Review of “Glow” by Amy Kathleen Ryan

It was interesting to read this immediately after reading When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, because both books are similar in that they posit future dystopias in worlds run by puritanical theocracies. Additionally, women are valued mainly for their child-bearing (and, of course, pleasuring of men with sex, voluntarily or not). A hypocritical religious hierarchy plays a pivotal role in exercising mind control over the populations. The most striking similarily, however, is that in both books, the most evil character tries to subdue the heroine by fixing her chamomile tea. Needless to say, I shan’t be tempting fate anymore by drinking that clearly nefarious concoction.

In Glow, the earth has been made virtually uninhabitable after the usual ecocide scenario, and two ships, the Empyrean and the New Horizon, are heading for “New Earth.” The Empyrean contains mostly secular families, while the travelers on New Horizon believe, like the Puritans once did, that they are on a religious mission to create a new moral beacon out in the uninhabited parts of the universe.

Waverly, 15 is the oldest girl on the Empyrean, and is romantically involved with Kieran, 16, the oldest boy, out of 252 children on board. There are no children on board the New Horizon because of a mysterious fertility problem. Forty-three years into the mission, the Empyrean is attacked by the New Horizon, and all the female children are taken hostage. They are told the others are dead or lost in shuttles, and that the older girls from the Empyrean must donate their eggs to the women of the New Horizon.

From this point on, we follow the fates of Waverly and Kieran in alternating chapters. The book doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, but nor does it end in a clean-cut way, since this is only book one of a trilogy.

Discussion: Similarly as in When She Woke, there is a lot of discussion among characters in this book over belief in God, and whether fundamentalist religions offer a legitimate or desirable way to express that belief, or indeed, if any belief is even justifiable or possible.

I didn’t see the point of a huge chunk of this book (involving the two boys Seth and Kieran), but I am willing to suspend judgment since it is only book one. Often with trilogies, plot lines don’t become clear until later on in the series.

Evaluation: Not bad, but much of it strains credulity, and in my opinion is certainly not “the most riveting series since The Hunger Games,” as the blurb contends.

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan Publishing, 2011

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21 Responses to Review of “Glow” by Amy Kathleen Ryan

  1. Julie P. says:

    I think I’m missing that reading gene that loves dystopian. I just seem to always pick up other books first.

  2. Kailana says:

    Well, this sounds like it could be good, but apparently it is not something I will need to run out and read. That’s too bad!

  3. zibilee says:

    I had heard a bit about this book, but really, really appreciated your take on it because I know that from you I will get a candid and honest reaction to what may be hyped elsewhere. It sounds like the book does have some interesting elements, but I am not sure I will be chomping at the bit to read this one right away. It’s going on the list, but not right there up at the top! Thanks for sharing your very fair analysis with us.

  4. Barbara says:

    I’m like Kailana in that I just don’t see the attraction for dystopian fiction. Maybe I should steer clear of chamomile tea though, eh?

  5. Hm, I find dystopic fiction occasionally interesting, but you seem to read enough of it that I’ll wait for a better one!

    I knew there was a reason I hate chamomile!

  6. Meh, I think I’ll stay away from this one. I’m getting kind of tired of trilogies.

  7. I think I’m with Julie dystopia and I are just not meant for each other

  8. Ti says:

    This one sounds like so many others.. like there isn’t anything unique about it at all. I’ll probably skip it.

  9. Yeah, I’m just not sure this is for me. I do like some dystopia but read so little of it, I want the best.

  10. sandynawrot says:

    Blah. I’m so over it. Give me Nesbo or give me death.

  11. Margot says:

    Yeah, I’m missing the dystopian gene too. Heck, it hasn’t been that long ago that I had to look up the meaning of the word.

    I’m thinking out loud about why these books have to be written in trilogies. I’ve decided that it’s either that the authors can’t tell their story in a concise manner or the publishers want to milk the reader for three books instead of one. This seems to happen a lot more with the dystopia stories.

  12. Don’t know why but dystopian novels always leave me distressed/depressed. Must be because i’m not really a sci fi fan. Glad you liked it though.

    Do lottery winners’ lives always end in tragedy? See : my Tuesday teaser

  13. Trisha says:

    So no more chamomile tea and maybe save this one for a lazy read…. notes taken. 🙂

  14. Jenny says:

    LOL about the chamomile tea! I pretty much skimmed all the other reviews I saw for this and didn’t pay much attention once I read that there was a space ship, LOL. So I was interested to see the comparison to When She Woke. Even though it seems like there is a lot to talk about, it doesn’t necessarily seem like this is the best book to read just to have those conversations.

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    Too funny about the tea! I’m glad that chamomile hasnever appealed to me. Now if it was a black tea I’d have to be careful.
    This does not sound like a fun book in any way.

  16. Vasilly says:

    Great review! I think I’ll wait until after book 2 comes out to decide whether or not to add this to my tbr list.

  17. Meg says:

    Though I enjoyed this one, I agree about the long and drawn out Seth/Kieran plot! I guess that was just to show how Kieran had suffered, then “converted” after that suffering? I’m not sure. Though the book was rife with religious overtones, I tended to ignore most of them. That’s not really my bag, so I tried to read Glow purely for entertainment purposes!

  18. K.S. Schultz says:

    So the sexist trend continues in dystopian novels where women are punted back to the days of breeding and slavery. Thanks for the heads-up!

    • Here’s how I see it. Maybe a lot of teens are worried about how attitudes toward women have taken a big step backwards (as shown, for example, in this excellent video: ). And so maybe the market for these sorts of books is very good because it reflects girls’ fears, even if they are subconscious fears. (and even if the books are not so well written – LOL)

  19. Alyce says:

    I agree completely with your evaluation and rating of this book. It was a very disappointing read to me because I had my hopes up that it would be spectacular (that’s the trouble with cool-looking covers and those effervescent blurbs).

  20. Jenners says:

    So, if nothing else, I learned to avoid chamomile tea!

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