From School Library Journal
Grade 8–10—Mixing fantasy with brutal reality, McNish's novel is disturbing as well as moving. Freya, an angel-obsessed 14-year-old, has recently been released from a mental hospital, free to attend public school. Her 16-year-old brother, Luke, cautions her about the popular girls who have befriended her. From personal experience, he has seen how vicious they can be to those who step out on their own for any reason. Beyond his warning, Luke is not able to help Freya negotiate the world of high school because of problems of his own, including harsh bullies and his knowledge of their father's serious illness. It is gradually revealed that Freya, inexplicably, is part angel herself and, as the story progresses, she becomes more and more angel-like; she is eventually given the task of being a guardian to a number of human wards. While there are important and well-developed messages within this narrative, there are too many subplots for them to be effective: verbal bullying by girls, physical bullying by boys, fantasy that is just this side of reality, and illness of a parent to name the most evident. The writing is clear, and Freya and Luke are well developed, although the minor characters are little more than stereotypes. The busyness of the plot notwithstanding, McNish is an author to watch.—Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
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*Starred Review* Heaven and earth mix in this arresting story. Freya has always wanted to be an angel. When she is eight, an angel visits her—which becomes the first of several long steps to hospitalization for delusions. Freya fights her way back, enters high school, and even finds a way into one of the cool crowds. Then Stephanie, who believes in angels, comes to the school, and the girls recognize each other. But while Stephanie wants to cleave to Freya, Freya can’t quite come to terms with Stephanie, fearful of the reaction of her new, pressuring peer group. There’s another reason as well. Freya has made a profound discovery: the angels she sees are real. On one level, this is a British school story, with cliques and bullies, but McNish goes further; his real accomplishment is melding the gritty ordinariness of everyday happenings with the magnificence of angels. For this, he needed the skills of a conductor, knowing when to play up the angelic choir and when to let it be heavenly background music. His descriptions of Freya’s two angels—one light and one dark—dazzle, and as the story moves into higher realms, readers are given much to ponder. Vampires and werewolves have been given their due in fiction of late; the mystery of angels takes center stage here. Grades 7-10. --Ilene Cooper