“They come out of the sky and take you. Everyone knows that.”
So, here's what I want you to know: I enjoyed every single minute of this creepy, funny, very different sort of book. Yes, it is another young adult urban fantasy with angels but the approach - which combined elements of light and dark tones - felt completely unique and I found myself mesmerised by the story and characters. BUT. The more I read, the more the pile of small issues would grow. Things that made me raise an eyebrow, that just didn't make sense and that occasionally turned the story I was loving into something slightly ridiculous. HOWEVER, I also think that, numerous though these small things may be, none of them are big issues and all could be corrected easily before final publication. Which is why I've kept my rating high.
The story is about angels and I can immediately predict comparisons being drawn between this and [b:Angelfall|11500217|Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)|Susan Ee|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1319887835s/11500217.jpg|16435765]. For one thing, the conversations between the protagonist (Riley) and Gabe reminded me a great deal of the hilarious banter between Penryn and Raffe. For another, I think Kress really makes use of the mythology available to her and isn't afraid to manipulate and re-write it slightly to tell a tale which is some parts familiar and some parts entirely unique. There are key differences between both books that enable the same reader to enjoy both without feeling the same old story is being exhausted.
What sets this book apart from [b:Angelfall|11500217|Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)|Susan Ee|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1319887835s/11500217.jpg|16435765] first of all is that Kress' novel is set in a small, religious, Southern US town. Religion has always been a big part of life in this small community and I really liked the way the author told this aspect of the story. When the angels first came and took people away from this small town, nobody knew what to think. Was God punishing them? Or were they the chosen ones being carried away to eternal paradise? Should they share these strange occurrences with the world's media? Or keep it to themselves and savour what it feels like to be the ones God chose especially? Eventually, they settle on the latter. A church is built to honour the angels and more and more people start to see their arrival as a blessing. Meanwhile, every year, more people are carried off by the angels and no one knows who they will be coming for next.
Riley has seen many people taken by the angels but the one she misses most is her best friend and first kiss - Chris. She is not so eager to believe the angels mean the townsfolk well. So, on the day the angels come, when one turns up at Riley's house, she decides enough is enough. And, like any self-respecting heroine, shoots the enemy in the face. Yes! But when the dead angel turns into a very alive, very naked human guy who has no memory of being an angel and thinks it's still the 1950s, Riley realises that something weirder than she ever could have imagined is happening in their small town.
Like I mentioned before, I think there's a fantastic balance of light and dark here. On the one hand, this is about a young girl who's a bit of an outsider, who's lost her only real friend and who has to deal with all the normal, teen issues. The book made me laugh several times and made me cringe with sympathy at the realistic portrayal of high school cliches and body issues. And I feel genuinely grateful towards the author for the way she handled the standard mean girl stereotype and allowed Lacy the popular cheerleader to gradually become so much more. I hate throwaway mean girls that are inserted into a novel to make our protagonist look better in all her good girl glory, so this approach was refreshing and pleasing. I also really liked the growth of Riley herself, how she learned from her mistakes and admitted that she'd been wrong about people, it made her far more likeable than if she'd never made any mistakes at all.
And that dark side I mentioned? There are some creepy bits in this book. Really, really creepy. Riley is a much braver person than I am, that's for sure. Sometimes I think those kinds of books are even more effective - when the light balances out the creepy, it somehow serves to highlight it when the change in tone happens.
So, now I've been through many reasons why I adored it, I'm going to come back to some of the problems I had that are even more silly because of how easily they could be rectified. One: I don't know if anyone with the power to change this is going to care enough to read my review, but the editing in this ARC was terrible. I normally don't care at all and especially not in ARCs, but there was one point where I counted seven basic grammatical/repeated words errors in four pages. It was really distracting and tighter editing is definitely needed before the final copy goes out - unless, of course, she really did "advert" her gaze. Two: Riley shouldn't have taken so long to utilize google - cut down the time frame and be realistic. Three: Riley's mum should have definitely called her husband to check if he did actually hire that guy in the garden before she let him LIVE WITH THEM. Later, her husband assumes Gabe was sent by a friend of his - well even that's a believability stretch, but fine, he could still have made that assumption over the phone. Four: I think Gabe should seem a bit more concerned about what has happened to him, he seems to just want to forget it all and I don't believe his reaction is realistic.
But, despite these problems, this is a really good, enjoyable novel that I think could be something extra special with a few small changes here and there. One other thing I loved was how Riley saw Gabe as her friend first and her romantic interest second. I thought it was great that she saw it like that and it made me like their relationship even more. And damn, that ending. What can I say? There's a part of me inwardly screaming "GIVE ME MORE!" like a crazy person, but there's another part that recognises how perfect that ending was. It's the kind of ending that leaves room for a sequel but also makes sure one isn't necessary. As much as I loved this book, I think it ended right where it needed to and any sequels risk ruining it. But I'd still read them, of course.