Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Audio Book Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Hours: Unabridged
Received: Audio copy from publisher
Goodreads Page


This is a review of the AUDIO version

If you are interested in my review of the book, check out my Glow review. This is only a review of the readers in the audiobook format.

I should preface this review by confessing that I am not much of an audiobook listener, so I don't have many audio experiences with which to compare. This is also my first audiobook review, so any feedback is very welcome!


The book is set up with alternating perspectives between Waverly and Kieran, so I thought it was a nice touch that the audiobook also had two readers (one male, one female). This enhanced the experience and helped me to really see Kieran and Wavery as two very distinct people, with two different personalities, experiences, and views.

Kieran's reader

My immediate impression was that I didn't like how he read. His voice didn't engage me and his reading sounded almost robotic at times. As the book went on, his narrative smoothed out and I was able to forget the reader and focus on the story. To me, this is a mark of a good reader.

When I read the book, I really didn't like Kieran's character. And that's still true. I don't like him at all, but the reader almost made me start to like him with the way he conveyed Kieran's thoughts and fears through the tone of his voice. I felt like I was able to make a deeper connection with Kieran as a person, whereas when reading the book, I had a more objective focus on Kieran's actions.

The biggest complaint I have about this reader is the way he voiced the character Seth. Seth, despite his turn to the horrific, was my favorite character in the book because of his combination of intelligence and masculinity (well, at least in comparison to Kieran).

But the reader's voice made him come across like a dull oaf. Talk about disappointing. Do you remember the character Biff from the Back to the Future movies? Yeah, that's pretty much how I pictured Seth based on the reader's voice. This is totally different from the wiry, stoic, sharp-minded boy with tightly controlled anger simmering beneath the surface that I pictured when reading the book.

I don't like how the reader's voices affected my impressions of the characters. I felt like I was almost guided in how I was supposed to feel about the characters, whereas when reading the book one of the things I liked the most was how objective the writing seemed. Reading the book, it felt like Amy Kathleen Ryan was merely presenting a situation and leaving all judgments up to me. That approach made Glow stand out to me in a very positive way, and I'm disappointed that this did not translate in the audio version.

Waverly's reader

My immediate impression of her was that I preferred her sections, but, just like Kieran's narrator, this changed for me too. While her reading voice was immediately pleasant and seemed like a good "Waverly" voice, I could never get into the non-dialog parts.

Her reading was stilted because she put strange emphasis on certain words or inserted pauses where there shouldn't be a pause. This had the effect of completely changing the sentence, putting weight and focus on the wrong parts. I compared her reading to the print version, and her pauses and emphasis do not line up with the grammatical structure of the sentences.

As a result, I was never able to settle into the story and I was always very aware of the reader. It really wasn't terrible and I'm sure I'm being overly picky, but it wasn't ideal for me.

Where this reader did shine, however, was in the dialog. For whatever reason, the strange pauses disappeared when she was reading dialog and all of these parts flowed smoothly. I wish she had read the whole book like this because she did a great job here.

The voices she used for the different characters were not hugely distinct, which is fine, but they were different enough that I was able to tell the characters apart. Her voice for Mather was especially impressive. The reader perfectly captured the combination of calming, motherly strength and the insidious streak of menace lying below the surface that makes up Mather's characterization. The reader really captured the essence of this character.

Bottom line

This was a mixed bag for me, but overall I liked both readers and I would listen both readers again, especially by the male reader. Surprisingly, at least to me, I enjoyed both readers' dialog more than their narrative sections.

I do think I would have had a totally different impression of the book if I had listened to it before I read it, and I'm not sure that's such a good thing. The readers both succeeded in making a stronger connection between myself and the two main characters. This would normally be a great thing, but what I liked the best about Glow was the distance and objectivity between the characters and the reader, so I was disappointed with the change in the audio version.

Do you have any questions about the audiobook version of Glow that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you like them? Dislike them? Have you ever listened to an audiobook and read the book, and then had two different reactions to the story?


  1. Loved your review. I don't listen to audiobooks much either, but I've enjoyed the ones I have listened to. I love how you focused on the reader, since that person's vocal acting can make or break the book.

  2. It's funny I don't really make a distinction in my reviews for when I listen to a book and when I read it, :P But reading your review I realize that there is a big difference.

    Though I had noticed before that certain books work better when you listen and others when you read.

    As for Glow, I think that I would rather read it than listen to it. I need to get into the voices pretty fast and strange emphasis and robotic-ness would turn me off before the narrative evened out.

    Thanks for this awesome review!

  3. I have never listened to an audio book! It's just something that never really occurred to me to do. I think I'd prefer to read the book.

    I was pleasantly surprised by Glow. I wasn't expecting to like it at all, but I liked it enough to read the next book. :)

  4. Interesting review, Small. I had similar experiences while reading "Across the Universe". I found the Elder parts a bit dull and slow, but the chickie's (can't remember her name at the moment) parts to be a bit more engaging. Now I'm wondering if I should pick up the book itself or the audiobook. Hmm...

  5. HI SMALL!!!!!!!!!!!


    I missed you, so I am overcompensating with my salutations.

    Did I say hi?


    My first thought was, "You sat through it AGAIN?" I am impressed! The audiobook never really does it for me, and I think with a book I wasn't totally crazy about in the first place it would be torture. Or I would just black it out because I never actually paid attention.

    I like your analysis of the readers, though. A good reader can make or break an audio book for sure.


  6. Alison, Thank you! I agree, the reader definitely makes it or breaks it.

    Alex, Well, there is a big difference for me! Plus I had already done a review for the story when I read the book, so I didn't want to just rehash that. I can see books that are told in a storytelling format being great for audios. Like the way Gothic stories are often told. I preferred reading Glow and I'm glad I read it before I listened to it. Even less so because of the readers' quirks than because of the lessened objectiveness.

    Leanna, This is my...hm, fourth or fifth audiobook. I mostly listen to them when I exercise or do laundry, which is probably why I haven't listened to too many :P I agree with you on Glow. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

    Rummanah, Thanks! Hm, well, I'm very glad I read Glow first because the objectivity was its biggest strength, I think. So I'd recommend reading the book.

    Logan, YOU'RE BACK!! Oh I've missed you! Hehe, well, *I* actually liked Glow. :) When I was listening I was mostly focusing on the readers and what I thought of them, since I already knew the story.


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