Audio Book Review: Radiance by Alyson Noel

Radiance is a middle grade story that deals with a topic that is hard to broach with this age group: death. It can be difficult to talk about death with children, particularly in cases where the person who dies is very close to a child or where the person who dies is very young.

The main character of this story, Riley (only twelve years old), has just died along with her parents and dog. She references her life on the "Earth Plane" briefly, but does not appear to dwell on his previous life too much. Instead, her days are filled with Here and Now. She has the ability to manifest whatever she desires--clothes, money, food, excitement and entertainment. But, the novelty of this ability does not last long. Quickly, she looks for something to do. And it's not long before the The Council comes looking for her to give her a job.

She's paired with Bodhie, a teen whom she describes as "dorky," but who seems to have been cool at one time. Bodhie takes everything a little too seriously for Riley's taste, and she spares no time in telling him just how lame he is. Their conflict feels more like a sibling rivalry than a thinly disguised flirtation, which is nice in a middle grade story.

On their first mission together as "Soul Catchers,"where they try to convince souls who have remained on the Earth Plane to cross over to the other side. Riley's first assignment is one no other Soul Catcher has been able to crack, despite hundreds of attempts. Lucky for her, it involves spirits of the annoying ten year-old boy variety, a demographic she's dealt with extensively on the Earth Plane. I won't tell you what happens, but it is one of my favorite scenes!

I don't always love to read middle grade novels, but this audio book appealed to me because of the subject matter and its relevance to my life right now. My mother-in-law just passed away on Wednesday after a long battle with a variety of cancers. I listened to this book thinking that it might be of some comfort to the pre-teen nieces in my family. I think that, once they've had time to deal with their grandmother's passing, they will find solace in a vision of heaven where the elderly get to pursue all of their interests and dreams.

The reader for this novel is Kathleen McInerney and she does a wonderful job. It must be hard to find a reader who can capture the spirit and energy of a twelve year-old, but McInerney does it well. Also, this book is a quick listen at less than four hours. I can see this book being a staple of middle school libraries. I bet middle grade readers will identify with Riley and maybe even relate to some of what she goes through in the book.

Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Length: 3 hours and 55 mins

**This audio book counts toward my participation in the 2011 Audio Book Challenge from Teresa's Reading Corner and Whisper Stories in My Ear Audio Book Challenge**