The Barnes & Noble Review
T. A. Barron's debut novel, Heartlight, originally published in 1990, has become a staple of middle school reading lists. The science adventure fantasy focuses on a young girl named Kate and her grandfather, who is a famous scientist. Kate is struggling to find her identity -- her parents recently moved to a new house and, in her new school, Kate is having trouble fitting in. The only real friend she has is her grandfather, who lives just a few houses away.
Every day after school, Kate goes to her grandfather's house, where she spends time with him when he's not busy in his laboratory. His current top-secret project is creating PCL (Pure Concentrated Light), a magical substance that has the power to liberate a person's "heartlight" so that they can travel anywhere in space. When he discovers that the sun is days away from losing all its power, Kate and her grandfather use their heartlight to travel to a distant star in a desperate quest to save the world.
Heartlight, the first book in Barron's Heartlight trilogy (which includes The Ancient One and The Merlin Effect) is a perfect book for teenagers interested in fantasy and/or spirituality. The story is reminiscent of young adult classics like Lois Lowry's The Giver and Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting. And although the subject of death and dying can be a somber one, the overall theme of this book is uplifting. In the words of Kate's grandfather: "I believe that every living thing has a time to die, as well as a time to be born… The important thing is that they flowered beautifully while they were alive." Paul Goat Allen