Outcast

Outcast - Adrienne Kress See this review and more at Whitley Reads.My Reaction: This was a very teenager book. And hot-damn, this book owned its teenager-ness. The focus and voice and general attitude of the novel was not only spot-on for teenagers, but was, I think, something that teenagers really need to see more of. The issues Riley thought about and dealt with were handled in a way that was true to her age, but while still giving them the proper “it’s cool, this is how teenagerhood is supposed to go” context. On the one hand, that made parts of the book very annoying for me. On the other hand, there’s all sorts of people who read YA, and this will be a perfect fit for many of them.The one major flaw in this book was what I call “Harry Potter Pacing.” The plot was good, but it was the kind of plot that should have taken up about two months. Three at the outside. Instead, the book insisting on stretching it out over an entire school year, which meant that characters had to stay ignorant of things until the proper time. So instead of looking into the mystery and trying to get stuff done, they…shrugged, went to school, and filled time with fluff and family drama. All of the scenes, taken individually, were pretty good. It’s just as a whole that you start to think “man, this is seriously dragging.”Highlights:• Riley was a delight. She was just the right balance of flawed and normal. She stood her ground when she needed to, and she showed her insecurities at other times, and she managed to even have teenaged break-downs while knowing that it was a teenaged break-down. And that’s great, because that’s part of being a teen, too: knowing that you’re being ridiculous, but not being able to stop because you’re a teenaged ball of hormones and ridiculousness. There were a few points where she seemed to be ignoring the plot and holding the idiot ball, but on the whole, I’m willing to blame those more on the pacing than the character.• LACEY FUCKING GREEN. I cannot express to you how much I adore this character. She took a very stereotyped cheerleader and gave her depth and nuance in subtle ways, showing her as an insecure, normal teenager with the same kinds of flaws as Riley, and she did it all with a few lines tucked in here and there. I hated Lacey when she showed up, because I thought she was just another same-old, same-old cheerleader antagonist. Two lines later and I was her biggest fangirl. Lacey made every scene she was in 1000 times better.• Riley’s first-person narration was enjoyable, witty, and easy to fall into. Very fitting for the character and the overall tone of the novel. I enjoyed the humor that was maintained even in serious scenes, the way it managed to be funny without taking weight away from the situations. • Gabe started out as every horribly stereotype of a “fallen angel” to come out of this genre, but don’t let that scare you off. He cleans up good. He even manages to throw in some sex-positive stuff, as he’s a player but he’s also careful to make sure his flings want flings and are cool with that. I’m all kinds of okay with a guy who just wants fooling around and isn’t tricking anyone to get it. Girls like that sort of thing, too.• The romance, while a bit too prominent for my tastes, is distinctly non-rage-y and mostly without problems.• The set up to the idea of angels coming and being ignored by the larger world is hasty and poorly explained. There’s a few too many holes in that exposition, and it feels like a patch job that got rushed over so we could get to the good stuff. It wasn’t bad enough to throw me out of things, but still annoying.• The ending was great! And…then the second ending was also great! I’m just confused as to why there were two. Events happened, and came to a natural conclusion, and then the book just kept on going. I wasn’t happy with the double-whammy, as I thought that either ending alone would have been stronger than both of them together. As it stood, a lot of the potential emotional punch was lost.Rants and Raves:Why is it that every book about angels ignores God? (Well, almost every.) It’s not like it would be that hard to just say “they’re magical creatures with wings that got mistaken for angels,” but no. Most of these books are talking about actual, literal angels. Abrahamic angels. And then God is completely missing from the picture. There’s usually not even any religious upheaval of characters going “OMG, so all that bible stuff is real?” Books, if you throw out angels and then don’t explain “no, wait, I mean my kind of fictional angels,” then you really should address God. Because if you don’t give us a new canon to work with, all we’ve got is the canon that says angels are messengers of the Lord.I’m not even annoyed at this from a religious angle; I’m annoyed that people are using a concept that already has plenty of lore around it and then they’re ignoring the lynchpin of all that lore. At the very least, the “human” characters should be aware that angels and God go hand-in-hand, and they should be curious about that. Leaving issues of God out of this feels like books are just hijacking and then watering down an existing mythology that lots of people believe in. Either make up your own canon, or bite the bullet and deal with the God question.