I tend to go into young adult novels of this type with a fair amount of wariness and trepidation, so color me surprised when this turned out to be a book I really enjoyed. Then I discovered it was actually first released as a self-published indie, and that just completely floored me. I am beyond impressed.
Anyway, at first glance, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. It's got all the makings of a Young Adult, paranormal, post-apocalyptic-dystopian-type novel starring a teenage female protagonist narrating in the first person present tense, and of course, there's always the promise of some romance. Though, I suppose there's something to be said of its "End of Days" scenario with the invasion of warrior angels coming to destroy the world. Even early on, when I barely knew anything about this book, the subject was what made it stand out for me.
The book starts six weeks after the angels of the apocalypse have descended, demolishing civilization as we know it. Penryn carries the responsibility of taking care of her mother, who has schizophrenia, as well as her little sister Paige whose legs are paralyzed and she needs a wheelchair to get around. When an angel steals Paige and carries her off, Penryn will do anything to get her back, including allying herself with the enemy. She forms a tentative agreement with Raffe, a warrior angel whom she rescues after finding him bloodied and lying in the street, beaten and broken with his wings cut off.
I'll admit that I started this book with a skeptical mindset, unconvinced it would win me over, even with all the great stuff being said about it. I love reading YA novels, but I also can't help but hold them to a higher standard, mostly because the genre is so over-saturated and it takes a lot for one to really stand out for me. And at first, I found that I liked Penryn, liked the introduction of Raffe, and liked the direction of the story...but still nothing made me truly love it.
That changed somewhere along the way, and I don't even know when it happened. Maybe it's because at no point did I find this book boring; the plot is constantly driving forward, and even when there's no action happening on the page, there's still plenty of tension to keep you interested in the story.
Penryn, too, sets herself apart as a strong heroine, who takes the weight of the world upon her underfed shoulders. Having your troubled mother and disabled sister depend on you when the world is crumbling before your eyes can't be easy, but she handles it with grace and maturity and none of the angst or dramatics. She's quick-witted and thinks on her feet, even if her plans don't always work out perfectly. My favorite scene is when she decks a chauvinist meathead for making lewd comments at her, with the expectation that potential allies would come to her aid, only to find herself fighting alone. But she ends up winning! Nice job, Penryn.
The climax and ending were also really well done. I'm amazed at how everything came together, since very often at this point of a book I will find myself spotting plot holes or picking apart illogical points in the story, ultimately just resigning myself to go with the flow. And yet, I really don't recall doing a lot of that here, but maybe it's because I was just so completely focused on the twists and surprising developments that I wasn't concentrating on thinking about much else.
And finally, how I really know this book made an impression on me? The fact that as soon as I finished, I quickly went online to find the next book...only to discover it's not coming out until November. Hey, well, something to look forward to.