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A darkly funny thriller about one boy's attempt to unravel the mysterious phenomenon affecting students in his new town, as he finds a way to resist sinister forces and pursue hope for them all. Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has some deeply important job with an energy company that he refuses to explain to Wallace who is, shall we say, susp A darkly funny thriller about one boy's attempt to unravel the mysterious phenomenon affecting students in his new town, as he finds a way to resist sinister forces and pursue hope for them all. Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has some 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 getting settled 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 will attend. In the new town, 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.


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A darkly funny thriller about one boy's attempt to unravel the mysterious phenomenon affecting students in his new town, as he finds a way to resist sinister forces and pursue hope for them all. Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has some deeply important job with an energy company that he refuses to explain to Wallace who is, shall we say, susp A darkly funny thriller about one boy's attempt to unravel the mysterious phenomenon affecting students in his new town, as he finds a way to resist sinister forces and pursue hope for them all. Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has some 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 getting settled 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 will attend. In the new town, 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.

30 review for Bright Shining World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    Bright Shining World is a little bit Stranger Things mixed with some snarky humor and delightful bonding of a small town in crisis. The first half of this book starts out strong: we have Wallace's hilarious inner thoughts, while also a creeping sense of dread regarding the mystery overwhelming his new place of residence. If I were to rate the book solely on the first half, it would have been an almost 5 star read for me, but about halfway through the story takes a turn that felt disjointed and u Bright Shining World is a little bit Stranger Things mixed with some snarky humor and delightful bonding of a small town in crisis. The first half of this book starts out strong: we have Wallace's hilarious inner thoughts, while also a creeping sense of dread regarding the mystery overwhelming his new place of residence. If I were to rate the book solely on the first half, it would have been an almost 5 star read for me, but about halfway through the story takes a turn that felt disjointed and unbelievable (which feels difficult to type since this is not a realistic fiction novel). I think my issue lies more in the fact that I was completely confused and trying to catch up once the story changed. The talent is here, and I definitely would read another book from this author. Perhaps the YA crowd will roll with the sudden change of direction more easily than I was able to? *Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dante Paradiso

    Folks: ""Bright Shining World" is a really great book. The Holden Caufield-esque narrator (Wallace) is snarky, haughty, and self-deprecating all at once. The story has a number of unexpected twists, and the writing is fast and fluid with a number of wonderful turns of phrase. Supporting characters are quirky takes on traditional archetypes, and Wallace's complicated relationships with his father and with his crush Megan Rose are particularly well drawn. BSW is also a genre take on some serious e Folks: ""Bright Shining World" is a really great book. The Holden Caufield-esque narrator (Wallace) is snarky, haughty, and self-deprecating all at once. The story has a number of unexpected twists, and the writing is fast and fluid with a number of wonderful turns of phrase. Supporting characters are quirky takes on traditional archetypes, and Wallace's complicated relationships with his father and with his crush Megan Rose are particularly well drawn. BSW is also a genre take on some serious environmental and spiritual themes, but, in the end, a sweet, sensitive, and fun read. Comparisons some goodreads reviewers have made to "Stranger Things" are apt in that a small town mystery leads to the discovery of many new layers to reality. However in BSW, the villains and things to fear are corporatists and the structures that enable them... while the deeper realities discovered by the characters speak to new wonders. The author draws on a wide mix of spiritual traditions to create these wonders, from Mexican spirit animals (a la Pixar's "Coco" for those not familiar with the lore) to Buddhist constructs. In turbulent times like this, this is a novel that is ultimately about hope and possibility... so both fun and timely. Note: I read an advance copy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Online Eccentric Librarian

