Early Review: Whisper by Alyson Noël

April 21, 2012 Review 2

*This title will be released on April 24, 2012*

Whisper (Riley Bloom #4)

Title: Whisper
AuthorAlyson Noël
Series: Riley Bloom #4
Cover Art: N/A
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Excerpt: Yes
Source: Netgalley
Reviewed by: Julia

  • Reading level: Ages 9 and up
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; April 24, 2012
  • ISBN-10: 0312641567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312641566

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery 

Sexual Content:


Good – A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.


This time, Riley might really have bitten off more than she’s ready for. After practically begging the Council for a more challenging Soul Catch, she is assigned an actual Roman gladiator—Theocoles, the Pillar of Doom. How is Riley, a skinny twelve-year-old, supposed to get through to him? Then she meets the beautiful Messalina, who convinces her that her only chance is to become part of this world. To accomplish this, Messalina helps Riley through a dramatic, mystical makeover, transforming her into the beautiful and mature teen she’s always wanted to be. Finally, Riley can experience her first boyfriend and her first kiss. With a dream this enchanting, will she ever want to leave?


A sweet, well paced book for Tweens, WHISPER is perfectly written for young readers. Noel handles fundamentally heavy subjects with humor and grace, allowing her heroine to come of age in the afterlife.  Riley struggles with crushes, forgiveness, body image, and romance, all while trying to rescue the long tormented ghost of a Roman gladiator.

Though I appreciated the morality tales woven into Riley’s story, it was only the parts regarding forgiveness and lost love that resonated more than intellectually.  Perhaps because these themes are as pertinent to adults as they would be for young readers.  And though Riley’s crush was sweet and age appropriate, Noel puts a new spin on the genre trope.  As a new reader (WHISPER was my first book in the Riley Bloom series), this was a compelling change that made the story all the more readable.  Depending on how heavily Noel build up expectations in prior books, returning readers may not be as thrilled with this novel twist.

Despite this being my first book in the series, Noel’s characters and mythology were accessible and charming.  Even the sticky issue of a heroine coming of age in the afterlife was handled with aplomb, neither downplaying death nor harping on darkness.  While the story tone was a bit too young for my taste (which is what makes this 3bats for me rather than 4), WHISPER is note perfect for a young reader who is already trying to find their place in a teenage world.  

Books in Series
Also Reviewed By
Similar Titles
  • Radiance
  • Shimmer
  • Dreamland

2 Responses to “Early Review: Whisper by Alyson Noël”

  1. KimH

    This sounds interesting. As a history buff I appreciate the idea of a gladiator. I also read YA and children's fiction if the book in question appeals to me as this one certainly does. Of course I also read adult books as well–I'm 42 yrs. old–and as an (older)child and teen I usually read adult fiction (historical and King Arthur) and rarely teen fiction as such. But things have changed some and yesterdays adult fiction (Deryni Chronicles, Mary Stewart's Arthurian series, etc.) can now be found in the teen section at my local library (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

  2. Julia

    Noel definitely threw in some details that had me curious about historical basis (a memorial for Theocoles in particular), but high school Latin didn't give me enough background to have an opinion, I'd be interested to hear your impressions.

    You're a woman after my own heart, reading level-wise, I have several re-read favorites that are childrens/YA (Damar, Dark Materials, anything by Jennifer Echols). WHISPER reads as "younger" than I prefer (mainly a reading level judgment, even the complex mythology and character development is expressed in simple terms), but there's definitely depth in this story.