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Sleeping Angel
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2011
This new book by Gregg Herren is aimed at the young adult market and not unexpectedly contains the sentiments one might associate with TV's once popular After School Specials. Writing for a PG 13 audience today can be tricky given the fare available on premier cable channels. The high school junior's in Sleeping Angel, some of whom have been intimate since eighth grade, speak a sanitized English that few young people do among themselves. Only one "f-bomb" is dropped and that is italicized. While the author uses appropriate cultural references --- iPods and Lady Gaga -- the highschoolers never convince you they're using their own voices.

The novel is interesting for other, more important reasons. Eric Matthews, a youth with amnesia in the wake of a car accident, is suspected of the murder of the former friend found shot to death in the backseat. As he slowly regains his memory in the subsequent weeks he is surprised to learn that the person he had been was quite different from the one he assumed he was. Why was he even in the car with the victim, Sean, who was clearly gay and had been constantly bullied at school. The fact that the large cast of adult and teenage characters are evenly divided between gay friendlies and homophobes makes two things clear: We have come a long way as a nation, and we have a long way yet to go.

Most important, I think, for the book's audience is the point that bullies rarely see themselves as such. They may be seeking peer approval, covering insecurities, or simply trying to win a cheap laugh at someone else's expensive. They aren't empathetically aware of the hurt they inflict or the cruelty of their words and actions.

Mr. Herren is noted for his New Orleans mystery series, so I anticipated a real puzzler, but from the villain's first appearance there was little room for surprise. There is also a sub-plot involving mind reading, which was unnecessary to the story and went nowhere. I assume it was added to capitalize on the recent popularity of paranormal themes with young readers.

Bottom line: If it makes just a few bullies take a look at their own behavior and see it for it is the book could be a life saver.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2011
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Lambda award-winning author Greg Herren can spin a good mystery - and grab you from the start. Anyone who has read his Chanse or Scotty mysteries can attest to that. That he can do the same thing with a YA novel - a genre that, quite frankly, has even more challenges to do well - speaks to his skill as an author.

What might seem like a topic done before - an amnesia victim potentially holding the vital clues to a murder - gets a fresh breath in "Sleeping Angel." Eric Matthews wakes up in a hospital with amnesia and a serious problem: he was found in a car with the dead body of Sean, a former childhood friend - a friend he has been cruel to for years. Did he - like so many people believe - kill Sean?

He doesn't know.

Herren gives Eric a realistic rude awakening. Sure, his parents think he's a good kid, and he's popular and an athlete, but as one character in the book puts it - people do love to tear someone down when they've put them up high in the first place. Eric's self-examination is from his own point of view and a stranger both - he doesn't remember his life - and he's chilled by actions he doesn't remember taking. More importantly, he's got a lethal catch-22 to face: he might be a murderer on the one hand, but on the other, if he's not - then there's a murderer out there who'd definitely like him dead for what he might know, but can't remember.

The teens all read well, the parents and police aren't bumbling idiots (a trope that annoys me in much of teen fiction), and Eric's struggle for the truth - and to accept that maybe he wasn't a nice guy - rings true. There's a dash of paranormal to the mystery as well, but not overwhelmingly so, and it adds an interesting quirk to the tale. I'd intended to read this over a few days, a chapter here and a chapter there, and ended up devouring it between one late night and one early morning. It's solid, and tight, and well paced, and I hope Herren gives YA more of his time in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2011
Eric Matthews wakes up in the hospital, following a serious auto accident. He doesn't remember the accident, or much of anything, as he has amnesia. But he soon learns that many in the town, including some high school "friends" and family members, may actually think he is faking the memory loss, in order to cover up the murder of a friend who was found shot in the back seat of his car. Eric doesn't own a gun, and can't imagine why he would want to shoot Sean, a former friend whom he no longer hung out with after the boy came out as gay. But he also can't say for sure he didn't do it, since that memory is gone as well. Then there's the fact that, when someone touches him, he finds he can read their thoughts, something he was never able to do before. Eric hopes his memory will return and, with it, the details of what actually happened that day.

Greg Herren is a master story teller, and this is no exception, a beautifully crafted mystery novel geared mostly to a young adult audience, with a focus on family and peer relationships and a valuable lesson about tolerance. Strongly recommended reading for teens who may be unsure about their feelings toward friends who have come out as gay or lesbian. Five stars out of five.

- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2011
This title grabbed me as soon as I read the sample on my Kindle. It was a fast paced book that kept me completely in the story. Eric does not know what is going on and you are trying to solve the mystery with him. However, there was one major element to the story that really did not help Eric solve the mystery that could have been left out. It does not in anyway quality of the storyline. This really was a great read! I highly recommend!
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I'm not good with penning detailed reviews, but I do know when I've read a story worthy enough to recommend to others that I need to offer more than just a star rating. Sleeping Angel by prolific mystery author, Greg Herren, is such a novel. Frankly, I wish I could give this novel six stars!

