Riley has crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. She has picked up life where she left off when she was alive, living with her parents and dog in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. When she’s summoned before The Council, she learns that the afterlife isn’t just an eternity of leisure. She’s been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a possibly cute, seemingly nerdy boy who’s definitely hiding something. They return to earth together for Riley’s first assignment, a Radiant Boy who’s been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But all of that was before he met Riley . . .
I always know when it is either fall or spring. The Scholastic Book Fair hits our school and we love to see the variety of books offered to us avid readers. I learned that Radiance is actually a spin-off from the Immortals series by the same author. Although I have never read these, I may just give them a try in the future. Riley is also a character in the young adult Evermore books but is venturing into her own storyline.
Riley is a 12 year old girl who meets an untimely death and crosses the bridge to move onto the afterlife called Here. This book tells the story of Riley's life in the afterworld starting with the week after her death. In the Here and Now world, she can manifest anything she wants. She feels that her life was cut short and would really like to be back on earth with her surviving sister, who is actually the main character in the Evermore series. She meets with The Council and finds out she will become a Soul Catcher. One that retrieves spirits still lingering on earth that have not crossed the bridge for one reason or another over to the other side. Her first assignment is to guide a ten year old boy spirit called the Radiant Boy who has been haunting a castle in England for over a century. Others before have failed and she is determined to not follow that lead. After meeting the Radiant Boy, he is quite a horrifying character and that explains why others have not been able to get him to cross over. She comes face-to-face with her fears and learns alot about herself in the process. Riley's character is a spunky girl, smart and quick witted. She is a likeable character and does develop from beginning to end through this first time journey. The story is written in the present tense, referencing Joe Jonas, American Idol and Starbucks that readers will find a connection with. Her relationship with her guide Bohdi, who must help her learn the ways of the afterlife, is also an important piece towards her growth. He also has a quest to fufill of his own and this evolves alongside with Riley.
I really liked this book and found it to be a mild first time ghost story for middle grade readers. My 5th grade daughter read it and I wasn't sure how she would take to the ghostly imagery and depictions in some of the writing. Especially during a part where Riley is facing a clown with dentist drills and an abundance of snakes summoned by the Radiant Boy spirit who is refusing to cross-over. Three things that give me the willies....but she said it was fine and enjoyed the story. The book definitely leaves us wanting a series and I look forward to reading the next book Shimmer which should be out soon if not already. I just hope the author keeps it for the younger readers in mind and does not eventually wander into young adult territory in the future with changes in the writing on this series. I think this would be a "just right book" for grades 5-8.
Author: Alyson Noel
Pub. Date: January 2011, Scholastic
Paperback, 178 pgs.
Purchased from the book fair