For a book I was extremely excited to read, I was genuinely shocked by how much I hated Abbie Emmons’ 100 Days of Sunlight. A book that was meant to be something poignant ended up being nothing more than rushed, unrealistic character development and poor writing. Emmons had no idea how to write her characters, whether we’re talking about the ones in the center, Tessa and Weston, or the characters supporting them. What should have been an interesting commentary on what it is like to lose your sight and to live with disabilities, 100 Days of Sunlight was really just someone from the outside looking in and only really seeing the surface.
The story begins with Tessa, a young girl who lost her sight in a car accident. Turns out this is a serious problem because the one passion that matters most to her is writing. And how can one write when one cannot see? Well, this is where my interest piqued immensely. As a writer–and a reader–the thought of losing my eyesight is terrifying to me. And so I was fascinated with the idea of finding out how someone might react to such a circumstance. But I was disappointed. Ultimately, Tessa never really could get past coming off as insanely bitchy toward everyone in her life, even after things started to improve for her.
How do you like a book with an unlikable main character?
Well, the answer to that is for the writing to be exceptional, for the plot to really drive home the message for why this character is so awful–reasons why I can still appreciate The Spectacular Now despite despising Sutter with my whole being–and for there to be some sort of real depth to the character. Honestly? Tessa was too underdeveloped for that to even be possible.
Weston was equally devoid of depth and character development. Put simply, he presents only as a reckless kid whose dumb decision–I’m not even kidding; it’s one thing to do something idiotic that leads to a horrible accident, but it’s another thing entirely to perpetuate it by having that character avoid medical treatment–lead to the loss of his legs. And yet, somehow, losing his legs changes nothing about his idiotic and reckless behavior. He continues to treat life so cavalierly that he both blatantly ignores his recovery instructions, but he continues to put himself at risk for further injuring himself.
Somehow, despite how this supposedly rocked the family, none of them actually respond to Weston’s accident and the changes it brings in a realistic way. None of his family members ever seem to show any signs of having been affected by what happened. The level with which they are concerned about him doesn’t increase and they continue to sit back as he acts recklessly. His accident exists as nothing more than a plot point. There is no deep look at what his life his like or who he is as a person, but rather his accident happened so that he could have a reason to be interested in Tessa.
Trauma is handled so poorly.
Further proof that Emmons had an idea she did not know how to write comes in the form of Tessa’s PTSD. Her book reads like she did cursory research, shrugged, and figured that was enough. It ultimately ends up demeaning her characters, her book, and her plot. Tessa’s mental illness is so poorly written that she is able to recover from it painfully fast and with minimal intervention. I guess this boy healed her with his magic lips.
The plot that drew me in, a person dealing with the loss of sight, was truly lost among the author’s minimal understanding and desire for a love story. The promise of an in-depth character study of someone who experienced a traumatic event is overshadowed by pitiful character development, dramatized and misrepresented reactions to trauma, and the author trying to hard to make her story work without the research to back it up.
I was so done with this book by the time I got halfway through that I’m genuinely surprised I finished it.
This just wasn’t a good book.
After all that, I don’t think there was ever really anything that could have saved this novel for me. Ironically, it was made worse by the unnecessary inclusion of religion. Which, if I had known “god” would be included in this novel, I never would have bothered to pick it up in the first place.
I should have put it down when I noticed rather than suffer through the writing, which also included some extremely questionable and blatant lack of consent. It’s one thing, I think, to have a character kiss someone without asking but something else entirely for them to ask and then kiss anyway whilst clearly thinking about the fact that they are doing so without permission.
Honestly, what the hell?
And I think that pretty much sums up the majority of my thoughts on this one.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.