Thursday, May 29, 2008

Angel by Cliff McNish

Freya has finally recovered from years of seeming insanity, stemming from a memory of seeing an angel. Now she has moved to a new school, given herself a makeover, and befriended a popular girl. She doesn't notice that her father is ill or that her brother is endangering himself by protecting a boy for a bully. To Freya, it seems that her life is finally normal. This quickly changes with the arrival of a dark angel and a strange, angel-obsessed girl named Stephanie, who insists upon befriending her. Freya comes face-to-face with the angel who she saw when she was eight, and learns that she herself is one.

The book Angel veers back and forth between cliche and originality. It is a very character-driven book, with dialogue taking up the majority of the story. While this appeals to me, a fantasy focused on character development must work extra-hard on making the characters believable. The author's depiction of bullies and popular girls borders on stereotypes, with some of the dialogue making me wonder how many teenagers he has actually spoken to within the last three years. Furthermore, he seemed too intent on making the reader understand just how strange Stephanie was, and often managed this by making her utterly irrational. However, at other times, the characters seemed very realistic. Freya's brother Luke, conflicted between a desire to protect a boy named Sam and hesitance to fight, drew me in. The dark angel was one of the most complex characters in the book, far more so than either Freya or Stephanie, and the author did a brilliant job at portraying him.

I enjoyed reading Angel and getting to know the characters, but the pacing threw me off. While offbeat pacing is not necessarily bad, it is difficult to ignore the fact that Freya met Stephanie once before choosing to confide with her, and that the event highlighted in the summaryn--Freya's transformation into an angel--was one of the final events. This could have been forgivable or even an asset, but in the end it felt as if the author had spent too long elaborating on relatively worthless plot points and just ran out of time. The ending, which could have been moving in the right context, felt too rushed. There is a difference between deliberately refusing to wrap everything into a tidy bow and simply ignoring loose ends, and I'm not sure the author realized it.

Very mild references to sexuality.
Reviewer Age:16

Reviewer City, State and Country: Bellevue, WA United States