For Waverly Marshall and hundreds of other children and teens, life aboard the space vessel Empyrean is their entire world. Their days are spent assisting their parents with agriculture and attending school, learning about Earth and what life was like upon that mysterious planet of their parents’ birth. Fresh from a proposal from her boyfriend and captain-in-training, Kieran Alden, Waverly feels mostly content.
A few decades removed from the devastating events that made life on their home planet impossible, the Empyrean and a sister ship are bound for New Earth — a distant planet destined to be settled by the “chosen” aboard the Empyrean and New Horizon, a sister ship. While the Empyrean is a secular vessel, the New Horizon is a religious ship filled with those who believe God is giving them a chance to originate new life. Believing they are doing His will, the residents of the New Horizon are optimistic about spreading God’s love to an entirely new generation.
On their journey to New Earth, the ships have rarely made contact — until the day the New Horizon sidles alongside the Empyrean, disrupting everything about life as Waverly once knew it. A series of attacks change everything about life in deep space, and Waverly is left to spearhead a movement to keep everyone safe and reassemble the pieces of their tattered existence. If that can ever be done again.
Amy Kathleen Ryan’s Glow is a fast-paced, energetic and stomach-plummeting ride through the galaxy that dragged me into its orbit and refused to let me go. I was finished with this book before I even looked up, gobbling the entire story before I even realized I was reaching the end.
Glow, the first in a new series, is being likened to The Hunger Games — a novel I read years ago and loved. While I don’t think Glow has the emotional punch of Suzanne Collins’ stellar series, I can definitely see the similarities in terms of pacing and plot. Ryan drops us right into the action in Glow, successfully creating an entire universe for us without any of the boring world-building I sometimes associate with dystopian novels. We’re given enough puzzle pieces to understand what’s happening here, but not so much that nothing is cloaked in mystery.
In fact, mystery shrouds everything in Glow, keeping readers antsy and on edge. We don’t know who to trust or despise, who to love or fear. The enigmatic but dangerous leader of the New Horizon, Anne Mather, is a character that is both reviled and pitied. At various points in the novel, I struggled with whether to trust or hate her — though Waverly never faced that uncertainty. Our lead is steel-spined and, like Katniss Everdeen, a young woman called upon to shoulder so much burden at such a young age. And, despite everything, she handles it well.
But Waverly lacked the dimension of Katniss — or much dimension at all. I respected her and felt for her, but I never felt like I was really inside her head. How did she really feel about Kieran, for instance? His proposal within the first few pages of the book should have been a life-altering moment, but I didn’t feel the emotional weight of the question. As Waverly became immersed in the battles waging between the Empyrean and its sister ship, I knew that she was desperate to be reunited with him . . . but felt like I had little evidence of that. It was lots of telling and not enough showing. I didn’t know if she actually loved him or just felt safe with him, especially after losing her father at a young age. But as this is just a first book, I’m imagining that will be explored in detail down the road.
My overall feelings for Glow are very positive, however. Even though I wasn’t as close to Waverly (or Kieran, or Seth) as I would have liked, I found this book impossible to put down! There are plenty of unanswered questions in Glow and opportunities for back stories to be explored, which makes me eager for a publication date — but I can’t find one. And that makes me itchy.
Fans of dystopian reads and young adult fiction will find a fascinating, quick read in Amy Kathleen Ryan’s first novel in the Sky Chasers series, and the religious overtones of the book were very thought-provoking. I won’t go off on a tangent regular the secular versus religious vessels and how eventually everyone seems to switch roles, but that’s definitely a major theme of the book. Read it and see where you fall.
3.5 out of 5!