Intergalactic coming of age: ‘Glow’

This summer I’ve been reading my second ever e-book, and I’ve found I’ve gotten quite used to reading off the small screen. Only problem is, it requires access to the ipad…not as easy as it might sound, when you’ve got two boys very quick and keen to monopolise this font of endless entertainment. Their (major) obsession with ‘our’ ipad has meant that my reading of Defender of the Faith has been restricted to the evenings, sadly leaving me at a reading loose-end during the day.

Not to be undone and to ensure that I could make the most of some extra reading time over the break, I’ve also had a couple of good old paper-books on the go as well. And so, while the kids have been happy app-hunting and youtubing, I’ve been having a little read of Amy Kathleen Ryan’s Glow (Pan MacMillan).

“A ship heading for New Earth is halfway through its incredible journey across the galaxy. On board, sixteen-year-olds Waverly and Kieran are part of the first generation born in space.

They are in love.

They believe their future is written in the stars. They have never before seen a stranger…

…until the day they are wrenched apart and find themselves fighting for their lives.”

I’ll admit (sadly) that it’s been awhile since I was officially part of the target demographic for this book, but still, Glow ticks most of the boxes needed to draw me to a story. Written primarily for teens, this interesting tale would be entirely suitable for adults, especially those who’re after a quick but quite perplexing read.

It is a dystopian-tale, but not off-puttingly bleak. The personal and practical difficulties faced by Waverly and Kieran are quite beautifully communicated, and the story subtly captures some of the challenges typical of coming of age, even if in this context our protagonists are growing up in the middle of space. Facing questions of parental, community and peer expectations, Waverly finds herself in quite a conundrum, even before tragedy strikes.

The forceful and violent introduction of outsiders into Waverly and Kieran’s small world brings with it both physical and spiritual violations. As the girls of the Empyrean are corralled to the New Horizon in the hope of repopulating an infertile crew, Kieran and the boys are left virtually adult-less to battle  for survival, to fight for order, power and the maintenance of a despairing crew.

Ryan’s novel raises important questions regarding duty, individual free-will, and the role of religion as influencer and inspiration (for good or ill). I found it quite unsettling in many ways, religious fevour always makes me a little uneasy, but there’s no doubt that this ‘puritan’ element added to the impact of the story most effectively.

Adult readers might pick-up undertones of  Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Golding’s Lord of the Flies in this novel. Younger readers will find this a really engaging blend of science fiction and romance, a coming-of-age adventure.

Glow is the first adventure in the upcoming Sky Chasers trilogy, and I for one am looking for instalment number two.

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