Books & Literature

Book Review: The Only Light Left Burning, by Erik J Brown

YA: THEY FOUND EACH OTHER. NOW THEY MUST RESCUE WHAT THEY LEFT BEHIND. The highly-anticipated sequel to the queer genre-bending dystopian romance All That’s Left in the World.

A dystopian YA novel with better LGBTQ+ representation than "The Hunger Games," but just as much action.

Feature image credit: Hachette Australia

All That’s Left In The World started Andrew and Jamie’s journey through a devastating post-pandemic landscape, and The Only Light Left Burning completes it. Book One introduced a dystopian world where a strain of bird flu colloquially known as “the bug” has wiped out over 80% of the world’s population. Jamie and Andrew form a partnership and begin to travel together, crossing paths with a settlement run by a conservative cultish leader, an elderly woman battling escaped zoo animals, and other desperate people willing to do anything for some food and shelter.

Book Two begins with Andrew and Jamie in safety in a settlement in Florida, but their relationship is already under strain as they navigate the new world and romance. When a hurricane turns their lives upside down, they find themselves on the move once more. The Only Light Left Burning completes Andrew and Jamie’s story.

Curiously, despite the obvious Covid parallels, the first book was actually conceived and written several years before anyone had ever heard of Covid. However, the emergence of a real life pandemic put publishing on the back burner until 2022, when the themes didn’t hit quite so close to home.

It is nice to see some development and growth in Andrew and Jamie’s relationship through this second book, from starry-eyed lovers to learning how to live in a longer-term relationship. Their struggles with communication and expectations feel realistic and not forced. We also see positive trans and disability representation throughout the supporting characters. In fact, all the characters, including antagonists, are portrayed as three-dimensional; after all, at the end of the day everyone in this story is seeking the same thing: safety, food, and shelter.

The story is well-paced, with a good balance of humour, devastating seriousness, and poignant moments. The setting of real locations in the USA and the effect that a lack of essential services and governing laws have on society and the environment have been well-considered, making the unreal situations a sense of realism and within the realms of possibility.

This duology was an exciting and enjoyable read, and is perfect for fans of The Hunger Games or the Divergent series who might be looking for better queer representation, with a gripping dystopian setting, well-written prose, and believable diverse characters.

Reviewed by Kristin Stefanoff

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Hachette Australia
Released: May 2024
RRP: $19.99

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