Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

What We Do In The Shadows

Jamie McGuire delivers a summer romance with a dark, Hitchcockian twist in All The Little Lights.

What We Do In The Shadows

BOOK REPORT for All The Little Lights by Jamie McGuire

Cover Story: Sparkle City
BFF Charm: Meh x2
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factors: Hitchcockian Twists, Bed and Breakfasts
Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award For Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Summer Fling

Cover Story: Sparkle City

I'm really a fan of the sparkly lights title treatment, and the cover as a whole is pretty and not embarrassing! My one, tiny, nit-picky beef is that the street looks like a modern, new build subdivision, and the setting of this book is much more rural with older houses. But overall, a great cover!

The Deal:

From the moment 10-year-old Elliot Youngblood climbed a tree and saw Catherine Calhoun in her backyard, he's known he loved her. The two strike up an easy friendship while Elliot is spending summers at his aunt's house, but the day Catherine's father dies - the day she needs Elliot the most, he leaves town for good. 

Well, almost. After years of trying to get back to her, Elliot finally manages to return for his senior year. But something's happened to Catherine. She's tired, withdrawn, and spends all her time working harder than any teenage girl should at her mother's bed and breakfast, The Juniper. Catherine still hasn't forgiven Elliot for leaving her, and Elliot is ready to do whatever it takes to win her heart. But Catherine's a bit, um, preoccupied with whatever dark, mysterious situation her mother has gotten into with the regular guests at the Juniper. And when Elliot becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of a local girl, Catherine realizes the Juniper's terrible secret may be about to come to light.

BFF Charm: Meh x2

These kids! I found myself rolling my eyes at both of them on occasion. Catherine falls into the all-too-common YA trap of considering herself plain, while Elliot insists she's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Elliot seems like he's always one second away from punching a hole in the wall if anyone so much as looks at Catherine the wrong way. Catherine is extremely insecure and private about her problems at home, and Elliot is dead set on saving her whether she wanted him to or not. There were so many interesting aspects to this book, but unfortunately, the main characters felt a little cliche.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

While the romance between Elliot and Catherine is a major part of this book, it was, unfortunately, my least favorite part of the story. It wasn't insta-love, necessarily, but once Elliot moved back to town, he was a little obsessed with Catherine, and their relationship picked up as if "we hung out as kids" was enough basis for love. Plus, Elliot was a bit *too* aggressively protective of Catherine at times. So while their relationship had all the usual steps in its development, none of them felt particularly swoony to me, and I kept wishing those scenes would get out of the way so I could get back to the mystery.

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said

Set in a small, Oklahoma town, there's something gorgeously hazy about All The Little Lights, which alternates between Catherine and Elliot's POV. Even though I knew it was set in the present, one might easily imagine that they're reading a book set in the 1950s or 60s. Atmospheric descriptions of the town and Catherine's bed and breakfast were where McGuire's writing was strongest. I found the mystery portion of this book really compelling, and finding out what the HECK was going down behind closed doors at the Juniper was what kept me turning pages until the end. Unfortunately, I felt like the mystery took a backseat to the romance for a majority of the book. I caught myself rolling my eyes at the melodramatic romance and stilted, unrealistic dialogue between Catherine and Elliott, and wishing I could skip ahead to the reveal.

Bonus Factor: Hitchcockian Twists

Talk about tension! McGuire builds suspense throughout the story, only to have your jaw hit the floor when you find out the truth. The mystery of the bed and breakfast was, without a doubt, my favorite part of this story. And as someone who prides herself on being able to figure out what will happen before the end of a book, guys, I did NOT see this one coming.

Bonus Factor: Bed and Breakfasts

It may not be an idyllic place like the Dragonfly Inn, but the Juniper is still a bed and breakfast, which I've always thought would be such a fun place to grow up! (Okay, I would not have wanted to grow up in the Juniper, BUT STILL.)

Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award For Awful Parenting

Catherine's mom is clearly going through something dark that I can't really talk about without getting spoilery, so while she is an awful parent, she at least has a reason. But that wasn't the case with Elliot's parents. His dad was a total deadbeat, and his mom, while finding a bit of redemption toward the end, was a total jerk through most of the book.

Relationship Status: Summer Fling

We may not be soulmates, Book, but if I were spending the summers at my aunt's house and you lived down the street, I'd seek you out and invite you on an ice cream date in the hopes of getting to know you and unraveling your secrets. 

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• If you want to read another suspenseful book with surprising twists, check out We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

• For a suspenseful psychological thriller that also serves up a heaping helping of swoon, check out The Devil You Know by Trish Doller.

• And if you want a thriller that will keep you guessing, try The Truth Beneath the Lies by Amanda Searcy.

FTC Full Disclosure: I did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the lame cranberry ones) for writing this review. All The Little Lights is available now.

Rosemary Hallmark's photo About the Author: Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her cute husband and even cuter dog. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. (She's still got a soft spot for the swoony, contemporary stuff.) A former magazine editor, she is now a freelance writer, graphic designer, art director and photo stylist. The rest of her time is spent drinking cocktails, renovating her house and laughing at her husband's ridiculous Pretty Little Liars theories.
K