Northern Lights is a teenage coming of age story about Shane, a recent high school graduate. At a very young age, Shane was abandoned by his mom. His dad raised him, but when his dad passes away, Shane is left to live with his uncle. An uncle who is less than understanding about Shane’s long hair and teenage ways.
I found this book to be pretty powerful about what it’s like to be a teenager in a small town. Shane has long hair which seems to frighten or offend most of the people in the town. He goes looking for his mom in yet another small town, befriends some locals, and gets a job. Shane finds himself involved with a teenage girl who has an affinity for drugs and shoplifting. He’s unsettled about his own sexuality when he meets Russell, a teenage alcoholic who is also unsure about his sexuality.
This book definitely has more adult themes, but I can see why teenagers would relate to it. There are parts of it that are extremely painful, and parts that are joyous. Shane’s quest to find his mom is a relatable one. Who wouldn’t want to find out why she ran off leaving him just a card and a $100 bill?
Strom has written a novel that isn’t an easy read, but for me, a fascinating look at what it’s like to be young in today’s world. Especially in a very small town without many prospects. In many ways it reminds me of Go Ask Alice, which opened eyes in so many ways. I would caution that this is not a book for early teens, but definitely older teens and adults.