Spin-off of popular Immortals series shines

In the midst of demanding classes, increasing commitments from extracurricular activities, and the waning days of summer, everyone is looking for an escape. Granted, with papers starting to pile up and problem sets begging not to be procrastinated on any longer, finding ways to relax without stressing out later can be a daunting task. A short, light read like Alyson Noel’s newest book, Radiance, is both perfect for the end of the summer and promises a fantastic escape without a large investment of time.

Radiance is the start of Noel’s spin-off series to her well-known Immortals books, which feature protagonist Ever Bloom learning to cope with her family’s death and, later, her new-found immortality. While paranormal romances pervade the young adult market, Noel’s books are unique in that they explore the genre without the aid of vampires, drawing instead from a variety of beliefs and the author’s research into afterlives and phenomena. Radiance chronicles the adventures of Riley Bloom, Ever’s younger sister who died with her parents and her dog in a car accident before the Immortals series began.

Readers shouldn’t expect Riley to wallow in despair about being dead to just accept it automatically; in fact, fed up with not getting to live like a normal teenager, she turns bewildered and intrigued to her new world. In Radiance, Riley really comes into her own. In previous books, she was a millstone around her sister’s neck as a ghost, at worst an otherworldly annoyance. Now, forced to admit to herself that she’s spent her life trying to live up to and copy her sister, Riley adapts to her new afterlife and starts to be more herself. She accepts the job of being a Soul Catcher, someone who convinces spirits still on earth to move on, and teams up with Bodhi, a skateboarder who had plans to go professional before his death, who is also her mentor.

As a narrator, Riley’s pluck and occasionally snarky attitude make her enjoyable to read about, though there are some points in the book where this can be overwhelming and unrealistic. For example, when Riley is pitted against the Radiant Boy, the first soul she needs to convince to move on, she states how terrified she is, but the way she describes the encounter carries the same cadence and nonchalance as when she’s describing how she teases Bodhi about his hairstyle. Her voice lacks a sense of urgency when there’s something at stake, needing either a variation in her sentence construction or a few well-placed words to implicitly convey her feeling of fear.

That being said, fear is really the only emotion for which Riley doesn’t come across as fully believable. She’s independent and doesn’t back down from challenges, and her healthy dose of attitude is enough to propel the story from start to finish. Readers will be pleasantly surprised to see her character’s development, one of Noel’s strongest suits in her writing, and will find themselves looking forward to her further adventures in the next installment of the series, Shimmer.