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This remarkable and acclaimed debut novel by the Newbery-winning author of When You Reach Me introduces readers to a captivating, hidden world below the ice… 
Peter is thrilled to join his parents on an expedition to Greenland. But when they finally reach the ice cap, he struggles to understand a series of frightening yet enticing visions.
Thea has never seen the sun. Her extraordinary people, suspected of witchcraft and nearly driven to extinction, have retreated to a secret world they’ve built deep inside the arctic ice.
As Thea dreams of a path to Earth’s surface, Peter’s search for answers brings him ever closer to her hidden home in this dazzling tale of mystery, science, and adventure at the top of the world.
“A mystic thriller.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Optimistic science fiction that highlights human ingenuity and survival under dire conditions.” —The Wall Street Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307710673
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/01/2010
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

REBECCA STEAD is the author of When You Reach Me, which was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Newbery Medal and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction, and Liar & Spy, which was also a New York Times bestseller, won the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction, and was on multiple state master lists and best of the year lists. Her most recent book, Goodbye Stranger, was a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book for Fiction and a New York Times bestseller. She is also the author of First Light, which was nominated for many state awards. She lives in New York City with her family. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt


Most boys his age had never touched paper. There was little left. Paper was reserved for fine drawing and important documents. Mattias knew even before he could skate that if he were to harm any of it, if he were to crease one corner of one sheet, the consequences would be serious. But Mattias could not resist his mother’s drawing table. He loved the drawers and panels that opened almost without a sound, the bright vials of dye, the immaculate brushes on their small rack, the smooth wooden box of charcoal. And although he was a very obedient boy in almost every other way, he regularly explored the contents of the table when he found himself alone with it. Mattias knew its every measure, including the shape of the black dye stain that had dried inside one drawer before he was born. And each time he approached the table, he expected to find it exactly as he had always found it before.
Today he found something new.
It was a thick paper envelope, closed but unsealed, underneath his mother’s working sketches. Mattias unwound the string closure slowly, being careful to remember the length that should be left hanging when he tied it again. Inside was a square of paper unlike anything Mattias had ever seen. One side of the square glowed with an image in color, almost as if someone had frozen a moment in time and flattened it, capturing every detail. Even his mother, considered the most talented artist now alive, couldn’t create anything like this. Mattias turned it carefully in his hands, holding the square by its sharp corners. It was an image of two women. Sisters, he thought. And there was something else–a glowing blur behind them.
The sun.

Seven Years Later

A headache, Peter thought as he lay in bed with one arm thrown over his eyes, is something you have to experience to understand. No one can describe a headache to someone who has never had one. He rolled to one side and reached for the little spiral notebook on his night table.
Peter’s mother had gotten headaches for as long as he could remember. They sometimes lasted for days, during which she sat in the red chair next to the pull-out couch where his parents slept. She didn’t eat, or laugh, or make the “proper supper” she otherwise insisted upon. She hardly got up at all. “She’s gone away again,” his father would say. “But she’ll be back.” It happened maybe twice a year.
Everyone said how much Peter was like his mother– their skin that was nearly paper white, their all-over freckles, their wavy hair (hers dark, his blond like his father’s), even the way they sneezed (always twice), and laughed (very quietly, after one loud sort of bark). So Peter had always assumed that, like his mother, he would get headaches one day, and that, when he did, they would be headaches just like hers.
Peter paged through the worn notebook. It had his friends’ phone numbers in it, and the names of some video games he wanted if his parents ever let him get a video game, and the address of a company in Oregon that sold old radio parts for almost no money, and a bunch of other things. He flipped to the inside back cover, where he had made a series of slashes.
Just after his twelfth birthday, Peter’s mother began asking him whether he had a headache. She had never asked him that before, and he couldn’t help thinking it was strange she had to ask at all. Wouldn’t it be obvious when he had a headache? Wouldn’t he, too, sit in the living room and never smile or get hungry? But she kept asking, every week or two, always smiling carefully, as if she were expecting bad news. So they waited, together.
Peter got his first headache a few months later. He knew right away what it was, and three things surprised him about it. First, it lasted only a few hours. Second, although it hurt some, he was able to eat the same salt-and-vinegar potato chips he bought after school every day. Third, he didn’t tell his mother about it.
The only person he told was Miles. He and Miles had been in the same class every year since kindergarten. They knew everything about each other. For instance, Peter knew that Miles only pretended to hate the two stepsisters who lived uptown with Miles’s father and stepmother. The truth was that Miles liked them, and that he liked his Monday and Friday nights at his dad’s– he liked how the apartment was full of life, with friends coming and going, and teasing at dinner, and the way they always ate oranges and popcorn while they watched TV together.
And Miles knew that Peter was afraid to tell his mother about his first headache because it had brought him a little closer to knowing what he had already half-known for years: that his mother’s headaches were not headaches at all, but something else entirely. Something she didn’t want to talk about. Something like sadness.
Then Peter had more headaches. He took the stub of a pencil from where he had wedged it into the spiral of his little notebook and made a mark next to the others. He counted to himself, slowly. His ninth. In a month. He replaced the notebook on the table and rolled over so he could look through the skylight next to his bed.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Peter and Thea are vividly realized. . . . Gracehope itself is sketched with sure strokes, its icy setting and its matriarchal social structure fresh and believable.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“Stead’s debut novel rests on an intriguing premise. . . . It is a testament to the storytelling that the existence of this parallel world and the convergence of Peter and Thea’s stories, told in separate chapters, are both credible and absorbing. Young readers will find this a journey worth taking.”—Publishers Weekly

Customer Reviews

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First Light 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 81 reviews.
kaski002 More than 1 year ago
Stead hit a home run in my humble opinion by mixing a science fiction type of thread with an issue that many kids are really concerned about - global warming. The characters are multidimensional and believable. It is not a predictable story line which kept me engaged. The middle school students that I have shared First Light with have all really liked the story a lot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy how it tells the story from different people's point of view. It is a long book, but it is worth the read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will change yoir life... please read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book. And if you like this book you might like Rabecca Steads other book when you reach me. That book is good too.
Madison Ramberac More than 1 year ago
a awesome story how 2 worlds colide makes you belive it could really happen!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good book, but it needs a seaqul , something to just wrap up the story , still, five star book
clerkin305 More than 1 year ago
I'm not mujch of a reader, so I thought I wouldn't enjoy an over 300 page book! I proved myself wrong, when I picked up this book and started reading it. First Light is a MUST READ!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was amazing! It was extremly suspenceful and I couldn't put it down! I loved the discriptive words and all of the personification and similies! Although fictional, this book seems like it could be real, the way Rebecca Stead describes the modern time period and the "real" characters. I would recomend this book to anyone 10+! This book has two main characters, a boy named Peter, and a girl named Thea. Peter is from modern times New York and is going with his parents on an expidition to Greenland. While Thea lives in a secert world under the ice called Gracehope. This book is about how their two very different worlds collide with an interesting, new twist! This is the best book that I have ever read and I'm looking forward to reading all of Rebecca Staed's other books too! I had already read her book called, "When You Reach Me", and I would also recommend that book as well! I have loved all of her books and thought that they were awesome!!!!
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Peter Solemn will be leaving his life behind as he accompanies his family to Greenland. His father is a glaciologist and is going to research the ice caps and the effects of global warming. Thea already lives in Greenland - although not freely. The people in the society she lives with, Gracehope, all fled Europe because of persecution, hiding underneath the ice, unable to go above to see what this new world has to offer. Curious as she is, Thea has always wondered what it's like above all of the ice. Even though her grandma, who just so happens to be the leader of the society, does not allow it, Thea is going to do all she can to see what exactly is happening on top of her world. With the help of a map, Peter and Thea discover one another. Two people from two completely different worlds...and yet somehow both are connected to each other. Without wanting to give away too much, Peter and Thea's world collide, sometimes for the best, most of the times for the worse. Odd and captivating, FIRST LIGHT is one of those books that you just have to read in order to understand the brilliance and imagination. Another plus is the mentioning of global warming, which some may believe in while others do not. However, regardless of beliefs, FIRST LIGHT is one novel you want to experience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a good and exciting book for the whole family I'm a kid who loves to read and I just found this book in the libary at school and thought i might check it out and it turns out i just plain love this book is so good
chinquapin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book follows the lives of two children: Peter who is from New York City and is going with his parents on a six week expedition to Greenland to study glaciers, and Thea who lives in an amazing under-ice world called Gracehope. The people in Gracehope made a discovery centuries ago that allowed them to create their city under the ice and escape persecution. Thea, however, yearns to emerge from the ice and see the sun. For awhile the book alternates between chapters on Peter and chapters on Thea, until their worlds collide. I was enthralled by this incredible, well-written story. It had strong themes of the ties and bonds of both family and friendship. The world-building of Gracehope was awe-inspiring, and I liked both of the main characters, and several of the supporting characters. I plan to look out for more books by this talented author.
ewyatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Peter and his family head to Greenland for a scientific exposition. Peter is developing a special gift, the ability to have visions. Part of his visions seem to be tied to a wall of ice. Thea wants her people, who live in an underground society, to find a way to engage with the above-ground world. When Peter and Thea meet to help save Matthias, the worlds come together.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nifty and imaginative fantasy (or rather science fiction) about a hidden community underground. It reminded me slightly of The City of Ember, with the similar idea of a community surviving underground and misinterpreting its history. But I enjoyed this story and its characters much more. I was willing to buy the super scientists angle, but I am not sure about the addition of the telepathic dgos - maybe there will be further books that feather them in more interesting roles?
ChristianR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me a while to get into this book. This is the author's first book and at first I thought that she had bit off more than she could chew, but ultimately it came together.One main character is Peter, whose father, a scientist studying global warming, announces that he will be working in Greenland for six weeks and he'd like to bring his wife and son with him. Another character is Thea, a girl living in a secret community under the ice in Greenland. This is the part that was a little sketchy -- the author never resolved all of the questions that I had about how this community could survive, as they had for several generations. Nevertheless, it is a pretty cool concept and the images of the community gliding on skates through a massive underground series of ice tunnels is fun to imagine and they even have an underground lake where they can fish. The connection between Peter and Thea occurs about halfway or more through the book. There is some mention of global warming and how it will threaten the underground community, but it is not presented as an immediate concern. Some of the people underground have special abilities, like the ability to communicate with their dogs. These abilities had caused them to be feared by others years before when they lived in England, which is how they came to hide in Greenland.
framberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Stead's novel, set largely in Greenland, is the kind of magical realism that is deeply appealing to readers of YA. As in her second novel (and winner of the 2010 Newbery Award), "When You Reach Me", Stead takes a real - if in this case unfamiliar - setting, and plays with "what ifs" in order to create a rich mystery. The main characters, Peter and Thea, literally live in different worlds, and the mystery of how the two will come together, and what they will mean to each other, is beautifully wrought. Stead's novel also features extra-natural talents, wonderfully communicative dogs, tested loyalties, courageous teens, and supportive adults who let the children lead.
knielsen83 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It reminded me a bit of The Giver only with more flavor, less intense. I don't really know how to explain it. So, just read it. :)
jubook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting fantasy book with the setting in the cold artic. It shows the theme of fear and change well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Global warming is real. When the earth melts we'll all be safe on some other planet by warping SpaceTime but nonbelievers be liquidating at the temperature of 678 fairenheit and rising. Just sayin'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know most kittens are nice... but the adults mislead them into thinking WE are the bad guys... somehow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey maple
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ny name is Alex. Grey with electric blue eyes great hunter
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(Nevermind. Long story.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Nothing..." he answers
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am wondering if i should read this bok i loved when yiureach me is itas.goood
Anonymous More than 1 year ago