I can't recall the last time I read a YA novel I enjoyed as much since reading, K.M. Soehnlein's The World of Normal Boys a few years ago. I didn't want Sleeping Angel to end and I forced myself to read the novel over several days, in blocks of chapters, when I could easily have devoured it all at once.

It's rare, too - at my age - that I venture to read YA novels, but Greg Herren is one of my favorites, and well, the author's blurb of the novel sounded incredibly interesting, so I gave it a shot.

Young, good-looking, popular football star, Eric Matthews, wakes up from a coma in the hospital with amnesia and a "gift" he doesn't understand - or a freaky turn of events, as Eric soon realizes when he "touches" someone and is able to hear their thoughts.

Not to worry, this tiptoe into the paranormal doesn't overwhelm the novel in the least, but instead adds an interesting angle as Eric pieces together the events leading up to why he landed in the hospital fighting for his life after a deadly car crash - oh, did I forget to mention the dead body of a former childhood friend found in the mangled wreckage?

How did Eric end up with Sean's blood all over him, especially when his former friend was found in the backseat of the vehicle?

Thus, the mystery that hooks you from the first pages of Sleeping Angel. The story is told from Eric's pov, and the reader comes to learn about Eric through the teen's eyes as he tries to piece together the events that lead up to the accident and if he is a murderer, as many in town believe.

Just "who" is Eric Matthews? What Eric learns about himself soon sickens and saddens him - especially when he learns he just might be the bully responsible for events that preceded the accident.

The story of Sleeping Angel is current, shocking, explosive - a thrilling read. The novel is a solid mystery, deftly played out and a "must read" for any Young Adult reader out there - not to mention anyone who loves a solid thriller!

Sleeping Angel
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on May 12, 2012
An interesting Young Adult mystery / thriller, not specifically "gay" but with a plot that turns around the important issue of teenagers and bullying, and the drama it could generate. Eric Matthews, the main character is not gay, but he is investigating on the death of another teenager, Sean Brody, who was. That is the reason why this novel is perfect for every teenager, gay or not, and it can even teach something about acceptance and avoiding living with regrets it would impossible to make right.

Eric, Sean and Chris were best friends until high school; that was the time Sean came out to Eric and Chris and Chris convinced Eric to ban Sean from their lives. At the beginning I wanted to believe the evil kid was Chris, and that Eric was trying to make it right, but that is not the truth. Eric was really mean with Sean, and doesn't matter if he was a good kid, if he was a good student, good son and that he really didn't believe he was doing something wrong making fun of Sean, Eric didn't realize how hurt he could do, and how someone less strong than Sean could have reacted to that cruel teasing. Not knowing the dangerousness of your actions doesn't make you less guilty, ignorance makes you as guilty as if you was doing it with purpose.

I think the main point of this novel is that Sean is dead, and doesn't matter what Eric can or will do, Sean will not come back and Eric will always live with the regret that he could do something, but he didn't, at least not until it was too late to save Sean.

The reader knows Eric didn't kill Sean, and he will learn the true at the same pace of Eric, clue by clue while Eric is regaining his memory after the accident that caused his amnesia. With the accident Eric lost his memory but gained something else, a special gift that is helping him see things through a different perspective, helping him understand what is good and bad, and above all, who is good and bad. The gift can be something medicine can explain, or can be a miracle, but the author decided to played it down, to atone as much as possible its strangeness, so that, it is useful to the plot, but doesn't distract the reader too much from the main point. And the main point is not who killed Sean, but more if Sean's death can change Eric, if he can be better, and if he can do something useful of his life, in the memory of Sean but also for his own good.
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on September 6, 2014
Hadn't read one of Herren's books for a while and had forgotten just what a great writer he is. I LOVED this story. It's very well written and held my attention throughout the book. Plot is creative and interesting. While I did guess who the killer was, the road to the truth was well worth the journey. Have a good time and read this book. I've already put another of Herren's works on my wish list so I won't forget him-I'm old what can I say. ENJOY!
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on August 3, 2015
I have read a number of detective novels by Greg and enjoyed them. This one, however is totally different. I like the idea of branching out and trying something new. The result is excellent. There was only one real suspect but that misses the point. This is about how we relate to others, how they see us, how our actions impact on them. An outstanding read.
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on February 8, 2015
What an interesting story! Eric is in a bad auto accident and in his backseat is a murdered classmate. But Eric can't remember anything. Thus starts a great story of friends who are no longer friends and fears of those who are different.
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on June 3, 2015
For me, everything Greg Herren writes it great.
He hasn't written a book that I have disliked.
When I see his name, I order the book knowing it will be good.
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