Thursday, 20 January 2011

Review: Calling for Angels - Alex Smith

Calling for AngelsTitle: Calling for Angels
Author: Alex Smith
Format: Paperback
Pages: 146
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Published: 15th November 2010 (The Red Telephone)

Em never believed in angels. That was until she met Zak and Kai…

Em - shy, sensitive, with her head in the clouds - and Caitlyn - gorgeous, popular and talented - have been best friends forever, in a sleepy, nondescript town called Philiton.

But when new boy Zak moves into town, Philiton suddenly becomes a much more interesting place. With his meltingly hot looks, sense of humour and a smile that has even the hardest-hearted girls falling at his feet, Zak has the female population of Philiton Comprehensive School convinced he's an angel.

Usually, Caitlyn has the boys worshipping the ground she treads on, so it’s a shock when Zak seems to be more interested in Em. Cracks appear, tensions arise, but surely Em and Caitlyn’s lifelong friendship can survive?

Em feels beset by demons. At home, she’s looking after her grandmother, who is slowly deteriorating, whilst despairing at her normally sensible brother, who is going off the rails just to fit in with the ‘right crowd’. Even Zak’s unexpected attention causes jealous girls to shower Em with spite – not least Caitlyn. If only she had a guardian angel…

Then a second boy steps into Em’s life. Dark and brooding, a captive to the secrets of a past he’d rather forget, Kai, who has appeared as if from nowhere and fallen head over heels in love with Em, is the exact opposite of Zak.

And although he may not seem like it, Kai is the real thing. He really is an angel.
Calling for Angels is a cute story about Em, a quite, unique girl. She lives in a small sleepy British town where she doesn’t really fit in with the other kids – and doesn’t especially want to. Suddenly two boys arrive in her life; the first her guardian angel, Kai, and the second, new boy, Zak.

As a character, Em was really likable. I liked that she didn’t change herself to fit in with the other girls or to impress Zak. The things she worried about were real – sick Grandmother, her brother sneaking out at night – not the usual trivial stuff teens are thought to be obsessed with. Em’s the kind of girl who’d rather stay home with a good book than go to parties and chase after boys.

The story alternates points of view with Kai, so we get to see his thoughts and feelings as well. To start with, this was a little confusing as sometimes it would switch midway through a conversation but once I got used to it, I quite liked it. It meant I got to see both sides of the story without being repetitive.

Many Young Adult books written by adults often have that sense of “would a fourteen year old do/say/think that?”. Calling for Angels absolutely has no issue with this at all. The author was fourteen-years-old when she wrote this book (she’s now sixteen) – the same age as the character - which gives the story and the characters something extra; that sense of realism that doesn’t always come across. Even with the story being about angels, it’s easy to believe how the characters relate to each other and how they’re feeling.

Alex’s writing is way beyond a lot of adult authors but at the same time it has something about it that is true for her and her target audience’s age. My only real criticism is that the shortness of the book meant that the reader doesn’t get to really know all of the characters. What’s there is good but in places I felt like I wanted to know more.

Overall, Calling for Angels is an enjoyable read that's a bit different to a lot of the books already out there. As a debut from a teen author, it’s a great start and I can see lots of potential for future work.

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