Updated: Mar 11
Today I have the pleasure of reviewing one of my favorite books EVER. That is (you guessed it), 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons. I read this book over the summer and LOVED every second of it. I apologize for posting this a day late. Life happened, and I wasn't able to get it out yesterday. Let's get into the review, shall we?
ABOUT THE BOOK
Synopsis: When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down. Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.
Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again. Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.
Oh my goodness, where do I even start?! As the title suggests, this book is a literal ray of sunlight. I'm generally not a fan of YA contemporary romance, but this novel blew me away. From achingly relatable characters to adorable romance, beautiful themes, and touches of humor, this book had me thinking about it for DAYS after I finished it and squealing into my pillow on multiple occasions. If you love stories with strong family themes, happy endings, and cute romance, this is a book for you.
THEMES & MESSAGES:
"When life knocks you down... Get up."
The messages in this book were beautiful and impactful. The concept of sunlight is something that carries throughout the story, both in physical form (through the descriptions and Tessa's poetry), and as a powerful metaphor for overcoming darkness and despair.
Weston shows his strength and resilience as a character through his optimistic outlook on life, and through his willingness to help Tessa through her darkness.
Messages of getting back up when you fall, searching for beauty in everything, choosing hope, showing kindness, and overcoming fear are all central to the plot; as well as themes of friendship, family, redemption, perseverance, and healing.
Emmons has done a beautiful job of crafting relatable, conflicted, and loveable characters. I enjoyed every second of being in both Weston and Tessa's points of view.
WESTON: Um... I LOVED THIS CHARACTER. I loved his sense of humor and "obnoxiously optimistic" outlook on life, as well as his strength through everything he's gone through. He's such an overcomer, which was so cool to read about. The complexity Emmons brought to his character is amazing, especially how his optimism becomes a cover-up for the pain and fear that he's been trying to bury. Significant chunks of Weston's backstory are inserted into the narrative through well-written flashbacks. This only made me fall more in love with his character and showed more of his bravery and resilience. He's SO sweet, sarcastic, strong, and stubborn. Living as an amputee allows Weston to teach Tessa (and others) powerful lessons, and his internal conflict was gripping and rich. Deep down, he's afraid, insecure, and broken, but he masks all of this with his optimism and "never been better" attitude. I loved how selfless he is, and how he puts others' happiness (especially Tessa's) above his own. ALSO, HE SINGS AND PLAYS THE UKULELE. Like, can there please be Westons in real life?! His bravery is inspiring, and his wisecracks made me snort-laugh.
TESSA: I honestly don't think I've been able to relate more to a fictional character than I have to Tessa Dickinson. From her perfectionistic personality, obsession with aesthetics, her ordering the fanciest drink at Starbucks, and her love of waffles, I saw a lot of myself in this character. I must admit, I was a little annoyed with her at first. Next to Weston, she seemed entitled, stubborn, and temperamental. However, as a blogger and writer myself, I could understand and feel Tessa's devastation at losing her sight, and as time went on, I liked her more and more. I also strongly resonated with her fear of living life to the fullest. Her point of view was engaging, and her poems were some of my favorite parts of the book.
Side characters such as Weston's brothers and Tessa's grandparents were all diverse, interesting, and significant to the story as a whole.
I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Weston and his best friend, Rudy. They had me cracking up almost every time they were together, and the support and loyalty of their friendship were really cool to read about. I haven't seen many strong male friendships in fiction, so I found this aspect of the book refreshing. (And HIGHLY entertaining. Their banter is hilarious.) Rudy also plays an essential role in showing Weston the truth and helping him overcome his fear.
I also loved Tessa's relationships with her blogging squad, which reminded me of all my amazing writer friends.
The writing style was spirited, poetic, and had a thoughtful quality to it. Emmons uses a first-person point of view and writes true to her character's unique voices. She also uses quite a bit of creative formatting, which gives the story a very iconic feel. This is one of those books that you just have to go make a Pinterest board for because it is SO AESTHETIC.
It was like reading a poem, and even though there wasn't much going on plot-wise, I was completely immersed in the character's individual journeys. Tessa and Weston's internal dialogue felt so raw, emotional, and realistic. And ahhh just EVERYTHING about this book is beautiful.
The pacing and style were perfect for the genre and made my reading experience feel very heartwarming and comforting. I also appreciate how Emmons navigates the darker elements of this book with compassion and keeps the tone hopeful and full of sunlight.
Tessa's grandfather is a pastor at a Christian church. Tessa believes in God, prays, and reads scriptures from the book of Psalms with her grandfather before bed. At one point, she admits that her grandfather's faith may be a little too optimistic for her. Tessa also reflects on the days before she lost her sight and thinks about how she misses going to church and worshiping with the congregation. When Weston comes to help her write one afternoon, she urges her grandmother not to worry about her and go with her grandfather to the Sunday service. Later on in the book, Tessa invites Weston to church. Weston prays to God to "just let him vanish" when he thinks about the possibility of Tessa seeing him for the first time.
Rudy and Weston engage in friendly fistfights and wrestling matches. [SPOILER WARNING] In one of these fistfights, Weston reinjures his already infected legs, resulting in an ambulance trip to the hospital [SPOILER END]. Weston and Rudy get regular bloody noses and injuries from their after-school-spars.
Weston can be a daredevil and challenges his friends to skateboard off the roof of a building in order to jump a tall metal fence. [SPOILER WARNING] Weston ends up being the only one who takes the dare and fails to clear the fence, and his legs take the brunt of the crash [SPOILER END]. The details of Weston's leg infection and amputation are kept at a minimum, but the pain due to his injuries is intense, causing him to collapse multiple times, and is described as crippling and nauseating. Weston experiences phantom pain after his surgery.
