Tuesday, 25 June 2013

review: Outcast

by Adrienne Kress
Diversion Books, June 4 2013
young adult paranormal

Angels have been taking people from Riley's small town of Hartwich for six years now, and she's sick and tired of it all, including Pastor Warren, who's leading the way in worshipping the angels. So when one lands in her backyard, she does the exact opposite—she shoots it in the face. Except it doesn't die: it turns into a hot, naked boy... who thinks it's 1956. Something's not right. Beyond the fact that this guy can't seem to stop calling her "dollface", of course.
Okay sorry sorry I know I usually save the snark in the summaries for books I dislike, but that endearment of Gabe's really niggled at me through the entire book, so in it went, heh.

The cover:

CAN I JUST DIE AND GO TO ART DESIGNER HEAVEN? The absolutely gorgeous blue gradient makes the sky so much more interesting than a single colour, and all the little details in the sky among the stars make me wish I had this in a physical copy. The symmetry of the cover, too, ugh, with the plants on either side of the motorcycle and of course the perfect backlighting of the silhouette of our main duo on a motorcycle. The faint angel wings outline are a good hint of the content without being obtrusive, and the title and author font is simple and perfect. I don't think I would change one bit of this cover.

The book:

So. Yeah. There's a very heartwrenching ending to this book. Just a heads-up. (My emotions are dictating this review, which is why it's so long. :P) This is probably the best (read: most heartbreaking) ending to a sort-of love triangle I've ever read. Because both boys are not physically present at the same time, it makes the relationships seem a lot healthier and also justifies the boy Riley does end up with. However, Kress uses a motif that echoes throughout the book to ensure that the boy she isn't able to choose has a permanent stamp on Riley's and the reader's hearts. Seriously, the last few lines? All. The. Feels. Something kept hitching in my chest. So painful. ;__;

Riley herself: her growth is what makes her a likeable protagonist. In the beginning she tends toward the judgemental, and she seems like one of those seems-snobby-but-doesn't-know-it protagonists. However, as she developes relationships with other people (especially female friends—the scene where Lacy preps her for a date is really awesome), there's a definite shift in mindset, which allows us to relax, ease in with Riley and get swept up, in for the ride.

The parents! Holy goodness, I love supportive, multidimensional parents and that's what we got here. They manage to support her while also realistically doing their proper worried-parent duties, and being people beyond parents as well. The way Riley views her parents also changes over the arc of the story. Highlight: her mother makes an excellent observation on Riley's work ethic being tied to the two boys in her life, which triggers another (much-needed) change in her mindset.

The setting of Hartwich as a small Southern town worked extremely well; the idea of religion is woven into the story's locales without it being overt, and it's even subtly commented on by one of the two priests. As well, the bayou and the almost segregated community add rich texture which Kress uses wisely to develope layers to her characters and their subplots.

The angel mythology is probably one of the aspects I'm most impressed with. It's not completely original, but the perspective of the very defined roles in traditional angel hierarchy (Archangels, Nephilim, guardian angels, etc.) is manipulated successfully, making for a very fresh, mind-provoking read. It's also introduced at a very nice pace, in small batches at a time so that the reader is able to digest everything before moving on. (And I totally did not see that twist coming.)

If there's one negative thing, I'd say the pacing was blurry; in general, I'm hard to please with novels that span more than half a year and in Outcast there were the common problems: uneven amounts of time passing, real-time scenes wedged in between summary (and vice versa) and a climax that felt too short. Despite this, though, the romance felt very authentic. The one real-time romantic scene along with the various other troubles they ran through was enough to establish Riley's feelings. I do wish we had a few more flashbacks of Chris and Riley together, though.

Outcast is a clever book, and the climax draws everything together in a way that still leaves ends open for interpretation. While it is a little ambitious, I was totally willing to suspend my disbelief, and even if you won't, well your disbelief will be replaced pretty quickly by those last few lines. They're going to wring you out to dry.

Don't let that stop you from reading this book, though. ;)

Ethnic balance: 4 out of 5. Accurate representation of the type of segregation that happens in the south, plus an interracial couple FTW! Also, I want Curtis and John and Daniel. Yes. All of them. They are delicious very attractively capable.

Rating: 4.4 out of 5