Angel by Cliff McNish

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Angel by Cliff McNish

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A highly charged, spellbinding book about spirituality and moral dilemmas. It asks some difficult existential questions and yet never loses a sense of the potential in us all. Bookbag thought it was unputdownable.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: June 2007
Publisher: Orion Childrens
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1842551110

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Freya is just beginning to make a life for herself at school. After a mental breakdown that lasted for three long years, she's back at home with her father and her brother. She's showing an interest in clothes, make up, hairstyles, even boys - normal, teenage preoccupations, but these are things everyone feared she would never do. Freya had developed an obsession with angels, an obsession so strong that she even believed an angel had visited her, that an angel had come to her bedroom and - amazingly - had wept, needing her comfort. But that was a long time ago and Freya has come to understand that angels aren't a part of the average person's every day reality.

But then new girl Stephanie arrives at school. New, eccentric, a misfit, Stephanie is immediately picked on by the new friends Freya has worked so hard to make and Freya can't quite bring herself to defend this friendless child, even though she knows she should and even though she knows that Stephanie believes in angels too. And that is when the dark angel appears...

Gosh. What a book. I simply couldn't put it down. It's a highly charged and intensely romantic look at personal spirituality - but not in a religious sense. McNish is talking about the kind of personal faith we atheists can also feel. His angels are otherworldly beings, but they aren't God's messengers and they aren't immortal. Neither are they perfect. They are wonderful, powerful beings but also vulnerable ones. They suffer under the weight of expectation. And yet they are so beautiful. It's all a fabulous metaphor for human potential - they mirror the dark and the light in us all and actually, they are the more inspirational for it.

This is pure fantasy, but it's intrinsically bound up with the real life dramas facing most teenagers, not just Freya - how to fit in but at the same time establish individuality, how to make relationships, how to forge a set of personal ethics. I particularly enjoy this kind of mixing of kitchen sink drama and the fantastical. It allows writers to tap into the highly-charged emotional internal landscape that adolescents inhabit and it's incredibly cathartic to read, even for a jaded adult such as this reviewer. Everything gets magnified but at the same time, everything feels possible. And if you can't feel as though possibilities are endless when you're a teenager, when can you?

The writing is effortless and elegant and as it slips between character perspectives, Angel never loses an air of authenticity. And at moments, it reaches the sublime. I loved it. I don't know if you've ever seen an angel yourself, but this is what they look like...

Supple feathers. Tips as smooth as the afterglow of sunsets. Just seeing them had made Freya hunger for wide spaces. And when she reached out to touch them it was like dipping her fingers into light itself.

Oh my.

My thanks to the good people at Orion for sending the book.

If they enjoyed Angel, they would also like David Almond's Skellig, which also explores individual spirituality, and Margaret Mahy's The Changeover, which also uses transmogrification as a metaphor for a teenager's coming of age.

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Buy Angel by Cliff McNish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Angel by Cliff McNish at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Angel by Cliff McNish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Angel by Cliff McNish at


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oaprouse said:

Jill has really made me want to read the bk !!

i never seem to hav enough to read but do u no where i mite find this bk??? where i could borrow it instead of buy it cause thy cost so much! !

Jill replied:

Put your name down for it at the library?