Good question. There are some false negatives, as I call them: the characterization of Johnny and the portrayal of his mouthiness could be considered heavy-handed, for example--but not for a Young Adult book. Likewise, the ending may seem as abrupt as that of its predecessor, but not if you realize that the story hinges on character development.
Since I'm a geek for all seasons, I did wish she had given more historical background: she has a "Historical Note" mostly about the Eliza-Johnny connection, but I would've liked to know more specifics about her research; I was surprised how much was historically based. But my preferences reflect my post-grad status; the footnotes I'd like would sink the book for its YA audience. Still, since this will likely attract home schoolers, a more extensive study guide would help.
Conclusion. This is a short post at the end of a long day, but I really don't find serious flaws in the story. I recommend it and Across the Wide River, especially for the home school crowd. They aren't as long or as demanding as Uncle Tom's Cabin, but they can prepare young readers for that story, which would be a good follow-up.
You can purchase The Light Across the River at
I've pushed the book; let's see if you can push my buttons!