I began reading Radiance by Alyson Noël as a favor to my cousin.  She’s getting ready to start the fifth grade, and she started reading this book because she liked the cover.  (We have that in common.)  Anyway, having never really read much fantasy before, my cousin got a little freaked out that the main character in Radiance is a dead girl, so she stopped reading.  I let her know that I would read the book, hoping that having someone to discuss the book with would help ease her mind.  Well, I just finished Radiance, and I must say that, although I enjoyed the book, I’m not quite sure that my cousin is ready for it.  It is an excellent book, but my dear cousin—like myself—is a bit of a scaredy cat, and I think some of the imagery in Radiance might scare her.  If she decides to face her fears and read this book, however, I will be more than happy to talk with her about it.

In Radiance, we are introduced to Riley Bloom, a twelve-year-old girl who died in a car accident and is not happy about it.  (Who would be?)  She crossed the bridge into the afterlife with her parents and her dog, but she’s still focused on the life—and the older sister—she left behind.  That’s all about to change, though.  It’s time for Riley to find her purpose Here (the author’s version of Heaven).  And just what is her purpose?  Well, she’s going to be a Soul Catcher, or someone who convinces souls tied to earth to make the journey across the bridge to Here.

Riley has no idea what she’s supposed to do, but The Council, in addition to giving her a job, has also provided her with a guide.  Bodhi is forever fourteen-years-old, kind of a dork (but with definite cute potential), and surely keeping secrets from Riley.  All of that has to be put aside, however, as Bodhi takes Riley on her first assignment.  They journey to England where a being known as Radiant Boy has haunted a castle for centuries.  It is up to Riley to convince him to cross the bridge and find a new life Here.  She’s convinced it will be a breeze, but can she succeed when so many Soul Catchers before her have failed?  What will happen if she fails?  What will happen if she succeeds?  What next?  And why is Bodhi so nervous about this particular assignment?  What else is going on?

Join Riley and Bodhi as they face their fears and learn that letting go can make them truly free when you read Radiance by Alyson Noël.

Even though Radiance may be a little much for my ten-year-old cousin, I think it is great for upper elementary and middle grade readers, maybe even some reluctant readers at the high school level.  It’s a quick, easy read, and the characters are memorable and engaging.  There is some scary imagery (an evil clown with dental instruments, for example), but the lesson about overcoming fear is more powerful than those images.  I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading the second book in this series, Shimmer, soon.  (It’s in the mail right now.)

If you think you’d like Radiance or would like more information on this series and others by Alyson Noël, visit http://www.alysonnoel.com/index.php.

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