Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Strange Angels

Preteens and teenagers are never supposed to feel quite normal. It's just part of the territory really. Once you hit the ripe old age of 12 you start to realize that you're uncomfortably awkward or incredibly nerdy, and that maybe there's something about you that makes you feel like you don't quite fit with everyone else.

Or even worse, other people remind you of how different you are... constantly.

We've all been there... yours truly included.

So Dru Anderson, Lili St. Crow's protagonist in Strange Angels, doesn't seem so unusual when she ditches class, avoids her classmates like the plague, or talks back to the teacher.


But Dru isn't a typical 16-year-old teenager. Instead of learning algebra, Dru learns what guns and ammo will kill a "werwulf". Instead of studying for her SATs, Dru studies magic and hexes. A typical teenager would worry about what dress they are going to wear to the prom or who they're going to go with. Dru worries about whether she'll live to see prom.

Dru's life has consisted of her and her father traveling from town to town hunting monsters for as long as she can remember, so when Dru's father returns home after a particularly long hunt she isn't sure what to expect. She definitely doesn't expect for her father to return as a newly reanimated member of the living dead. She does what any hunter would do. She kills him.

Not wanting to sit in her own house with a decomposing zombie she goes to school. Dru quickly befriends Graves, a boy at her school, who essentially takes care of her while she has a small break down over her father's death. Dru quickly realizes that whoever or whatever her father was hunting is now hunting her after she and Graves have a run in with a burning dog and a "werwulf" (werewolf) at the mall. With her father dead and no other living relatives to turn to, Dru depends on Graves for help and support. But dragging her newfound friend into the "Real World" has some dire consequences.

Forced to leave town, Dru must find the thing that killed her father before it kills her and discover why half-vampire newcomer, Christophe, and The Order are so intent on keeping her safe. All the while Dru must learn to control her rapidly growing ability to place hexes on people.


Quite a number of people have recommended this book based on the fact that it is supposedly similar to the hit TV series, Supernatural. As a huge diehard of the show I was eager to read Strange Angels and really wanted to love it. That's not exactly what happened.

I enjoyed Graves' character. He's that kid you knew in high school that's hilarious, witty and charming and that just so happens to be going through a Goth phase. Despite how many times Dru tries to ditch him for his own good, he's stuck to her like glue and she truly makes a friend in Graves.

Dru's character has a lot of potential and she began to grow on me by the end of the book. However, in the beginning I can honestly say I was reading the book just so I could find out what was going to happen to Graves.

To her credit, Dru is different from other YA characters in that she isn't the helpless damsel in distress all the time. She can fight; albeit not very well, but she can keep the monsters at bay long enough to attempt to fire a gun, miss and attempt again. I kind of did think she'd be a little better at holding her own. Particularly since she was raised by two hunters and talks about the difference between the "Real World"-the part with monsters- and the rest of the world all the time. It kind of set her up to be this amazing hunter type and she just wasn't.

But I do appreciate St. Crow's ability to write a emotionally realistic character. Dru struggles with her father's death but because of her hunter upbringing she knows she can't let it get her down. With her father's voice encouraging her on, she manages to get through some pretty harrowing situations. I also thought it was funny how she thinks like a total badass but what she actually says is anything but.

While I honestly can say that I liked the book, but there were some things about it that didn't quite elevate it up to "love it" status for me.

I initially found Dru's characterization of Graves very unusual. I had to go back and reread it just to make sure I was still reading the same book. I'm all about accurate portrayal for the sake of telling a story, like in To Kill a Mockingbird, or the movie, Gran Torino. But this just seemed almost vindictive in a mocking kind of way. Dru quickly becomes friends with Graves but the running monologue about his looks is constantly there. It was rather off-putting to say the least.

[One spoiler ahead.]

Everyone Dru meets with the exception of her father, her teacher and another hunter, August, are teens. I know this is a young adult series but it just didn't seem all that realistic. (No, it's not the fact that there are vampires and werewolves running around, it's the fact that none of them are older than 18 that doesn't seem realistic.)

Sergei is an extremely old, scary vampire and he looks no older than Dru. The same thing with The Order, the super secret group of hunters set out to destroy Sergei. It would make sense if there are a handful of teens in the group; but it seemed like every "werwulf", every But maybe this is explained in the next book.

Overall, Strange Angels was a fun read for the first book in this series and it will be interesting to see how Dru and Graves' characters grow and develop as they learn more about who they are and their abilities.

Rating 3/5

Strange Angels is the first book in the Strange Angels series. Look for Betrayals, Jealously, Defiance and Reckoning, the second through fifth books in this series in bookstores everywhere!


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