Warning!  Read the first book in Alyson Noël’s Riley Bloom series, Radiance, before reading this post.

After the success of her first assignment as a Soul Catcher, Riley Bloom is enjoying a bit of a vacation with her dog, Buttercup, and her guide, Bodhi.  Surely she can keep herself out of trouble on one tiny vacation, right?  Yeah…not so much.

It all starts with a scary black dog and a conversation with Bodhi on free will.  Riley decides to exercise her own free will, follow the black dog, and find out just what he’s guarding.  This decision leads Riley, Bodhi, and Buttercup on a journey that will introduce them to another “ghost” (for lack of a better word) and force all of them to relive the most horrid experiences of their short times on earth.

Rebecca, in spite of her unfortunate tastes in afterlife clothing, seems to be relatively harmless when Riley first meets her, but Rebecca is holding on to a lot of anger, and she’s determined to make everyone as miserable as she is.  She keeps everyone around her—those who she blames for her death—imprisoned in the most horrible memories of their lives.  She even finds a way to make Riley, Bodhi, and even poor Buttercup experience the worst moments of their lives.  Can they escape the horror and anger that holds them captive?  Is there any way to get away and lead these tortured souls to the Here and Now?

Riley is determined to help everyone escape Rebecca, but she fears she may not be up to the task.  After all, she’s only twelve years old (and she always will be).  What could she possibly do?  She can barely let go of her own anger over the abrupt end to her life.  How can she possibly help everyone else let go of their anger and cross the bridge to the other side?  How can she convince Rebecca to let go of what happened in her life when Riley’s having such a hard time with the same thing?  Find out what “letting go” really means when you read Shimmer, the gripping second book in the Riley Bloom series, by Alyson Noël!

Although there are some scary moments in Shimmer, I would recommend this book—and Radiance, of course—to readers from fourth grade on up.  There may even be some third grade students who will be able to handle it.  I really think this book in particular will generate some discussions on the plight of slaves in the early Americas and the impact slave revolts had on slaves and their former masters.  According to the author’s note, the story was inspired by actual events, a 1773 slave revolt in the Danish West Indies (now St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands).  Realizing this made Shimmer even more poignant for me.

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