seemed to almost skip into different genres (is it a romantic period piece? Is it a edgy young adult book? Is it a teenage Christian novel?), but strangely, it worked. The writing was rich and very skilled, and the storyline, while sometimes a little flat, dealed with the sort of paranormal genre that is popular right now, but it was in a fresh, creative take. I definitely look forward to reading more from Laura Whitcomb.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    GOOD BOOK

    It's a pretty good book. It's a ghost story but it's not your normal scary ghost story. This one is more about longing and love. Helen has spent over 100 years dead going from human host to human host hanging around them without being ever seen.Then one day while in her human host's(Mr.Brown) class she realizes one of his students named Billy can see her. She wonders why and finds out later that he can see her because he is a spirit actually living in Billy's body til Billy decides to come back named James. Helen is over the roof,head over heels for James and he soon becomes her human host and gets Helen to get a human body and the story goes from there. Don't want to actually give too much away for those that want to read it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    amazing, well written, couldn't put it down

    I thought this book was very well written. It almost had a classic kind of feel to it. Not that is compares the the classics (no offense to the author), but her style is great. I read the whole thing before i knew it. I would recommend it to anyone who likes paranormal, amazing, fiction, or even if they liked books. Its an appealing book to anyone. Great beginning, great ending. It started easily, not too slowly, and didn't jump into the story line too fast. Easy to follow, but still made you think. Loved it. Good job, Laura, good job.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 29, 2010

    Beautifully Written

    If you appreciate the raw skill of writing and words then this read is ideal. The author describes everything with clarity and beauty, weaving words together in a way I've never seen before. The story itself was well enough to pass the time but not the best I've read. If you can find this book for a bargain its defiantly worth it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    My favorite book since Twilight

    I really loved this book. Then again, I say that about almost any good book I finish reading. Ever since I read Twilight I've been trying to get interested in other books, but just couldn't. I'd read a book and stop reading in the middle because I just wasn't enjoying it. This book changed that. I was tuned in from the beginning. The emotion that comes through the main character's point of view is tangible. The chemistry between Helen and James, who were destined for each other, makes me fall in love with the two and wish I could find another James out there in the real world. The plot is brilliant. There are some chapters that make you want to stay in that chapter forever and some that make you want to hurry to the next one to see where the suspense leads up to.

    I'm not saying this is the best book you'll ever read. It's not number one on my list, but for anyone that's into paranormal romance, this is the perfect book to read! Laura Whitcomb's first novel definitely was a success.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS EVER!!!

    I read this book in one day and i couldnt put it down it started off fast and was a well woven book most books you wish there was a sequel but this book i still wish there was a sequel but the author rapped the story up really well!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    AMAZING...

    This book caught by surprise. From the very first page I was captivated by Helen's words. Her loneliness rang through each of her words and pulled you into her world. Almost as if I was her wandering and watching and unable to be heard. Once James was introduced... the dialogue between the two of them had a touch of the old romance found in the classics. The bond between the two of them was amazing, touching, passionate, and agonizing all at the same time. I'm completely in love with this book and this has definitely become one of my favorite stories read. Highly recommended!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2009

    Best Ghost Story Ever

    This book was way edgy and exciting. It definitely kept you on your toes. I totally loved the story of and imagintion from the author. It was a great romance novel and it didn't feel like it took forever to read. I read it on a car trip and it made the drive more interesting.
    I loved how the main chracter has to deal with flashbacks of her former life, her new romance with another ghost, and the the girl's body she has taken over. when I read this book it felt like I was the one experiencing all the excitable events. You could really feel the pain she went through.
    My sis was so mad because I wouldn't sut up about this book for a week. It just really pulled you into the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 20, 2009

    THIS IS AN AMAZING BOOK

    i love this book, its the best! I read it in maybe 4 days. amazing book. I really do recommend it. =)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 31, 2009

    A Certain Slant of Light

    This book was simply fantastic! I read it in about sixteen hours. I just couldn't put it down! Laura Whitcomb included the perfect amount of sex, love, and the supernatural. This is an absolute must-read. You won't regret it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Really Good Book.

    This book is really interesting and so funny and so sweet. I love it. I love James and Helen, Billy and Jenny, and Cathy and Mitch and Libby. I won't say anymore, just read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009

    this is a must read

    This book as really good. it was nothing that i expected. the start is hard to get into, but once you get past that it is a great book. it was hard to but it down. there is a lot of romance and examples of family problems. overall a great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2009

    100 times better than i thought it would be!

    When i checked this book out at the library, i figured it would mostly be about ghosts and spirits and basically a mystery overall...but WOW. i was so shocked with how much love and romance had been incorporated in this book. and i even cried at the end! this is definitely in my top 5 favorite books of ALL TIME.

    even though recommending it to everyone is so cliche, i'm telling you this is an absolutely amazing book. you have to read it. i simply couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2009

    WOW

    Im 13 years old and i checked out this book from the library. And when I started reading it I thought I wasn't going to like it (because the first chapter was realy slow). But as i got deeper into the story...I couldn't put it down. I found myself at night, when I couldn't sleep, with the book in my hand and thrilling pictores in my mind! I found myself one night to have almost finished the whole book! I had to convince myself to stop reading, so that I would have something to read after I finished my ISAT's!! This book is a dark cloud of edge, thrilles and challenges...but it is also filled with unforgettable characters, emotion and realism. Its as if I can Feel Helen watching me now!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 308 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)