    More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ Bright Shining World is a book that, while it doesn't talk down to you, never really achieves any semblance of believability. Our main character is snarky and always has the perfect snippy one-liner to the adults, making him an instantly likable (though unrealistic) anti-hero. There are the usual "high school is weirder than science fiction" moments and in that way, this is kind of a fun play against type on the typic More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ Bright Shining World is a book that, while it doesn't talk down to you, never really achieves any semblance of believability. Our main character is snarky and always has the perfect snippy one-liner to the adults, making him an instantly likable (though unrealistic) anti-hero. There are the usual "high school is weirder than science fiction" moments and in that way, this is kind of a fun play against type on the typical YA romance. But the eco agenda is heavy enough to be stifling (as well as very annoyingly repetitive). Story: Wallace has followed his distant father all around the USA, often staying in a town for maybe a year until his father fixes whatever problem is at the nuclear power plant and they move on to the next one. Wallace is tired of saying goodbye, of never getting to stay with a girl long enough to get intimate, and with a father who barely acknowledges him and looks to be permanently traumatized by the death of his wife many years ago. But Wallace's new school in upstate New York is different: the students are suffering from 'hysteria' and there are rumors of bright lights in the forest and the trees talking. Wallace soon begins to suspect his father is involved in more than just fixing nuclear power plants. While the blurb makes this book sound serious, its tone is anything but grave. Rather, because of Wallace's constant snarky observations on his life and others' lives, it feels much more like a rant on the silliness of American culture. There are countless 'hit you over the head with a sledgehammer' paragraphs about how the world is killing nature and the Earth - even the plot itself is a rant against humanity's insatiability. I have to admit, the lack of subtlety felt like the greatest weakness in the book: the author could have made the message more poignant with a bit more care. By the time we meet the bad guy, the characterizations get ludicrous. The characters themselves are quirky, if cliche'd. The overachieving cheerleader, the geek who stays in his basement all night, the jock who randomly hates anything new and beats up other kids (especially new kids), etc. It makes the characters and plot feel paper-thin and unrelatable. Wallace looks to be the only sane one in a world created to destroy Earth's ecosystem and he'll make sure you know that ad infinitum. Wallace as a character is very snarky and that was fun - for about the first 20%. Then the 'angry angsty teen' began to wear thin when there were no natural dialogue scenes to be found. I couldn't engage in the plot or characters, especially when the 'twist' at the end (the reason for the hysteria) and the 'big bad' were just silly. At one point, I have to admit I thought about Shyamalan movies The Village and The Happening often since this felt like one of those movies. The ending was just as anticlimactic and disappointing as in those movies. In all, I didn't hate Bright Shining World. It was easy to read and there were a few laughs with the Wallace repartee. But it also was clearly a book with an agenda the author wanted to forward and with characters who were cliches and cardboard cutouts of high school life. Wallace never turned into a person I wanted to root for and especially the adults were disappointingly the typical 'self obsessed, stupid, dense' caricatures that are a hallmark of anything aimed at teens. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Burney

    I read this book on the train in France when the recent travel ban was temporarily lifted (surely a brief window of time!). Traveling always serves to get one out of oneself, to open new doors, to discover new possibilities. And the same can be said for "Bright Shining World". It is a voyage into a new frontier, opening on a life of enormous new potential. Part detective story, part existential thriller, part spiritual adventure, it reminded me of Tom Robbins’ novels before YA was a thing, that I read this book on the train in France when the recent travel ban was temporarily lifted (surely a brief window of time!). Traveling always serves to get one out of oneself, to open new doors, to discover new possibilities. And the same can be said for "Bright Shining World". It is a voyage into a new frontier, opening on a life of enormous new potential. Part detective story, part existential thriller, part spiritual adventure, it reminded me of Tom Robbins’ novels before YA was a thing, that smart, sassy style that made you want to be in the know. If YA weren’t a thing and Swiller could give free reign to his imagination, I have the feeling “Bright Shining World” would be a big, rambling hijinks-filled frolic in the world of self-awareness. I loved his main character, Wallace Cole, a high school boy wise beyond his years who is stumbling along without guidance trying to figure out life. I loved the rich language and snappy dialogue too. Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Garp

