The Year of Luminous Love

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
The Year of Luminous Love Book Poster Image
Steamy beach read with serious issues, including cancer.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers who enjoy this installment may want to read the next volume in the series.

Positive Messages

There are messages here about following your heart, having adventures, and, most of all, being loyal to your friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The girls are good friends who really look out for one another, even when that means they have to sacrifice something (or someone) they want.

Violence

A thuggish drug dealer is controlling to Eden, beats up her mom, and later gets shot. A young woman dies of a drug overdose. Two characters struggle with cancer, and one dies. Eden was a cutter when she was younger and has a body covered in scars.

Sex

Though nothing much is described, there are some steamy scenes, including one that begins with John holding Ciana down. A girl has sex with her boyfriend when he demands it. A girl asks a guy to spend the night with her.

Language

"Hell," "damn," "bitch" -- and two instances of "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage characters use fake IDs to sneak into a club, and one character drinks until she's drunk. Throughout the book, the girls drink, and in Italy they even become friendly with a vineyard owner. Eden's mom is on medication for manic-depressive disorder, and her boyfriend is a drug dealer. Ciana's mom is an alcoholic and starts going to Alcoholics Anonymous. A young woman dies of a drug overdose. One character uses morphine to ease the pain of cancer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Year of Luminous Love features some heavy storylines, including a subplot about a controlling drug dealer who gets shot. Other topics include: manic-depressive disorder, cancer, alcoholism, a drug overdose, cutting, and more. Underage characters use fake IDs to sneak into a club and drink until they're drunk. Two characters have sex, even though they're not in a romantic relationship. Two characters share several steamy scenes, including one that begins with the guy holding the young woman down. Though this book is mostly a guilty pleasure, there are positive messages throughout -- about following your heart, having adventures, and, most of all, being loyal to your friends.

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What's the story?

THE YEAR OF LUMINOUS LOVE follows three lifelong friends who've recently graduated from high school: Ciana is an heir to a Southern homestead that's fallen on hard times; Eden is the girlfriend of a thuggish drug dealer and her mom has manic-depressive disorder; and Arie has battled cancer for years, but is currently in remission. When a handsome cowboy name Jon comes to town, he and Ciana share an instant connection -- but then she learns that Arie has her heart set on him. To escape her own predicament, help Eden out of hers, and fulfill art-loving Arie's dream, Ciana takes her friends on a bonding trip to Italy. But their adventure is cut short when Arie's cancer threatens her life. The girls must return home and face their problems.

Is it any good?

The Year of Luminous Love is a great summer beach book, full of plenty of drama, steamy situations, and some over-the-top lines, such as these in a speech Jon gives Ciana: "I ride the rodeo, Ciana. I go from one town to the next with my horse and saddle. Sometimes I have to buy a newspaper to remember where I am."

Readers who love the romance genre and aren't troubled by the occasional clunky sentence will find plenty to swoon over -- the girls' trip to Italy includes both a cute backpacking boy and a dashing vineyard owner who arrives at their rented Tuscan home in a Ferrari. Don't come looking for realism, literature, or too many plot surprises. But this story has a good heart, as the friends go out of their way to support each other, even when it means sacrificing something of their own.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Year of Luminous Love fits into the emerging so-called "new adult"  genre, which spans the gap between teen-focused young-adult books and adult literature. Why do you think there is a growing interest for books about the post-high school era of a person's life?

  • Why do you think stories about young people facing life-threatening illnesses, or the death of people they love, are popular with young readers?

  • Will you read the planned sequel for this book, The Year of Chasing Dreams? What do you think will happen to these characters next?

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