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Literature / First Light

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"First Light" is a young adult novel by Rebecca Stead. The story follows the lives of twelve-year-old Peter and fourteen-year-old Thea in alternating chapters. Peter lives in New York City with his glaciologist father and biologist mother who occasionally suffers from severe headaches.

Thea lives in Gracehope, a city of ice built into a glacier in Greenland, with her aunt Lana. Her mother died shortly after Thea was born. Their lives cross when Thea finds the secret tunnel out of Gracehope and, with her cousin Mattias' help, goes to the surface. After Matthias gets trapped in a crack in the ice, Peter, who is nearby and hears the dogs baying, helps Thea. After this meeting, both Peter and Thea learn secrets about their mothers and how they are connected.

Not to be confused with inFAMOUS: First Light.

This book provides examples of:

  • Always Identical Twins: Averted. Thea even said that Lana and Thea's mother, Mai combined to look like Mai's twin sister, Aurora.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: Akin to this, but a bit more creepy. Each woman can apply to becoming a mother by going to a woman, known as the Angus, who decides which mate would provide for the best genetic offspring. She alone knows everyone's paternity. The fathers basically are sperm donors (presumably natural insemination) who are not involved in raising the children. Thea admits that this process reminds her of how she helps to breed the dogs.
  • The Chosen One: A legend arose that when a dog with four white paws was born, the same as a dog that owned by the woman who helped found Gracehope, it would be safe to return to the Wider World. However, it was forced as Thea merely wanted to use this legend to help her case and convince others that it was safe to leave. Ultimately, it acted as the icing on the cake to support Thea's arguments.
  • Continuity Nod: In the first chapter (more or less a prologue), we see a much younger Matthias as he sees a photograph of two women on the surface. He is fascinated in part because photography is not known in Gracehope. That photograph is hanging in Thea's room in the epilogue as it is of her Mother and her mother's twin sister.
  • Disappeared Dad: An aspect of their community. Children are raised by their mothers and never know their fathers. Thea eventually finds hers, however.
  • Distressed Dude: Mattias gets trapped in a crevasse. It takes the teamwork of Thea and Peter to get him free.
  • Fantastic Racism: What the Settlers suffered from. Their extraordinary hearing and vision scared the normal villagers into hunting them down and killing them.
    • Due to that past, many inhabitants of Gracehope distrusted anyone outside of their community. Not even Thea wanted to get help when Mattias was trapped.
  • First Time in the Sun: Thea and Matthias are awed by the sun.
  • Generation Xerox: Even though Thea had no idea how her mother actually died, she still followed in her mother's shoes by finding the way to the surface.
  • Green Aesop: Global Warming
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Thea has a hard time deciding if Peter is trustworthy. One point on his side was that Thea noticed he was very good with his dog, Sasha.
  • Implausible Hair Color: Invoked by Thean when she saw Peter's blonde hair not realizing that hair was any color but dark (presumably black or very dark brown).
  • Jerkass: Rowen. Her treatment of Thea at the council meeting was bad enough, but it looks worse when the truth is revealed.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Rowen's actions were not the best, Mai's sickness she got in the wider world (Greenland) did threaten the inhabitants of Gracehope. That was why Rowen forced her to leave until she got better.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Peter and Thea are cousins. Peter's mother left Gracehope years earlier before coming back.
  • Meaningful Name: Gracehope, the name of the city. Originally called Grace's Hope, the inhabitants believed it was hope to survive the Witch Hunt but later Thea realized it also referred to the hope that they could return to the surface.
    • Thea in Greek mythology gave birth to the gods of the sun (Helios), the moon (Selene), and the dawn (Eos). Thea was adamant about going to the surface to expand Gracehope. She went when it was still night, saw the dawn and the sun.
  • Missing Mom: Thea's mother died when Thea was a baby. Thea tells her Aunt Lana who raised her that she didn't really live without a mother.
  • The Outside World: Wider World as they refer to it. There is even a sign welcoming everyone to the Wider World. However, Thea tries to find it not to escape but to find a way to expand her under-ice city.
  • Population Control: Every mother can only have two children, or rather two births. It is possible to have three children if the second birth results in twins.
  • Really Seven Hundred Dog Year Old: The Chickchu dogs that are bred in Gracehope are said to live as long as their human owners, who get them as children. So in dog years, they can be very old.
  • Super-Senses: Known as adepts, the most common are hearing adepts. Thea, for instance, can hear and learned how to understand very slight dog noises. Eye adepts are the most rare, and suffer from serious headaches when learning how to use their ability.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Each alternating chapter focuses on Peter and Thea.
  • Theme Naming: All of the dogs in Gracehope are named after moons, stars, and galaxies. Except for the dog with four white paws, which Peter names 'Feet'.
  • Underground City: Gracehope is built in a glacier.
  • The Voiceless: Dexna had only spoken to about five people in fifteen years. When she interrupted an annual children's play about the founding, everyone was shocked.
  • Witch Hunt: As part of the backstory, the Settlers who founded Gracehope were accused of witchcraft. This was the reason for creating the city.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Two children per mother would barely keep the population even. Worse when not all women are allowed to have children.
    • It was so close with the epilogue. Eight months later, Lana was shown to have a baby. She wasn't pregnant or even allowed to try with a man (see Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage above) but seemed to be with a few week old infant. Mind that the eight months later was after a period of about one month when she could have allowed to get pregnant, but that still makes the timeline very slim.