Sunday, October 9, 2011

Glow Book Review

Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin. ISBN: 9780312590567.
Annotation:  Kieran and Waverly are part the first generation of children born on the Empyrean, one of two ships destined to start a human colony on New Earth. The pair are in love, but their plans for marriage are abruptly ended when the Empyrean’s sister ship, The New Horizon, stages an attack against the Empyrean and kidnaps all the young girls onboard.
Personal thoughts:  Although I did see a lot of similarities between other recent works in young adult literature (i.e. Across the Universe), I ended up finding Glow to be a very unique and interesting book. It really reminded me of many allegorical novels I’ve read for academic purposes, where there is a larger message behind the plot. I look forward to seeing where the author takes this series.   
Plot summary: Kieran and Waverly seem to be the perfect couple. Both are members of the first generation of children born aboard the Empyrean, a massive spaceship that, along with its sister ship, the New Horizon, is travelling across the galaxy to colonize a planet dubbed “New Earth.” Life on the Empyrean is peaceful, but Waverly is struggling with the idea of getting married: she is still a teenager and there is pressure from the rest of the ship to have children as soon as possible. Kieran and Waverly’s lives change forever when, without warning, the New Horizon stages an attack on the Empyrean: killing most of the adults, and kidnapping all the young girls, including Waverly. After Waverly and the rest of the girls are taken to the New Horizon it becomes clear why they have been brought there: the women on their sister ship are infertile, and they need the girls to help them avoid extinction. Meanwhile, back on the Empyrean, Kieran is coping with the loss of the ship’s adults, including the captain. Left with trying to manage the hundreds of young boys not taken by the crew of the New Horizon, Kieran is struggling with opposition from Seth, another boy his age who wants to captain the Empyrean himself. Will Kieran and Waverly survive their respective fates after the New Horizon’s horrible betrayal? Will they be reunited?
Review:  This first installment in the Sky Chasers sets very high expectations for the rest of this new series. The setting of the novel is not entirely original: a ship carrying humans to colonize a new planet is a concept that has been popping up more and more in young adult literature. The plot, however, is unique and very engrossing. Very little time is spent leading up to the events of the book. Waverly and Kieran’s lives aboard the Empyrean are abruptly altered early in the novel, and most of the story focuses on their ordeals after their ship is attacked. This focus by author Amy Kathleen Ryan makes Glow something that can be enjoyed by both teen boys and girls equally: while there is some slight mushiness in the plot, the novel is far more science-fiction than romance. There is a lot of action that keeps the plot moving forward, but there are also subtleties to the novel as well. Religious overtones are hard to miss, as are elements of Lord of the Flies and the Puritanical “city on a hill” concept. Overall, Glow is a multi-faceted and sophisticated piece of science-fiction literature that is enjoyable for teens and adults of both genders. The next installment in this series is set to be released in the summer of 2012.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan.
Themes:  Space travel, colonization, betrayal, motherhood, politics, religion.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus.   
Series Information: First installment in Sky Chasers series.  
Discussion questions:
- Why do you think Waverly was having reservations about becoming a young mother? How did the mission of the Empyrean impact her feelings?
- What would you have done if you were onboard the Empyrean during the attack by the New Horizon? Would your actions have changed things?
- Do you think the people on board the New Horizon were “villains”? Why or why not?
- Do you believe what Anne Mather said about the history of the Empyrean’s captain and crew members?
- Who would you side with: Seth or Kieran? Why?
- What would you like to see happen next in this series?

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