In her sixth novel for young adults, author Susan Juby turns her trademark humour and quirky wit to the ever-popular dystopian sub-genre that continues to dominate YA bestseller lists.
Bright’s Light introduces readers to Grassly, an alien whose stated purpose in life is to rescue an endangered species – in this case his distant relatives, the last remaining humans on Earth – and relocate them to a new planet.
Grassly shares narrating duties with Bright, a member of the dwindling human population who works at the House of Gear, one of the many pleasure houses in the Partytainment district. Like all “favours,” Bright’s purpose is to entertain and be beautiful so that “productives” (the human working class) will pay big credits to the planet’s shadowy governing body to rent her as their party companion for the night. (Despite the inference of impropriety in this set-up, the action remains strictly PG.)
When Grassly enlists Bright to help him with his secret mission, her days quickly switch from full-time dancing to full-time running – for her life – from the society’s security officers, who see Grassly’s actions as an attack on the planet.
The novel’s greatest strength is unarguably Juby’s tongue-in-cheek (and often laugh-out-loud) humour, as well as her extremely detailed descriptions of post-apocalyptic Earth. Particularly hilarious are Grassly’s frequent alien vs. human comparisons, which lend a tone of believability to the novel’s fantastical setting.
However, while Grassly’s bumbling-yet-well-intentioned routine is endearing, it’s difficult to relate to Bright and her friend, Fon, another favour. Although Bright is supposed to be the, well, brighter of the duo, both girls are dim-witted and obsessed with their appearances. As their adventure progresses and their brushes with danger increase, Bright does occasionally take a stand for something other than the hottest new outfit, but it’s hard to be sympathetic to the girls’ challenges when you know they’re still going to be obsessed with their skin tints and hair dyes once the threat of danger is over and their lives return to normal, albeit on a new planet.