    A great book. Very honest and real in the beginning. And funny. Then it takes a very weird turn that is wonderful. A book like this is a joy, because you don't really know where it's going. The author made all the right choices for me. I look forward to his next one. A great book. Very honest and real in the beginning. And funny. Then it takes a very weird turn that is wonderful. A book like this is a joy, because you don't really know where it's going. The author made all the right choices for me. I look forward to his next one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    I got a strong Stanger Things vibe after reading this description, and dark humor gets me every time. I cannot emphasize how much I adored Wallace’s voice. I couldn’t contain my laughter at his internal monologue and snarkiness, but it was also easy to sense his vulnerability behind the humor. His past is heartbreaking, and his present isn’t much better with his father moving him around the country every few months. His awkwardness at his new school is endearing the supporting characters are just I got a strong Stanger Things vibe after reading this description, and dark humor gets me every time. I cannot emphasize how much I adored Wallace’s voice. I couldn’t contain my laughter at his internal monologue and snarkiness, but it was also easy to sense his vulnerability behind the humor. His past is heartbreaking, and his present isn’t much better with his father moving him around the country every few months. His awkwardness at his new school is endearing the supporting characters are just as likable. The strange occurrences in the town – trees talking, weird visions, the outbreak of hysterics – and how it all relates to his father’s mysterious job had me forming theories (all incorrect) for several chapters, and the way the teens come together to fight for a common cause is admirable. Then the story spirals in a direction that was difficult to understand. I have no problem suspending disbelief in books – most of the time it increases my interest – but it still has to make sense to me within the confines of the story. Throughout the last half or more of the book, I was confused about what was going on, but kept reading because I assumed a logical explanation waited at the end – which is so abrupt I felt sure pages were missing. Maybe there’s a sequel? The first part of this book is fabulous with a comedic, endearing MC, enjoyable supporting characters, and a curious mystery, but for me, the last half was difficult to follow and the abrupt ending left me baffled. Overall, it was an entertaining novel and maybe other readers will have a better understanding that I did. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kenyon Gagne

    Well, I was looking for a good book to read and I accidentally found a great one! ‘Bright Shining World’ by Josh Swiller, released in November, is just what the world needs to bury 2020 and crawl its way back to its bright shining self. It’s a fun, fast-moving story that hums with the rare science-fictiony joie de vie of a great 80’s movie. The story stands on its own; the characters are great, and easy to visualize, but what made this book special to me (being a writer myself) were two things: I Well, I was looking for a good book to read and I accidentally found a great one! ‘Bright Shining World’ by Josh Swiller, released in November, is just what the world needs to bury 2020 and crawl its way back to its bright shining self. It’s a fun, fast-moving story that hums with the rare science-fictiony joie de vie of a great 80’s movie. The story stands on its own; the characters are great, and easy to visualize, but what made this book special to me (being a writer myself) were two things: It’s an absolute masterclass in the use of metaphors. Josh dishes out many dozens of world-class ones, often using them to accomplish many things at once...the one constant being to reinforce the already jaded snarkiness of his young narrator. Seriously, there were so many of these I wish I had written myself! Succinctness! There are no lags in this book. What Josh is able to convey in a single sentence is amazing, and when I put ‘Bright Shining World’ down and returned to my own WIP I was inspired, and found myself pausing and trying to combine my next five good sentences into a single very powerful one. I loved this book! This is my favorite aesthetic; when a book or movie is gritty, dark and real, but it’s fun (and funny) all the way through, I feel like it’s the work of a talented artist whose own optimism refuses to stay down, whatever struggles have tried him. Kenyon Gagne

  8. 5 out of 5

    Yojang

    I loved this book. What is immediately apparent from the first page of Bright Shining World is that the reader is in very good hands. The voice of Wallace, the novel’s brilliantly drawn protagonist, pulls you in, full of wit and humor with a heavy undercurrent of pathos, and drops you off in a world that rhymes with all of the classics of the high school fish out of water stories, except that it is also colored by cruel post-industrial economic inequality and straight up weirdness. Homer High is I loved this book. What is immediately apparent from the first page of Bright Shining World is that the reader is in very good hands. The voice of Wallace, the novel’s brilliantly drawn protagonist, pulls you in, full of wit and humor with a heavy undercurrent of pathos, and drops you off in a world that rhymes with all of the classics of the high school fish out of water stories, except that it is also colored by cruel post-industrial economic inequality and straight up weirdness. Homer High is Happy Days turned upside down—hysteria has invaded the student body, trees talk, and an unsettling heat wave has replaced fall in this upstate New York idyll. If you can suspend reality and just chill in the back seat, the book takes you on a ride full of happy surprises and unexpected truths. Most endearing of all though, is Swiller’s message, not the one about evil corporate interests undermining the world (which I found a little pat) but the other one, the uplifting one, about love. BSW has everything in common with Wallace—as much as it tries to obfuscate, it has trouble hiding its big, beautiful heart.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Schriever

