Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Books For Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: November 24th, 2020
Synopsis: Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has a deeply important job with an energy company that he refuses to explain to Wallace who is, shall we say, suspicious. Not that his father ever listens to him. Just as Wallace is settling into a comfortable life in Kentucky, his father lets him know they need to immediately depart for a new job in a small town in upstate New York which has recently been struck by an outbreak of inexplicable hysterics—an outbreak which is centered at the high school Wallace is to attend.
In the new town things go from disturbing to worse: trees appear to be talking to people; a school bully, the principal, and the town police force take an instant dislike to Wallace; and the student body president is either falling for him or slipping into the enveloping darkness. Bright Shining World is a novel of resistance, of young people finding hope and courage and community in a collapsing world.
You can probably guess from my rating that Bright Shining World was not for me. I wanted to like this, I really did. Mainly because of Wallace, who I loved and is the sole reason why I’m giving this 2 stars. But even this endearingly snarky, clever, courageous misfit couldn’t save a story that to me, just never found its footing. It’s a convoluted mess of coming-of-age, science fiction, a bit of horror, some social satire, and environmental activism. While I’m all for genre-defying tales, this was jumbled and confusing and in the end, made my head hurt. And to make matters worse was that except for Wallace and his mysterious father—who was unlikable but at least somewhat interesting—the other characters were so overwhelmingly stereotypical that I found myself continually rolling my eyes. When I reached the last page all I could think was “Thank God it’s over!” It’s too bad, because Bright Shining World had a lot of potential, especially with such a strong protagonist.