Discussion: Angelfall by Susan Ee

While I rated Angelfall from Susan Ee poorly poorly, others have enjoyed her dystopian angels run amock story.  Here is a discussion with book blogger Ian Wood of Ian Wood’s Novellum on why we reviewed the book so differently.

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I posed the following to Ian:  I feel Angelfall is too much like a torture porn harlequin romance.  He responded:

Ian Wood:

You know I’m honestly not sure I could justify my rating of that if I had to bear witness in a courtroom! And I didn’t think it was a shining example of novel-writing perfection, by any means. I had some issues with it (mostly notably the portrayal of a supernatural being as essentially human throughout!).

It’s just that overall, it left me with a good feeling aftwards, which was a bit unexpected since I’m not a fan of angelic novels, and especially not ones written in first person PoV, of which I’m not a big fan. (How do you feel about first person PoV? It nearly always seems fake and irritating to me).

This one somehow just made it under the wire or over the fence, however you like to think of it. I liked the main character. I liked that there was a disabled character (in the form of her mom, with schizophrenia), and that the daughter stepped-up to take care of her. I liked that she was dedicated to finding her sister and that she thought rationally when she chose to keep the angel alive in hopes he could help her, rather than emotionally.

I felt that she was trying to do her best (although sometimes failing) in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. I liked that she was strong (but not a super-hero), and that she was determined. She was what I consider to be a strong female character.

Perhaps my rating was more of an emotional than a rational one – perhaps it expressed my relief that the novel was much better than I feared, if not everything I’d hoped for?!

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, In my summation, allow me to quote the last two paragraphs of my review:

So why did I even like this novel?! That’s a very good question, and here’s the answer: despite all the juvenile trope and the wrong-headedness in portraying these angels, the author does not overdo it with the romance, and she introduces some really cool ideas. She makes the relationship take time and develop organically. Yes, ultimately, it’s bizarre and too much, but it’s not forced, which I appreciated. She writes a strong female character in Penryn, who is both tough and weak, both strong and flawed, and is quite endearing and interesting, if a bit stupid, but she’s also wonderful in her devotion to her mother and her sister, who continue to be her main focus throughout.

In addition to this, the plot is interesting and develops in ways that were unexpected and intriguing, especially towards the end when she finally locates her sister. Ee brings some cool new ideas to the world of angels even as she portrays the angels stereotypically, and she ends the novel in a way that’s satisfying for this volume whilst leaving some things sufficiently open for the next in the series. I’m particularly intrigued by what happened to her sister, and it’s really for that reason that I want to read volume 2. So I recommend this one!

My thoughts on that:

For me, it all started with the beginning and the shopping cart scene. Because – if you are going to make a quick and stealthy escape in extreme danger of being discovered, it’s always a good idea to put your stuff in a broken down, hardly able to be pushed, shopping cart, right? And make sure it has squeaky wheels too, because they went out at night not to be seen and who cares if the crazy bad dudes hear our intrepid family heroes instead?? And see – the book lost me before I even got any further because of that ridiculousness. They should have died by page 15.

The whole angel thing – the way she looks at him and interacts was so Harlequin romance that I was alternating between wincing and cringing. Add to that the completely unrealistic responses to each other in that abandoned office building where they first hook up – and yeah, I was wanting to hit my head on the table. Love sick puppy smart talking highly dangerous supernatural being – it made for a bad combo. Why ever in the world would she chain him up instead of killing him? Oh yeah, because he’s going to be the romantic alpha male love interest.

But then all the torture porn. Seriously, how much violence did we have to perpetuate against all the characters? At the point they were torturing toddlers, I was starting to feel really uncomfortable with the whole story. If we have humans dealing with more than death – with endless and horrific torture, why was everyone joking around so much and not affected? Not that the angels fared any better, of course, with the whole ‘chop off a limb/wing’ thing going on. But the violence just seemed to get so over-the-top pointless; either you want to emphasize/underscore the danger of the situation (which wasn’t the case because clearly no one seemed all that worried) or it just ends up overemphasizing the eeeevilness of the bad guys to the point of poor writing. Ok, Susan Ee, we get that they are bad. Move along. We don’t need YA torture porn romance.

So many of the decisions by Penryn really made no sense other than for silly plot machinations and deus ex machina. I found more holes in Angelfall than I did in Divergent – and how scary is that?

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