    Bright Shining World is an excellent read! The main character, Wallace, drew me in right from the beginning with his wit, sarcasm, and extremely insightful observations. I couldn’t wait to follow him on his literal and figurative journey. Although the main character is a teenager, facing those challenges that are unique to his age (like crushes, bullies, and parties) and some that are unique to any age (talking trees, a town overwhelmed by hysteria) his clever insights will speak to any reader, Bright Shining World is an excellent read! The main character, Wallace, drew me in right from the beginning with his wit, sarcasm, and extremely insightful observations. I couldn’t wait to follow him on his literal and figurative journey. Although the main character is a teenager, facing those challenges that are unique to his age (like crushes, bullies, and parties) and some that are unique to any age (talking trees, a town overwhelmed by hysteria) his clever insights will speak to any reader, and the book has lessons we can all draw from. I also loved the way the book weaves fantasy and spirituality into an otherwise typical American setting. As an English teacher, I am always looking for books that will draw in reluctant male readers, and this book is it! This will be front and center in my classroom library!!

  10. 5 out of 5

    TeensatVPL

    Reviewed by Tenzin L. The book “Bright Shining World” by Josh Swiller, was, unfortunately, quite the disappointment. It seemed promising and the protagonist is actually quite funny. However, the book ultimately lost me towards the end. It started decently but as it progressed, the story developed into one that was all over the place, for me at least, and it got really confusing and hard to follow towards the end. The protagonist of the book, Wallace, was the only thing I liked in this book. He is Reviewed by Tenzin L. The book “Bright Shining World” by Josh Swiller, was, unfortunately, quite the disappointment. It seemed promising and the protagonist is actually quite funny. However, the book ultimately lost me towards the end. It started decently but as it progressed, the story developed into one that was all over the place, for me at least, and it got really confusing and hard to follow towards the end. The protagonist of the book, Wallace, was the only thing I liked in this book. He is engaging and had me laughing at some parts, but there’s only so much he can do. If you’re going to read it, don’t have too many expectations.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    As one reviewer mentioned, Bright Shining World by Josh Swiller does have a "Stranger Things" feel to the storyline. I read this book in one sitting because I needed to figure out what this story was about and what was happening to the young people of this town. There were times I had to suspend belief and questioned whether to keep reading, but overall the story was satisfying, had some good world-building elements, and the characters were interesting along with the storyline. Overall, an okay r As one reviewer mentioned, Bright Shining World by Josh Swiller does have a "Stranger Things" feel to the storyline. I read this book in one sitting because I needed to figure out what this story was about and what was happening to the young people of this town. There were times I had to suspend belief and questioned whether to keep reading, but overall the story was satisfying, had some good world-building elements, and the characters were interesting along with the storyline. Overall, an okay read. I would give this 3.5 stars out of 5. #BrightShiningWorld #NetGalley

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beckie Wendorf

    For a full review visit: www.compassbookratings.com For a full review visit: www.compassbookratings.com

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I found this extremely amusing, with the one-liners and humor exactly what I enjoy. But the actual story and what you are to gleam from it seemed over the top and a tad convoluted for my liking.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nasaphira

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kim

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Shoup

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Fee

  20. 5 out of 5

    Meg

  21. 4 out of 5

    Agatha Gavaldon

  22. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  23. 5 out of 5

    Angie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lylah

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Hartman

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  27. 4 out of 5

    Em(ily) Ann ♡︎♡︎♡︎ - theglitterybookworm_

  28. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Chen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Raphaelle

  30. 5 out of 5

    William

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