Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Narrated by Matthew Brown and Ilyana Kadushin
Grade: 4 stars out of 5
As someone who has heard of Amy Kathleen Ryan before and read one of her novels, Zen and Xander Undone, I was surprised to see this dystopian, science fiction novel by her. Also not being the hugest fan of her work—found Zen and Xander Undone to be eh/okay—I was very much hesitant about Glow. But the reviews were generally positive when I first heard of it so I dove straight in. Glow was everything that I did not expect.
There are so many different synopses to Glow and many of which doesn’t seem to capture that essence of the book. Here is the synopsis I first read when the news about Glow started buzzing:
"The Empyrean is the only home 15-year-old Waverly has ever known. Part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space, she and her boyfriend Kieran will be pioneers of New Earth. Waverly knows she must marry young in order to have children who can carry on the mission, and Kieran, the handsome captain-to-be, has everything Waverly could want in a husband. Everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Still, there’s a part of Waverly that wants more from life than marriage, and she is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.My initial thought: So it’s a love triangle in space. Okayyy. And the first couple of discs seemed to point at what I thought, but then…then the New Horizon came. Dun dun dun. Continuing and finishing Glow was like an obsession that had taken over.
Suddenly, Waverly’s dreams are interrupted by the inconceivable – a violent betrayal by the Empyrean's sister ship, the New Horizon. The New Horizon’s leaders are desperate to populate the new planet first, and will do anything to get what they need: young girls. In one pivotal moment, Waverly and Kieran are separated, and find themselves at the helm of dangerous missions, where every move has potentially devastating consequences, and decisions of the heart may lead to disaster."--from Amazon
You might have noticed that I said discs. Yes, I listened to Glow as an audiobook while I was doing biology slide drawings* and preparing for my practical. I’m nothing if not a multitasker who doesn’t know when multitasking isn’t exactly the best thing to do. Glow is distracting! I barely remembered what I drew and annotated and am pretty sure I spelled a couple of things wrong. But it was worth it. (Managed to get a perfect score on the drawings so it’s a win-win situation.)
Let’s talk about the specifics on the narration because Glow is my first full audiobook. I’ve sampled bits and pieces of other audiobooks before so I’m not a true “noob”, but it was very exciting. The first thing I noticed was the voicing. Matthew Brown voiced Kieran and Ilyana Kadushin voiced Waverly**. My preference flip-flops between the two over the course of the 8 discs, but I do think they both spoke very clearly and depicted the right emotions. I struggled for a bit on the speed of the audiobooks. I can read about 250 pages in about 3-4 hours so for a 300 page book (of course the fonts are smaller than most YA novels) to take 8 hours had me itching to read the book myself. Another thing that I struggled with was when the characters were screaming, but it was through with whispering(ish) on the audiobooks. Some of the voicing for secondary characters took time to get used to.There were some nasally voices that were not pleasant to the ear. (3.5 out of 5 stars).
Now onward to the storyline!
Glow goes beyond love triangles in space. It’s about inner strength, defying against the norm, and finding the truth for yourself. It’s about religious cults, government propaganda, gender oppression, abuse, and the ever escalating fear of the Earth’s environment. It’s about a lot of things that the synopsis doesn’t seem to hint at. Ryan put everything together so effortlessly.
That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised when I hit the midpoint of the story because it went against my initial judgment. The tension was at its peak. The chance of survival was slim. (And finally a set of characters who manages to show rather than tell their emotions and their actions followed what they say.) The emotions were raw; the desperation could be felt in the air. The actions were sickening. Each character was like an apple: some ripe, some bruised, some tart, but each with its own texture. The antagonists seemed like good guys from one perspective and the perfect villains in the other perspective. The protagonists were just the same—with both good and bad traits.
From the middle of the novel I just couldn’t stop listening. I needed to know what happened next. It’s as what Lauren Myracle said; Glow is “Utterly engrossing.” It is electric. It is all-consuming. It is shocking.
I found the resolution to be impeccably done. None of that happier ever after crap because, really, they hardly happen in real life. There are still questions to answered and people to be rescued (literally and symbolically), but the focal conflict was resolved. The last scene just hit the ball out of the park*** for me. My lips are sealed, but I expect some backstabbing in the next installment.
My qualms about Glow were mostly with Waverly and her relationship with Seth. I was iffy about the whole thing. It had its purposes, but there was nothing fleshed out about it. After Waverly is taken away, she doesn’t really mention him at all. Waverly, herself, I couldn’t connect to. She was all over the place emotionally. What she represented I thought was amazing and powerful.
Look into Glow. The synopsis doesn’t do it justice. Glow is so much more than teens hooking up. Far from a quick and breezy read, Glow is thought provoking and heartbreaking and captivating.
Hey, since the holidays are right around the corner you know what make an awesome present for readers...hint hint.
*they are so tedious to do and it feels like a waste of time
**Glow is broken into two POVs. To recreate this Brown would voice one CD and Kadunshin voiced another. They don’t narrator the same discs.
***I can’t seem to stop my cheesy metaphors. Really got into baseball this season.
I love the simplicity of the cover. It hints to a spaceship with the porthole, but not as much as I would have liked. I do wish that there was male on the cover, but perhaps Kieran will be on the sequel and Seth on the last book.
Published: 2011, September 13; ebook, hardcover, audiobook.
Source: audiobook from Macmillan