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How the Light Gets In
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How the Light Gets In

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  2,147 ratings  ·  171 reviews
A powerful debut from a young Australian novelist that features one of the most likeable but contrary figures you are likely to meet in contemporary fiction life of poverty in Sydney. And when she is offered a place as an exchange student at a school in America it seems as if her dreams will be fulfilled. welcoming ... until she starts having to live in the suffocating and...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 2nd 2005 by Canongate Books Ltd (first published July 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

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oriana
Picking this book up was a wild stab in the dark – I was thinking to maybe dig up some Salinger but I couldn't find The Catcher in the Rye, so I went to a shelf I usually don't remember to check and scanned the spines with my eyes all like half-closed, and this one just leapt out at me. It's one of the last books I took from the Strand before I got fired, just because of the cool cover and all, and I kind of didn't think I'd ever really read it.

But! Wow, it was really quite good. And it's funny...more
Lucy
Jul 26, 2007 Lucy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2006
hyland. another excellent shrinky suggestion. this book was also another heartbreaking one. the main character, lou, comes to the us on exchange, but ends up getting in trouble. i couldn't identify so much with the character's behaviour, but i could so identify with her thoughts, especially the longing to have a whole new start in a new place and basically be a new person ("maybe i can learn to be confident. maybe i will change ... if i can do this one thing right - i'll change who i am forever"...more
Justine
I didn't hate it.
I didn't love it.
It tried too hard to be Catcher in the Rye. I think she says that is her favorite book 870 times throughout the story and how she relates to... we get it you are the female version.

But I've read worse.
Jayne Charles
This was very readable in terms of the writing style, and the theme was interesting enough – a gifted Australian teenager from a deprived background travels to Chicago to live with a family on some kind of exchange scheme. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected to though – it was a bit like driving down a long, straight road where the scenery doesn’t change. However much you don’t want to, you find yourself drifting off. In the novel, protagonist Lou makes various social faux pas, mostly by thi...more
Nicky
I love this sentence: “Sometimes I sit in the mezzanine of the library and look down at the tennis courts and wonder what it would be like to wear a pair of shorts and sit with my knees apart opposite somebody who is also wearing shorts sitting with their knees apart.” Somehow that sentence says everything you need to know about this book. Who hasn’t watched a commercial for, say, breakfast cereal or fabric softener and wanted to jump through the TV screen and live in that world of crisp white s...more
Kelly
When I studied creative writing at uni, my tutor was M.J Hyland. She always struck me as analytical and deep in thought. She would ask questions of people and really, really study them when they gave the answer. This book is written with that same analytical, watchful eye.
The story is sad and lamenting and (being Australian myself) a great depiction of a certain kind of Australian family.
That constant longing for being something else or being better or more confident, more popular, less awkward,...more
Louisa O'donnell
I really didn't like this book! Lou was selfish and really didn't take any notice of what was happening around her.
I get that she came from a shitty place and wanted to start afresh, but the way she approached the situation was dismal.
It's been a few years since I read it but the main thing I recall that really turned me off Lou was towards the end of the book when the US family she was staying with was having a family crisis and while they were rushing out the door to go to the hospital or wh...more
Elizabeth Michael
Feb 01, 2008 Elizabeth Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Catcher in the Rye; I'm not sure this isn't better.
This is a really curious book, with an odd and at times off-putting heroine. I've read it several differnt times trying to get a firmer grip on what exactly I think of it as a whole, but each time all I can honestly conclude is that there is something very hypnotic and compelling about it. At every step it was apparent to me how and why she ended up where she did, even though to every once else around her, it would appear that her amazingly high IQ could've afforded her many better opportunities...more
Chelsea
Disclaimer: I have never read The Catcher in the Rye. I never had to read it for school and I really have no inclination of my own to read it. I did not pick this book up because it was supposed to be like Catcher in the Rye because, obviously, that meant nothing to me. It just sounded mildly interesting while perusing the shelves of the used bookstore the boy and I like to frequent, so I bought it.

I have never encountered such a stupid, frustrating heroine in my entire life. The writing quality...more
christa
I have an announcement. It’s still pretty early, but I’m confident that I have found a writer to add to my list of faves. Old list of faves, meet M.J. Hyland. M.J. Hyland, meet my boring, old, long unchanged list.

I found M.J. in an issue of Granta. She was writing about a diagnosis of MS and I just really liked the way she put sentences together. She gave me no reason to stop reading -- I’ll stop reading at the first boring word or blah blah paragraph or if the page’s aesthetic is off -- and by...more
Tress Huntley
I thought this was just meh. Quick read, filled some time, shattered no thought processes for me. I finished it a few days ago and have been waiting to see if some latent impression of brilliance would set in (that often happens to me) but it has not.

Maybe I am the only person alive who did not LOVE J. D. Salinger, even as a teen, or maybe I am just at a point in life where I cannot enjoy reading a book from the POV of a teenager who is trapped inside her own self-absorbency. All of the adults...more
Bria
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
tee
Mar 19, 2010 tee rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: i-own
I'm well aware that I should do my reviews as soon as I've finished reading something, otherwise all my delerious passion/hatred/love; whatever emotions were conjured up, dissipate. I liked this book. Three stars looks like a dismal rating because there's those two empty unclicked little stars looking all sad and shit, but I really did like this book. It was one of those easy-to-read, don't-have-to-think books. But still well written. I'm not talking Twilight here, I mean, I had to think a lot w...more
Michaela
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly
After having read and loved Hyland's "This is How" last year, I was anxious to read more by her. "How the Light Gets In" is about a high school exchange student from Australia who gets placed with a host family in the Chicago suburbs, and much of the novel focuses on her trying, quite unsuccessfully, to fit in despite coming from a very different family and background. Unfortunately, I couldn't emphasize or sympathize much with the main character -- which made reading the novel difficult for me....more
Hannah
Sep 27, 2007 Hannah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: advisorybooks
This book was really interesting because it showed me a demomgraphic I had never read about or met before. It revolved around a poor young girl from Austrailia living with her unbearable family. The girl, Lou, enters into a foregin exchange program in which she goes to live with a very wealthy family in California. Lou has an extremely difficult time dealing with a family that enforces rules such as no smoking. The book goes through her troubles and how she is mistreated and judged because of wh...more
Mary
This turned into a non-stop (almost) read. Louisa and her life as an exchange student in a Chicago family ensconced in suburban life is endearing, witty and overall rather a sad portrait of coming to self-awareness and discovering exactly where ones own individuality lies.

Nizzy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Moore
Oh, thank you Oxfam Books in Kentish Town for this 99p treat on a cold Thursday afternoon. I sat in a coffee shop and read so much of this I forgot what I was meant to be doing next. MJ Hyland slips straight into the voice of Lou, the smart, self-destructive Australian teenager, who somehow manages to scholarship herself out of her trailer trash family straight into the bosom of an ambitious, right-on, American one. Despite her chaotic streak, hers is the voice you trust, the host-family are too...more
Meredith
"Holden Caulfield" appears three times on the back cover, but I'm not sure I see the actual connection. I liked parts of this book, and was heartily annoyed by other parts...which I suppose means it was good in its own way. Definitely might recommend it to young adults (in the true sense of the world - 20 yr olds), but only ones who will have the patience to stick with it. I think you might have to be able to identify with the disaffected, emotionally-challenged, highly intelligent main characte...more
Helen
Torn between 3 or 4 stars. 4 because it held my interest throughout and 3 because it left me feeling depressed. I normally like depressing books but they have to either make me grateful for the life I have or make me shed a few girlie tears reminiscent of watching Bambi. This was too hard hitting for either of those self-satisfied moments. This novel tells the story of Lou, over from Sydney on a student exchange in Chicago where she is plunged into a world she always dreamed of but would never f...more
Austenlove
Eindeutig sehr starke 3 Sterne, aber nicht genug für 4.
3,5 wären es, wenn es diese Wertung gäbe.
Die Meinungen zu diesem Buch sind ziemlich gespalten, ich denke entweder man liebt es oder man kann nichts damit anfangen. Obwohl meine Bewertung eher durchschnittlich ist, gehöre ich eindeutig zu denen die es lieben. Ich bin eben nur ein sehr kritischer Mensch und wenn ich an die Bücher denke, denen ich 4 oder 5 Sterne gegeben habe, dann kommt dieses Buch da nicht heran, also 3 starke Sterne.
Ich den...more
Olivia Carter
Whilst there are so many reviews saying that the book was too much like Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and to an extent that's true, but to be honest it's only true to the extent of, yes, she smokes and drinks. That's about it.

