Far from the typical coming-of-age tale, Lily Kleiman's inaugural offering, Daylight, introduces beautiful, but broken, Will Sutherland Hayes and feisty, but disillusioned, Hannah Rostow. While navigating the tempestuous waters of the teenage subculture, these two young people meet and desperately cling to each other as they frantically tread water in an effort to stay afloat in a sea of human betrayal and cruelty.
Set in a small, isolated Canadian town whose principal industry is a mining pit, the dark setting mirrors the mood of the novel's protagonists who are devoid of hope. Exiled from larger cities, a twelve-year-old Will arrives in Logan Lake to be adopted by a foster family after abandonment by his father and the death of his mother while Hannah arrives five years later after being cast aside by her mother and sent to live with the father she barely knows. Why are parents cruel to children? Will and Hannah don't know, but they quickly learn to act their parts to simply survive this life. While their experiences and situations are quite different, they share a lack of faith in humanity and a history of promises broken by the adults in their lives.
Starved for emotional attention Hannah sees herself as an observer of life, not a participant. Unwanted by a selfish mother, she learned long ago to be responsible and fend for herself. Quelling any feelings of excitement or passion Hannah resigns herself to a staid, apathetic existence without any belief in a brighter future. Her father, Gabe, attempts to provide for Hannah and does genuinely love her, but he faces his own challenges during the course of the story, and once again Hannah feels neglected and alone. Stoically Hannah trudges through her life as the disappointments by those around her mount and threaten to suffocate her.
While Hannah is emotionally neglected, the secrets of Will's past are revealed to be far more horrific. Arriving in Logan Lake filled with anger and a heart frozen by ice, Will survives by feeling numb and running away from his pain. Adopted by a loving family, Dr. and Mrs. Hayes and their two daughters attempt to heal Will with understanding and kindness, but trust is not something that is easily restored. Quickly Will learns to act his part, but yet inside he remains frozen and terrified.
As if constantly existing on the edge of a sharp blade, Will and Hannah struggle to maintain a precipitous balance between truth and lies, love and hate, trust and deceit, and relief and anguish. Through exquisite use of metaphor and allusion Kleiman grounds their story in reality. Not a young adult novel, Will and Hannah's secrets evolve into potent desires of a raw and primal nature. Barriers are broken, but their relationship struggles to find emotionally solid ground. Is it even possible for these two wounded souls to find hope and happiness? Ultimately Kleiman delivers not a fairy tale, but an authentic journey through mankind's inherent violence. Two imperfect lives must discover what is ultimately "enough" for happiness. Daylight resonates with hope, not perfection, and leaves its readers in awe of the strength and power of love.