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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a new holden caufield
This book has been compared to Catcher in the Rye quite a bit; it's a big call but a fair one I think. Lou, the narator, has the same sharp, skewed observstins of the world and a fine way with language (as, of course, does the author). Some of the descriptions of people in particular (like flo bapes and the hostel councillor) are fantastic and often very funny.
I...
Published on 29 Jun. 2004 by sam333

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3.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking
How the Light gets in is a thought provoking story with a protagonist that isn't always likeable. Lou is a highly intelligent teen who travels to America as an exchange student. It's clear early on that while Lou knows she needs to fit in she doesn't know how to go about it.

To begin with she tries, making up the "right" answers for her host parents, the...
Published on 17 Sept. 2012 by Luna's Little Library


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a new holden caufield, 29 Jun. 2004
This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
This book has been compared to Catcher in the Rye quite a bit; it's a big call but a fair one I think. Lou, the narator, has the same sharp, skewed observstins of the world and a fine way with language (as, of course, does the author). Some of the descriptions of people in particular (like flo bapes and the hostel councillor) are fantastic and often very funny.
I read this in a day as the writing is clear and uncluttered and there is a great sense of tension as you wait for Lou to finally make the big mistake you know is inevitably going to come. This last is, I think, part of what makes the book good - Lou wants to do the right thing and to live out the american dream but you can see she is simply unsuited to accept the crappiness and stupidity of life that this requires. This makes her seem simultaneously brave and niave.
all in all, a great read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading and re-reading!, 20 July 2008
This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
I don't re-read books very often, but I could read this book every year and not get bored. There are always new brilliant thoughts to be discovered like: "I want to try a little cereal from each box, like a sampler of cereal and I decide to do it, because it's the kind of mildy eccentric thing that makes Henry happy."

The main character Lou is a very intelligent person, but keeps getting into trouble. Coming from a very run down family in a very run down flat in Sidney it clashes with the ideals of her host family she's going to stay with during her year in the States as an exchange student. (There are a few short flash backs of Lou's old life that are brilliant and gives you a very good picture of who she is and where she's coming from. I especially like the letters written by Lou's mum.)

The book is divided into three parts. The first part is about Lou arriving and getting to know the family and going on a two week road trip with them. The second part is about Lou starting school and getting into all sorts of trouble. Trying to fit in, but gets misunderstood. The third part is about what happens to Lou after she's been expelled from the family after taking drugs.

Even if it doesn't feel like a lot of action there's a real roller coaster to be travelling with Lou's mind and the first person narrative is very precise and offers a lot of insights about American life and the hypocrisy that's going on.

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to read about a troubled teenager from a very unique perspective.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing account of teenage life., 18 Nov. 2004
By 
Joanne Schofield (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
Surrounded by poverty, crime and a family whom she feels she has nothing in common with, Lou Connor is 16 when she gets accepted as an exchange student in America. This is her big chance to escape from her unhappy existence in Sydney and when she meets her host family, The Hardings, and sees them live the American dream, she desperately wants to become part of their lives forever. But Lou has always been used to freedom - her family seem disinterested in her life to the point where she can do whatever she wants, so she soon becomes suffocated with the Harding's rules and regulations, to the point where the only way she can breathe is to rebel.
I didn't particularly like Lou when I first met her, but with time I began to understand and empathise with parts of her personality. It becomes obvious almost instantly that she is a lonely, mixed up young girl, desperately trying to escape from her unhappy existence. She is a frustrating character; she appears to have no feelings whatsoever for her own family and seems intent on getting as far away as possible from them, and is blind to the fact that she creates many of her own problems. But it is important to remember that she's only sixteen, a particularly self-absorbed age - I try to forget about what I put my own parents through at that time.... But as she starts to show genuine remorse for some of her mistakes it becomes impossible not to warm towards Lou.
I haven't read a book in ages which has so accurately depicted the turmoil of teenage years. The author writes so wonderfully and uses the first person narrative so effectively that the reader is able to climb into the character and I think this is what makes the book such a success. Her prose is perfectly written from a young girl's point of view and so raw that it often feels more like a memoir than a novel. Her descriptions of a tormented teenager are unbelievably evocative and simmer with angst, bitterness and confusion.
'How the light gets in' is a wonderfully honest depiction of a tormented and troubled teenager. Beautifully written, it perfectly sums up the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty those teenage years can bring.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic, 2 Nov. 2011
This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
A rare book - it communicates those inner feelings that can be hard to articulate and which mean so much. For me, these are feelings largely from the past that I still have a yearning for. There aren't many books that can take us to places like this one can - disturbing, beautiful and a damn good read too!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 11 Mar. 2007
This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
Lou is 16 and moves from Sydney to Chicago as part of an exchange program. Secretly, she is not planning on going home and hopes that life in America will provide her with what she feels is missing.

