Riley Bloom is not a new character to anyone who has read Alyson Noel's YA series, The Immortals, which starts with the book, Evermore (link to review). Allow me to give a little background. Riley is Ever's sister. Ever is the only survivor of a car crash that killed the rest of her family, which makes Riley...well...dead. In Evermore, Riley did a bit of haunting, and didn't want to leave her sister, but she eventually crossed over - and I shed a tear when the sisters parted. The Immortals series is Ever's story, but Radiance is Riley's story after she crosses over.
Since Ever was a teenager, her story was geared toward the YA set, but Riley is only 12, so her story is aimed at a younger reader. I thought both the storyline and the language was appropriate for the younger age group. Writing to the tween crowd can be a tricky task, and I think Alyson Noel did a fantastic job at maintaining a balance of interest without being inappropriate.
The author creates a whole new world for Riley, called the Here, in a time called the Now, which is scary because it's new to her, but doesn't necessarily frighten her. She begins her afterlife in the Here and Now with her parents and her dog, and sets off for her first day of "school." She quickly realizes that school is not what she thinks it is, and the afterlife is not all harps and clouds. The Council assigns a job to each person, and Riley is to be a Soul Catcher, whose job it is to retrieve the lost souls on Earth who haven't crossed over. She has a guide, the geeky but cute Bodhi, as Riley sets off on her first task. Her first quest is interesting, and Riley proves herself to be a special being.
Unfortunately, for me, there were too many unanswered questions as to who certain people are, what is going on in the Here and Now and what is their whole purpose...not to mention what happened to her parents?
I was disappointed that Alyson Noel once again set her readers up with too many loose ends, with hopes of tying them up in the next book.
Even though I have some issues with the book, I have to admit that I was entertained and found Riley to be extremely likable. Her task was exciting, her voice is sweet and sincere, and I found myself rooting for her. It's a good light read for the 'tween crowd.
*Disclosure: I picked up an Advanced Readers Copy of this book at BEA
About the Book:
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Square Fish (August 31, 2010)
About the Author:
Alyson Noel's books have won the National Reader's Choice Award, NYLA Book of Winter Award, NYPL Books for the Teenage, TeenReads Best Books of 2007, Reviewer's Choice 2007 Top Ten, nominated for YALSA's Teen's Top Ten Award, chosen for the CBS Early Show's "Give the Gift of Reading" segment, and selected for Seventeen Magazine's "Hot List" and Beach Book Club Pick. She was born and raised in The OC and has lived in both Mykonos and Manhattan, but now finds herself settled right back in California where she lives and writes full time.