BOOK REVIEW: Radiance by Alyson Noel

A novel for middle-grade readers

Imagine trying to figure yourself out and maybe grow up a little  — after you’re dead!

That’s just what Riley Bloom has to do in author Alyson Noel’s Radiance.

Radiance is the first novel in Noel’s new paranormal series for middle-grade readers, The book is a spinoff from the author’s New York Times bestselling young adult Immortals series, in which Riley was first introduced.

Riley is the 12-year-old kid sister of the Immortals protagonist, Ever Bloom. Ever survived the car accident that killed her parents, Riley and Buttercup, the family dog.

When Radiance begins, Riley has been dead almost a year. And she’s still pretty unhappy about it, despite trying to put on a smiley face.

Riley has had to give up spying on Ever and the living world, her favorite pastime when she first died. Now, everyone expects her to settle into her new home, called “Here.” She doesn’t have any friends. Her hair’s not right. She’s not sure which outfit to wear, because she doesn’t want to have a “fashion-related embarrassment.” There’s an annoying boy named Bodhi. And, if she’s really going to be honest with herself, she doesn’t much like it Here.

“And any forced excitement that I may have started my day with, well, it was quickly snuffed out and completely obliterated by my absolute certainty that I didn’t fit in.

“Would never fit in.

“And most certainly and positively did not belong Here.

“There had to be some other place better suited for me.

“And not only was I sure of it, but I was determined to do whatever it took to find it.”

Bottom line, Riley gets that it’s time to, well, start growing up — get a job, take on some responsibilities. Kind of like back in the living world. But there are certain differences between Riley’s responsibilities and those of living kids.

Things like, while doing her new job, Riley gets to use the special talents that go along with being dead: talents like walking through walls, imagining all kinds of cool clothes and stuff, and having them magically appear.

But Riley very quickly learns it’s not all fun and games, because her new gig is not slinging burgers or steaming up soymilk lattes in the local café where the cool kids chill.

Nope, Riley has been pegged by the Council, the afterlife powers-that-be, as a Soul Catcher. Worse, her job trainer is that annoying boy, Bodhi, who dresses like a total dork. And, it turns out, she has to deal with all kinds of very scary and really sad experiences that she is just not prepared to handle. Some readers might find this as terrifying as Riley does, and a little confusing.

But luckily, there’s an upside. The upside is that Riley gets to go back to the “earth plane” to do her soul catching, and she’s pretty certain that is really where she’d rather be. Her job is to entice dead souls to stop haunting the living and cross over the bridge into Here. There is international travel involved, which is “really, really cool,” and maybe even a chance to learn how to fly.

If Riley can just prove that Bodhi is wrong about her — if she can succeed in persuading this really freaky ghost to cross over the darn bridge — Bodhi will teach her how to fly.

Riley’s determination is pretty powerful. Bodhi’s doubt in her ability to succeed is a real bummer. And soul catching is nowhere near as easy as Riley thought it would be. Nonetheless, Riley really, really wants to fly. …

Crossposted at the North County Times.