YA Weekend: Angelfall by Susan Ee

ab4d6-angelfallAngelfall by Susan Ee

Series: Penryn & the End of Days #1

Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Post-Apocalyptic

Publisher: Feral Dream (May 2011)

Author Info: www.SusanEe.com

Wendy’s Rating ~ 4 of 5 stars

Angelfall is a refreshing and welcome take on the end of the world.

Young adult novels are not usually to my taste, mainly because authors tend to forget the “adult” aspect of the equation and give me self-centred protagonists that are far more whiny, stubborn, and petulant than the young adult I was, or the ones I know. In other words, they are bloody annoying. But when an author respectfully balances the negative aspects of young adulthood with the caring, determination, maturity, responsibility, and self-awareness I’ve seen in many teens, then I am more likely to enjoy the reading experience. Susan Ee is officially on my list of authors who achieve the latter, which means this is a young adult book that I would happily recommend to adult and young adult readers alike. But I would also recommend this book because, well, it’s fantastic.

When I started reading it, I was embroiled in a lengthy conversation about apocalyptic fiction and its tired tropes. The angry roving gangs, the hopelessness, the reliance on (gun) violence, the utter fail of humanity to pull up its boot straps and survive. Not that Angelfall doesn’t include some of these elements, which are reasonably logical progressions for when the world as we know it falls apart. But Ee doesn’t use them merely as crutches, and, more importantly, she goes well beyond.

First off, there’s the whole reason for the apocalypse: angels. Asshole angels who are happily destroying our world. Why? Because God apparently wills it, apparently, but as the story goes along, it becomes evident that there is most likely far more chaos within the chaos than there is any order. This is how Penryn comes to know Raffe, an angel stripped of his wings, whom she saves from the other angels who want to literally rip him apart. As much as Penryn doesn’t want to be rescuing the enemy, Raffe becomes her only key to finding her wheelchair-bound young sister, who is stolen by the angels that attacked him. Penryn also has to deal with worries about her mother, who suffers from schizophrenia.

“That even though her love often manifests in ways that a mentally healthy person couldn’t understand—might even declare abusive—that doesn’t diminish the fact that she does care.”

Mental health is a subject that is not often touched on in fiction, or if it is, it is treated poorly, reducing the people who suffer from it to objects of fear or amusement. Through Penryn’s eyes, Ee shows us a woman who is quite clearly insane, but who also loves her children dearly, and is even aware of how much of a danger she is to them. Her mother encourages Penryn to take every possible self-defence class available—which comes in handy when the world ends. Having to deal with both a mentally unstable woman and a physically disabled child puts a lot on Penryn’s shoulders, but her loyalty and sense of responsibility never once falters. Nor does Ee reduce her family members to mere caricatures, particularly her mother. Penryn isn’t afraid to refer to her mother as crazy, and knows just how her actions might appear to the more rationally minded. However, she also shows a lot of respect and affection for her mother, and appreciation for the things she’s learned and is capable of because of her illness. In a world where “they” really are out to get you now, Penryn’s mother’s paranoia suddenly becomes very helpful. To an extent.

Penryn’s seemingly hopeless mission to rescue her sister parallels Raffe’s hope to have his wings re-attached—as in, they share a destination and need each other to survive. Though there are hints of attraction, their bond grows into something far deeper and more touching as the story progresses.

Along their journey, they are captured by a small resistance group. Unlike a lot of the apocalypse fiction I’ve watched or read lately, there is no evil dictator in charge, or inappropriate rules and practices. In fact, the leader, Obi, is as respectful as he is strategically-minded, and the goals of his group go well beyond simply hoarding all the supplies and keeping outsiders out.

My only complaint is that, other than Penryn (and to an extent, her mother, simply because her mother is uncontrollable), women are rather two dimensional, and relegated to very stereotypical roles. While Obi values Penryn’s skills and wants her as one of his soldiers, the rest of the women at the compound exist to wash laundry. At the angels’ stronghold, women survive by whoring themselves out to the angels. And several times Penryn’s jealousy over Raffe is sparked by the intrusion of some catty woman attempting to claim him.

Otherwise, in my epic apocalypse chat, the consensus seemed to be that end of the world stories that still offer hope and humanity, even at the darkest hour, were favoured over the more bleak tales. Angelfall is a refreshing and welcome take on the end of the world.
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19 Comments on “YA Weekend: Angelfall by Susan Ee

  1. This one was definitely a unique read, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. 😦 The characters may have been pretty badass, but I personally found it really difficult to connect with anyone. Glad you enjoyed this, though! Awesome review, Wendy!

    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

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  2. I am so happy that you greatly enjoyed this one, Wendy. I had a good laugh at your introductory sentence because you are right. You prolly know that I read a lot of YA books and most of the time, the protags are really unbelievable. I know that teenagers are wild and stubborn and rebellious but when they’re portrayed in books, it seems that these traits are multiplied twice or thrice. Nonetheless, I still love reading YA.

    Angelfall was a big surprise for me because I didn’t expect it to be so good. At first, I was really apprehensive because angel books do not seem to work for me (The Mortal Instruments and Daughter of Smoke and Bone) but Angelfall was able to prove that there’s still hope.

    Awesome review, Wendy! Looking forward to your thoughts on World After. 😀

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  3. Despite having heard a million wonderful things about this one; AND owning a copy for AGES, I have yet to read Angelfall myself. *hangs head in shame* Anyways, I’m thrilled that you enjoyed this one too!! The plot seems really fresh and well-developed and I like that the author goes beyond the usual YA tropes into something new. And dealing with mental health issues really isn’t the usual in YA so that’s an exciting aspect too! Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful review ^^

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  4. Oh I heard a lot about this one but I haven’t read it. it’s interesting to have an angel dystopia book, we don’t have a lot like that. Plus it’s interesting to have a good angel story. thanks for the review!

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  5. Asshole angels, what a perfect way to describe them! Just wait until you read World After – the are always partying and just generally celebrating the world’s end. Not cool, guys. I also really liked the portrayal of Penryn’s mum; you can really see some of the similarities between them, especially when they’re fighting the angels/human gangs. They’re both tough – and vulnerable – and I love it!

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