Other than that, it's different. Lou is a self-destructive, intelligent yet confused girl. As a 16 year old girl myself, I felt I could relate to her, on one level, and on the other, I found myself hating her, nearly shouting at the book for her to stop what she was doing...more
Jamie
Lou Connor is no Holden Caulfield. Let's just get that out of the way.

Lou Connor is a conniving teenager that uses her sexuality and intellect to get what she wants. The book uses Lou's exchange student status as a literary vehicle to show the morbundity of American suburbia...yada yada yada.

Frankly, I think two hours of your time watching American Beauty would do a better job.

The writing is good, but not good enough for me to recommend the book.

Katey
highly recommended. Hyland writes like she is still an adolescent. She captures the all the emotions and uncertainty and of a teen in a strange place. If you even remember your teen years you should read this just to have it eloquently portrayed.
Also, there is another layer to her writing. Her characters are always special in some way (just like all adolescents would like to be) but it becomes a hurdle for them.
Superior writing.
C
This was very involving but also suffered from what, for me, makes "literary fiction" hard to read - everyone is awful. I think I feel worse after reading it.
Calzean
I enjoyed this book from the first page. The main character is Lou, a 16 year old, very intelligent, girl from a family of the unemployed and unemployables. She aches to be able to leave her life in Sydney. She goes on a student exchange program to the US and lives with a family of moderate wealth, who live trying to be perfect with set rules for everything.

She wants acceptance but refuses to change her own way of behaving. She hates conformance and while she envies the beautiful people she does...more
Rebecca Cameron
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tricia
This is one of those books that is not for everyone and generally if you don't like it, you probably just didn't read it right. The main character is a bit of a genius and has a horrible time fitting in because she is too smart for her own good. She can read other people far better than a 16 year old should be able to, but doesn't quite understand herself yet. This is what the book is about. Not about her being a foreign exchange student or who she meets or what she does or why she's getting int...more
Lisa
A fairly quich read dealing with the challenges of adolescence, addiction and being an outcast.
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M.J. Hyland was born in London to Irish parents in 1968 and spent her early childhood in Dublin. She studied English and law at the University of Melbourne, Australia and worked as a lawyer for several years. Her first novel, How the Light Gets In (2003) was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Age Book of the Year and also took third place in the Barnes & Noble, Discover G...more
More about M.J. Hyland...
Carry Me Down This Is How The BBC National Short Story Award 2011 Le Voyage De Lou Dans Tes Yeux

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“I write that I will learn a language and take up the piano. Margaret can teach me. This might help her get back to what she misses and loves to do. I write a promise that I will do extremely well at school, sleep well and write for the school newspaper. I will swim in the mornings before school to get fit and develop legs like Bridget’s. I will fulfil my enormous potential, learn a new word every day, read a novel every week and become the world’s most impressive autodidact and polymath. I will go the university and live in student digs.” 2 likes
“I often remember in this false, distorted way, and the memories are often cloaked in the colour of the sun. Sometimes I feel nostalgia for things I knew I hated when they were happening, for days spent at the beach or the swimming pool with my sisters.
When I pick my memories apart, I realise my mind has merely played back the objective ingredients, the clichéd apparatus of happiness, the sun, the sound of splashing water, ice-cream on parched lips and cold fizzy drink on a hot tongue, and laugher too. My memory often peddles on the falsehood of past happiness. I should know this.”
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