I found Lou a likable character, and wanted things to work out for her, although at times she was irritating, and some of the things she did seemed strange. But I read this book in a couple of days, I really wanted to know how it was going to work out. The only part I didn't like so much was the ending, I turned the page expecting more and realised that was the end. But it's well worth reading, I really liked it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Edgy and rewarding, 9 Sept. 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
An edgy but very rewarding story of 16 year-old Lou, who gets a scholarship to spend a year with host-parents in America - going to school and experiencing everyday life with a volunteer family. Highly intelligent yet the product of a destructive home-life in her native Australia, Lou is determined never to return to her bullying sisters and uncaring parents, but life is too complicated for things to run smoothly and Lou falls foul of the double-standards she finds in her straight-laced yet earnest host family.

The character of Lou is captivating from the outset and the writing is witty, tender and deeply affecting as Lou struggles to acclimatise to the extremes of the American way of life. Alice in Wonderland - almost - Lou desperately wants to fit in, but nothing in her upbringing in a slummy Sidney high-rise has prepared her for America. The ending is a little unrealistic however, and one or two of the extraneous characters seem too casually realised to really convince. But none of these minor flaws interfered much with my enjoyment of this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking, 17 Sept. 2012
This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
How the Light gets in is a thought provoking story with a protagonist that isn't always likeable. Lou is a highly intelligent teen who travels to America as an exchange student. It's clear early on that while Lou knows she needs to fit in she doesn't know how to go about it.

To begin with she tries, making up the "right" answers for her host parents, the Hardings, about her own background but as she settles in she returns to her quiet self. The same way Lou expected America to re-create her, the Hardings expected this perfect teen to join their family and neither dream works out.

As Lou unravels it's hard not to sympathise with her. MJ Hyland portrays Lou both as understanding the consequences of her actions but sometimes Lou comes across as very young. It's those occasions that endear a rather complex character to the reader.

How the Light gets in is not a happy read it brings home how life can be really unfair - sometimes because of what you do and sometimes because of what other people do.
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4.0 out of 5 stars How the Light Gets In, 28 Oct. 2009
This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
Lou Connor is a bright teenager leaving her unhappy childhood in Sydney to find the American Dream,as an exchange student placed in a wealthy and loving American family. Yet Connor finds this change in fortune difficult to accept and as she becomes increasingly conscious of her isolation from the lifestyle she dreams of, she turns to cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to help her develop her sense of self-worth.
Hyland writes with a perceptive understanding of the teenage condition, capturing Lou's wonder at the new life offered to her, but also her frustration and inadequacy when she is misunderstood. Her desperate attempts to communicate through melodramatic notes and her self-destrucitve posturing are shown as the actions of a character who has yet to fully grasp her responsibility for her own life.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, if almost as asphyxiating as the culture it describes, 5 Dec. 2007
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This review is from: How The Light Gets In (Paperback)
I really enjoyed Hyland's later novel but I'm finding this one a little excruciating in the hyper-'gawkiness' of its principal character. We all know that being a teenager is when we are perhaps most likely to end up in awkward situations. Yet in this novel, it is relentless, and as a result it is very easy to second-guess what will happen next.

Where the novel is at its best is in describing the near asphyxiation of middle class North America, a culture that is possibly the most restrained and controlling in the English speaking world (in spite of the British reputation for the 'stiff upper lip'). Yet I am not sure that I can survive the juxtaposition of this setting with the relentless gawkiness of the central character. To put this another way, it is a good book, if at times rather predictable. The problem is that the author successfully creates an oppressive atmosphere from which - at least up until p.186 - there is little prospect of escape.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking realistic hilarious, 17 Jan. 2013
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Interesting story of working class Aussie in an exchange programme in Chicago. Louise has a great turn of phrase, love the line 'surprised as though I have just seen a cat using a sewing machine'. Beware though, there's no real resolution to her problems.
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How the Light Gets In
How the Light Gets In by M J Hyland (Paperback - 2 Jun. 2011)
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