Both Tessa and her grandmother were in a traumatic collision with a drunk driver before the story starts. Tessa struggles with PTSD and has memories of the car crash that rendered her blind. Emmons handles this aspect of the story in a very gentle and tactful way, which I love.
Tessa and Westion go to a bookstore together, and an older boy harasses Tessa when Weston leaves to use the bathroom. Weston returns to find the boy roughly grabbing Tessa's wrist and pinning her against a bookshelf. Furious, Weston wards off the boy by bending his fingers in a painful lockout and fights the urge to run after him and "smash his teeth through his skull" when he sees the mark left on Tessa's arm.
SEXUAL CONTENT & ROMANCE:
Tessa and Weston hold hands with fingers interlaced throughout the book. Weston makes it a mission to show Tessa the world, and he does this partly by showing her the five senses. Weston allows Tessa to feel his hands and face as a way to let her experience the sense of touch. Tessa feels a pleasant chill from being skin-to-skin with Weston. Tessa and Weston kiss twice, briefly. Weston teases Rudy about a girl he likes, saying that he saw the two of them making out. When Rudy denies it, Weston comments that it looked pretty slobbery to him.
Tessa and Weston's relationship was amazing, and all of their interactions with each other were PURELY ADORABLE. Adorable may even be the wrong word. It was beautiful. If you know me at all, you know that I can be extremely picky when it comes to reading romance. I'm not a fan of the genre for many reasons (a rant for another time). But guys. This book met my EVERY expectation. What a cute and wholesome romance this was! I find clean romances like that to be very rare in books these days, and I loved reading (and rereading) every moment Tessa and Weston had together. The kiss scenes were perfectly timed and well-written. I literally have no words for how WONDERFUL their relationship was.
LANGUAGE & PROFANITY:
Probably the most disappointing aspect of this novel was the language. Weston, his brothers, and Rudy all have potty mouths and frequently swear. Pansy a**, (holy) s**t, he**, and p**s are repeated often, as well as frick. God's name is taken in vain multiple times and used in the texting abbreviation "omg".
I understand that swearing was meant to be a part of Weston's character voice, but it felt super unnecessary and was offensive. This was the only part of the book that I truly disliked, and it's also the reason why I docked a star.
DRUG & ALCOHOL CONTENT:
In flashbacks of when Weston lost his legs, he takes medications, using large dosages of Advil to dull the pain his leg injury gives him. When Rudy expresses concern, Weston assures him that he's not trying to OD.
This was probably one of the happiest books I've ever read, but it still managed to make me cry at the end. It was inspiring, beautiful, heartwarming, bright, BURSTING WITH SUNLIGHT, adorable, pure, and I could just go on and on. In short, I was a mess of laughter, stupid grins, and tears while reading it. I would fan-girl over it forever, but for the sake of brevity, I'll end this little review of mine (which has actually turned into more of a rant). Just go read the book. You will not regret it.
“Besides, no one has ever seen the light by being told there are darker places out there.”
“I am drowning again. But this time I don’t need help. I don’t need a rescue. Because I am drowning in perfect beauty. I am drowning in reckless joy. I’ve fallen out of the tree. And now, I fly.”
“Visual beauty is only one form of beauty. And you won't be without it forever.”
“I love you and your broken wings.”
“Letting go feels like giving up. But if you don’t let go, you’ll drown. I know the feeling. And it sucks. But Life sucks sometimes. And yeah, it gets back up. But you don’t have to stay on your knees.”
“The second road was rocky, hard, and painful. It was challenging. It was unnatural. It was a mountain range. It was a fighting ring, a boxing match with Life. It was a road that would make me stronger, even if it hurt. This road was called Happiness. It tasted like insanity, like How can I possibly be happy when I have every right to be miserable?”
“I’ve always been able to write much better than I can talk.”
“I’m beginning to put a gag on the voice in my head and listen more closely to the one in my heart.”
“It’s hard to resist accepting what the world says about you… That you’ve got a disadvantage, a flaw, a problem. Because, these days, we’re told that it’s okay to let our problems control us. It’s okay to be the victim. It’s okay… because you have every right to be miserable.”
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
“Well?' he asks when I don’t open my eyes and silently savor the goodness. 'What do you taste?' I smile despite myself. 'The most amazing waffles under the sun.”
“We were both so weak. We were both so strong. We were boy soldiers, too young for war.”
“I feel my heart exploding. I feel the space between our faces disappear. We kiss. And it tastes like sunlight.”
― Abbie Emmons, 100 Days of Sunlight
DISCLAIMER: I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abbie Emmons has been writing stories ever since she could hold a pencil.
What started out as an intrinsic love for storytelling has turned into her lifelong passion. There’s nothing she likes better than writing (and reading) stories that are both heartrending and humorous, with a touch of cute romance and a poignant streak of truth running through them. Abbie is also a YouTuber, singer/songwriter, blogger, traveler, filmmaker, big dreamer, and professional waffle-eater. When she’s not writing or dreaming up new stories, you can find her road-tripping to national parks or binge-watching BBC Masterpiece dramas in her cozy Vermont home with a cup of tea and her fluffy white lap dog, Pearl. If you want to see Abbie in her element (ranting about stories) check out her YouTube channel.
What do you think? Do you love cute and clean romances as much as I do? ISN'T THE COVER PERFECT? Do you prefer books with tragic, bittersweet, or happy endings? Are waffles better than pancakes (I think they are)? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments!