Radiance is book one of Alyson Noël’s new series. It’s a spin-off of her bestselling Immortals series. The new series follows Riley, Ever’s sister, who crossed over to the after life.
“Most people think that death is the end.
The end of life—of good times—the end of, well, pretty much everything.
But those people are wrong.
And I should know. I died almost a year ago.”
So states the first chapter of Noël’s Radiance. The reader is given the briefest of ideas to the story: The narrator is dead, it’s about the after life, and that whatever notion we have of the afterlife is wrong. Noël, if anything, in a simple chapter successfully draws her reader in. However, this reader had a few difficulties getting into the novel.
Before I proceed to writing this review, you need to know a few things about me. I never read Twilight. I tried, I couldn’t take it. Since then, I’ve avoided books that fall under YA literature meets paranormal/supernatural. It would be easier for me to say I have an aversion for YA, however that’s a hasty generalization. I try to avoid the more post-twilight popular YA. Let’s just say I can’t take the cheesy/sappy stuff with the Romeo and Juliet plot. So, when Radiance was sent over to us, I told Fats to take over the reviews. Fats’ plate eventually got full, so I told her I’d do the review for Noël’s Radiance.
Suspending all prejudices and judgment I read this book in one sitting. Radiance is short. While its Trade paperback binding makes it seem a long book, the fonts are large, so are the spacing and the language very conversational. The first few chapters of the book take us through life in “HERE.” Riley gives us a 12-year old’s view of HERE where she still needs to sleep and go to school, where eating is optional and changing outfits is a breeze. Being 27 years old and quite unaware anymore of the world of 12 year olds and teenagers, reading Radiance felt like a social experiment to me. Noel keep faithful with her 12 year old protagonist in her narration. She doesn’t skimp on 12-year old vocabulary like chilling and dorktitude. Though the book sets itself in a world where living human beings have no hunch on how life is there, Noel connect with her target audience with her reference to Riley’s first day in school, fitting in and finding one’s place in the big universe that is school.
“We go to our assigned place, and you go to your assigned place.”
Lost in the rules of HERE, Riley discovers asking people won’t get you straight answers. Shrouded in mystery and cryptic words, Riley tries to chill and learn the ropes of the after life. Very much so like any teenager in a new place.
The book picks up its pace as Riley meets Bodhi and is led to meeting the ‘elders’ wherein her destiny in HERE is determined. If anything, it’s a sort of Judgment Day event meets Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat. Riley’s appointment brought in the surprise for me. It was the turning point that melted away my hesitation in reading the novel.
While Radiance’s book cover and title had the look and feel of popular YA literature, it delivered something more interesting than impossible romeo-juliet dynamic to the story. Riley’s assignment kicked assed. The ghost busting adventure entertained me and made finishing Radiance easy breezy. The missions were reminiscent of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Ghost Whisperer except it’s a ‘dead’ person who’s doing the busting. The relationship between Bodhi and Riley was also fun in the sense of entertaining banter.
Now, you might wonder what’s with the title: “Radiance.” I can only guess it refers to the ‘glow’ that surrounds most inhabitants of HERE and Riley’s desire to get her “Glow” on. It’s also possible a shout out to the Radiant Boy, Riley’s first assignment as soul catcher. I enjoyed reading Radiance. It was, if anything, able to prove me wrong in my judgments towards popular YA lit. However, it is not without its fault. First, the cover and title don’t do it justice. Riley’s mission allowed her to gain that radiance, however there was less focus on the glow as opposed to the mission. Even if it referred to the radiant boy it still didn’t capture the feel of the book (I think). The cover art rode with the trend, but it didn’t give the reader an idea to the dark, ghost-busting elements in the story. Furthermore, I felt the first part was too long in building up towards the mission-sequence. I’m going to let this bit go in a sense that Radiance was written with a sequel in mind.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. I enjoyed reading it. While it isn’t at the same depths as my usual books it was a breath of fresh air to my typical reading. I only hope that Noël keeps this sort of theme going and doesn’t delve too much into the sappy/cheesy areas of the book.
Though the book is a spin-off of the Immortal series they are two different plot lines. One doesn’t need to read the Immortal series to appreciate Radiance. While Riley hints on her sister’s story the stories are independent. Radiance can be appreciated by children around Riley’s age, teenagers, and adults alike.
Our copy of Radiance is courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group