Glow is one of the reasons I love my job, and it has very little to do with it.
I get promotional emails from Publisher's Weekly, in order to keep current with teen literature, in a niche of which I publish. My niche is small and isolated, and I need PW to help me take a look around at what the age-mates of our intended readers - struggling, teenage readers who need exciting, accessible literature to help them become successful, habitual readers - are devouring. I want to know that makes them excited to read more, and what they wish they could read because of peer pressure and inherent interest.
One of the recent ones offered an advance reading copy of Glow, the third novel my Amy Kathleen Ryan. I read the first chapter or two, free online, with great interest. It coincided so closely with the setting and tone of first-time novelist Beth Revis' Across the Universe, which I read, and reviewed here, earlier this year.
Whereas ATU gripped my viscera at the beginning and subsided a bit into a simmering intergenerational confrontation and murder investigation aboard an interstellar space ship carrying humans from a battered Earth to a new home for their descendants, Glow built up from the hopes of appealing main characters into a thrilling intertribal confrontation and coming-of-age story aboard two interstellar space ships carrying humans....oh, you get the idea.
First, I am fascinated at the never-rains-but-it-pours aspect of this. I wasn't aware of any novels with such scenarios in the past decade, when I got swept up into Potter-mania, a bit late in life and in the timeline of Potter-mania. Now, with apparent suddenness, there are two.
Second, I loved the building tension of Glow. Similar to Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games, Glow starts by introducing deeply likeable teen characters, one male and one female, in an exotic setting that feels natural and whole, and then tears them apart. But whereas Hunger Games maintains Katniss Everdeen at the center of the narrative, Glow like ATU shifts the narrative between the two main characters. In ATU, the main characters are less positively appealing. We feel sorry for them in many ways, but we never saw them at their best. We never had the chance to get to like them, to look forward to meeting them again.
In Glow, protagonists Waverly and Kieran seem like people I would have liked when I was their age. Their reactions to events evoke sympathy, emotional investment, because they are founded on a previous identification, a founding emotional investment. Even the dangerous and damaged supporting characters look like people I got caught up with, cared about, and suffered with or because of when I was that age.
This means that when the climactic conflict occurs, so much of the reader's emotional investment is riding on it that it feels real. I felt my pulse quicken (just as advertised on the ARC back cover with the trite but applicable phrase "pulse-pounding"), even though the actual physical aspects of the confrontation were smaller than the conflicts at the opening of the second act of the novel.
After reading and enjoying Across the Universe, I was thrilled to read something in the same genre and in a very closely related setting, but when the book ended, I was caught off-guard. My wife figured this out first. "It must be part of a series," she said. (She's right, it's called Sky Chasers: http://us.macmillan.com/author/amykathleenryan.) However, it felt unfinished to me.
The Potter novels all (but one) end with the denouement of Harry returning to Privet Drive. The first two Hunger Games novels end with the tension ratcheting up in a new area. Glow ends differently, as if fifty pages had been left off the end. The conflict at the beginning isn't resolved. The new conflict is intriguing, and will probably draw me to reading the sequel. But I'm confused about the title's significance, the series name's significance, and the abruptness of the first novel's ending.
- Steve Shea
- A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!