Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell

Goodreads Summary


Rating: 5 stars.
Paperback, 225 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Holt Paperbacks

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.
For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.


Occasionally I have these periods where I can’t read. Where I don’t find interest in any book on my iPad, where I start a million different books and leave them half-done, plot threads gathering dust at the back of my mind. And nearly always, there’s a book that comes to pull me out of the funk. Last time, it was The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith. Before that, it was The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter. This time, it’s Reapers are the Angels. And to Alden Bell, I say:

  You're Awesome 


 I’m not a zombie-apocalypse fan. Guts and brains and long paragraphs about reeking alleys and stench making babies with other kinds of stench don’t interest me. Blood-drenched heroes don’t interest me either, I always want the human factor rather than the hero factor. I loved Zombieland, but for the laughs. I hated Stephen King’s The Cell. I tried a hundred other zombie books- most notably Andrew Fukuda’s Rot and Ruin series, Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth series- and while I gave up on one, the other I read for the romance. How do you write a literary zombie book though? How do you write a literary zombie book with a teenage heroine and not make it sound, say, extremely pretentious? How do you pare the details of your FUBAR world to a bare minimum and stay in the head of your not exactly reliable, not exactly child, not exactly adult heroine? This is what Reapers are the Angels manages so easily. Temple is written beautifully. Her southern accent, her observations about the minutiae of post-apocalyptic life, the breadcrumb trail that opens door to her past: I loved all of it. Look at this snippet: 

She’s thinking of a thousand things—waterfalls and lighthouses and record players and men who travel with wonder and the deafening mumble of cicadas in the dry grass of the plains. She’s thinking of corpses piled high and all the dead things that still move and the hard rain that falls and drives the mud and waste into all the corners and seams of the world, and she’s thinking of airplanes and little boys and grown men with grit teeth and beards and others with soft moans that bleat on and on without cease unless you find the right song to sing and you fill the car with your voice so that he doesn’t have to hear his own loud crying. 

 I’m a sucker for this. I adore this kind of writing, stream of consciousness if you will, and it’s so rarely that you find something like this in a Young Adult book. (Not that I believe Reapers actually belongs on the YA shelf: violence is very much PG 13) It’s brilliant. It’s an explosive build up to an emotional state that leads to awesome, gut-wrenching things. Alden Bell also does one-line characterizations extremely well. It’s wonderful to read a book where you get that the evil guys are evil, without repeatedly being bashed over the head with examples after examples and/or Persian cats and Cuban cigars. Evil Moses Todd is evil. And oh so human too. Maury gives me intense feels. The moment Abraham lays eyes on Temple, the description of his gaze is so visceral, my skin literally crawled. And oh lord, the ending:

  I have FEELS 

 All in all, to me at least, A+ book. Thank you, Alden Bell, for kicking me off the stupid threshold and into the world of books again.

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Images used in this blog are either digital art created by the author or free photographs. Reviews and views expressed on this site are strictly personal. Text by Varsha Dinesh is copyrighted under Creative Commons.