Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Published: 7 October 2011 (Macmillan Children's Books)
Book Depository: Paperback
Source: Borrowed from library
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.
But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.
I was really excited to start this book because it's a post-apocalyptic novel which I usually adore. Glow tells the story of Waverly and Kieran, residents of the Empyrean, a spaceship destined to establish a New Earth. When their fellow ship the New Horizon makes an unexpected diversion to visit the Empyrean, it becomes clear the mission may not be going to plan.
I hate to start out with negatives but when I began this book I quickly became aware it wasn't quite what I was expecting. For one thing, the book appears to be billed as a love story. All over the cover are taglines about Waverly and Kieran's relationship, and I thought that would take more of a central role when it came to the plot.
In reality, Waverly and Kieran's stories remain quite separate throughout most of the story. The book is told from both perspectives and as the characters are separated early on, the book is split into parts with several chapters from Waverly, then another part catches you up on what's been happening with Kieran during that time etc. I thought that worked really well and I really liked how the two stories were woven together, but at the end of the day the two of them barely seemed to think about each other given how in love they were supposed to be. I'd have to wait a hundred pages for one of them to make a reference to their feelings for the other. Whilst the two of them appear to be in love at the start (we only see them together for a very short time so it's quite hard to judge their relationship fully), there's also the angle that the two of them are the same age on a ship where having children is seen as a vital thing to do, and so I thought it was interesting that they had this pressure on them to do what was expected.
If you take out the whole love story thing, I did really like the concept of the plot and Glow really well as a sci-fi, action adventure. The fleeing residents of Earth have been put on two spaceships heading to start life on a new planet. One of the most important roles in creating this new society is for the people on the spaceships to have children before they get there, and the fertility aspect plays a huge part in the story.
One thing that I just couldn't make my mind up whether it worked in the story was how the book dealt with religion. The idea is that one of the two spaceships is religious and the other is more secular (although there's some crossover). There's also some divide with Kieran being religious and Waverly not. It did play a role in the story and towards the end of the book I could see how it was an interesting thing to address in the situation the characters were in, but sometimes I just felt uncomfortable with the cult-like nature of the religion in Glow.
There were some really fascinating characters, including Anne Mathers who took on the role of ultimate baddy. I loved her creepiness and how much I loathed her. It really gave you reason to root for the other chatacters as well. I really liked Waverly and her friends and how they took on the responsibility of trying to watch over each other and the other girls. There was a great rivalry between Seth and Kieran which I thought was really interesting.
I was unsure about how I felt about Glow until about two-hundred pages in when it really started to grab me. I'm still disappointed in how the book was portrayed as maybe something it's not, but once I settled into it I started to like it for what it was. The writing took a little while to get use to and was a tad clunky in places (repetition of the word she when using the third person that jumped out at me) and I had problems with the font used in the paperback copy I read (picky I know, but maybe one to check out on e-book if you're like me and have issues reading funny fonts) but I still think it's worth a read. There's a lot of action and ideas crammed in there and I can see the potential for future books in the series, which I'll probably go on to read.
What to read next: Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan, the second book in the Sky Chasers series
Books like this: Hope's Daughter by Melanie Cusick-Jones, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness