Glow is a freakishly gripping book. It's the kind of book that sucks you in to its world and wraps you up in its events, its conflicts, its characters, and leaves you wanting more. Unfortunately, it's also the kind of book that time, and a little retrospective discussion, tend to take the shine off of, as we both have learned writing this review.
But we'll do something different for once, and start with the good stuff. For one, the story, while plagued by a few plot holes and believability issues, is engrossing, and the concept is great. While the overall setting and situations are undoubtedly sci-fi, the focus on interpersonal drama and the use of more grounded, familiar conflicts and obstacles (such as escape and survival) go a long way in making Glow more accessible to those who wouldn't normally find themselves interested in a book that takes place on a space ship.
Glow also carries an unexpected amount of emotional weight. Despite some serious likability issues - or perhaps because of them - you find yourself becoming involved with the characters, mourning their losses, getting angry with - and for - them, and hating the characters who are doing them wrong. This really isn't something that happens often with YA books of any genre, at least for us. Most of the time, the only emotions we experience are annoyance and disgust, but Ryan does an excellent job of capturing the emotion of the moment in Glow. You get the sense panic, or loneliness, or hopelessness, or fear, or indignant rage, or all of the above, that these characters feel in each situation, and that may be Glow's greatest strength.
Unfortunately, it has its fair share of weaknesses as well. As we mentioned, though it's easy to become engrossed in the story as you read it, it stretches your suspension of disbelief on several occasions, and breaks it at least once. For example, how, exactly, is it that every single adult on the Empyrean managed to be either killed, taken hostage, or severely injured, effectively removing them from the story? Every single one? You're telling me that out of hundreds of people, not one of them went and like, hid in a closet somewhere? Or didn't go to one of the three areas that would result in their demise or removal?
Not only that, but while the New Horizon attacked, the adults of the Empyrean sent all the kids to a "safe area" and went to defend the ship, but they left no one behind to stay with the children. They didn't think that the kids might need someone to protect them? Their stupid decisions left them dead or incapacitated, which in turn left the kids to fend for themselves. Great planning, guys!
And the girls really just went along with total strangers, to a completely different ship, just because they said so? And didn't resist at all? Including our heroine, Waverly? Where the hell did these people acquire such obedient children?
And Waverly really couldn't unlock ONE lock with a freaking key to free her parents?
Probably the single most unbelievable plot element, though, was the way in which Waverly and her friends plotted their escape from the New Horizon - Waverly talks their head captor, Anne Mather, into allowing the thus far pointedly separated girls of Empyrean to have classes together, in hopes that she will be able to communicate with the other girls from Empyrean. Unfortunately it's closely monitored, keeping them from being able to speak freely. They then figure out a way to communicate without other people knowing by - we shit you not - encoding messages in the assignments they have to read aloud in class. Ridiculously easily decoded messages that they READ ALOUD so that everyone, even the guards, can hear them. Assignments that they each copy down word for word EVERY SINGLE TIME. And NOBODY NOTICES.
Worst. Guards. Ever.
Even Glow's ending and obligatory sequel set-up were plagued by plausibility issues, especially when conflict starts between Kieran and Waverly...
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