This coming-of-age story (304 pages) was published in January of 2016 by Pan Macmillan Australia. The book takes you to a lighthouse in Tasmania. Melissa read Wildlight and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
If you’ve ever wished you could chuck your day-to-day into a rubbish bin and run away to an isolated lighthouse on a windswept island, this is the story for you. Set on Maatsuyker Island off the coast of Tasmania, it’s a coming-of-age story set at the edge of the world.
Maatsuyker Island is home to the southernmost lighthouse in Australia. It was the last lighthouse to be replaced by an automated light, but the island still needs caretakers. In real life, that duty is fulfilled by stalwart volunteers who do weather readings, tend the grounds, and keep an eye out for fires.
In the enthralling world of Wildlight, 16-year-old Steph has been dragged from Sydney to the island by her parents. Her twin brother recently died, and they are grieving hard. Back in the day, Steph’s grandfather was the lighthouse keeper. Now, her mom is convinced the family can heal from their loss by recreating the nostalgic glow of her childhood.
Steph disagrees. Strongly. And when she arrives on the island, she learns that there’s no cell signal and no internet. She’s wholly severed from the life she knows — and she is filled with the angst and rage that only a teenage girl can manifest.
When she meets Tom, a 19-year-old deckhand on a crayfishing boat — with his own family problems — they fall into a sweet first-love situation. But then, life intervenes as it’s wont to do, and Steph’s world is upended again.
Although the book romps through some YA territory — young romance, parents who just don’t understand, the agony of homework — it also delves into the after-affects of tragedy and how families navigate their grief (or don’t). Steph and Tom are heartbreaking and believable as they stumble through their conflicting emotions of pain and hope.
Author Robyn Mundy is an adventurer who has volunteered on Maatsuyker Island. Her sensory descriptions of the plants and animals could only come from experiencing them firsthand — and she weaves them into the plot in meaningful ways. The weather is ever-present: in epic storms, in painfully beautiful days, in bone-chilling, sleepless nights. You will feel the wind rattle the windows and hear the seals barking offshore. And you might just find yourself filling out the volunteer application for Maatsuyker Island.
The wind squealed like a terrified child. Steph braced herself, angled her body as she rounded the corner after leaving the weather office. She was ready for the onslaught. She made her way down the path to the house, mindful of her footing. The screen door of the laundry caught a squall and flew back on its hinges. Steph struggled to close it. She peeled off her waterproofs and towel-dried her hair. She hung her clothes on the inside line to drip on the linoleum. The windows shook, translucent with salt, the Needles a blur of sea spray and mist. A squall raced across the ocean and laid down the waves. You could barely see halfway to the Cape. Steph put the kettle on. She searched the kitchen cupboards. The smell of mold seemed worse when you first opened things. — Robyn Mundy
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