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Synopsis: Taken from the back of the book.
I met someone who changed everything.
My autistic sister's guardian angel.
Honest. Inspiring. Funny.
That was the problem.
What could I do?
I did what any other girl would do - I fell in love with him
Zoe's sister darts in front of cars. Her brother's a pothead. Her parents are so overwhelmed; they don't see Zoe's lost in her broken life. Zoe escapes the only way she knows how: partying.
Matthias, a guardian sent from Heaven, watches over Zoe's autistic sister. After Zoe is convinced he is legit, angel and lost girl come together in a love that changes destiny.
But Heaven on Earth can't last forever.
It has taken me a while to write this review as this book really touched me and I feel like I am about to bare my soul to the world in this review.
I have to say the synopsis leaves a lot to be desired and should not put you off reading this book. I am not going to gush as this goes far beyond gushing. I feel as if this book was written for me personally, that is how much it has enthralled me.
Written in first person narrative from Zoe's point of view. She is the oldest of 3 children, 17 years old, dealing with the traumatic diagnosis that her adorable little sister, Abria, age 5, has severe autism.
The book shows the effect on the entire family having to cope with this disability. It is written with insight as the author, Jennifer Laurens, has an autistic child. I was able to relate completely as my oldest child has dyspraxia, although her physical skills are significantly improved to when she was diagnosed, the emotional aspect is a constant challenge and on occasion still hard to deal with. As in the book, Abria is the person the family revolves around, so it is in my house with the oldest having the main focus of attention. It is not something that is intentional that is just how it happens. I sincerely hope that it is not disturbing the other girls emotionally or mentally.
The story deals with how the family cope with the added stress of having an impaired child in their lives. Zoe turns to alcohol while her brother, Luke, turns to drugs. The feeling of turning to any thing that will block out the reality of their stressful lives is something I can relate to. My own family (not the one with my children the one when I was a child) is completely dysfunctional and imploded on my mothers death. Believe me I would have done anything to get away from that reality if it wasn't for my children. However, the story goes on to show how these methods are just means of avoiding the problem and they generally add more problems than they solve. The best way to deal with problems is head on and with open honesty to the other people involved. it also brought to mind the therapies and developmental skills mentioned in Beautiful Dead: Arizona whose brother was also autistic.
Amazing use of the white space within the narrative adding impact and intensity to the storyline.
Although the theme of the books refers to God, Heaven and Angels, it is of a non-denominational nature, therefore open to your own interpretation/beliefs. Being of a non-overtly religious nature myself, I have my own beliefs which are just that my own, I found the ideals within the story easy to relate to. The idea of a life after death brings great comfort to anyone that has lost someone close to them.
The thought that each of us has a Guardian Angel trying to guide us and keep us safe is reassuring, although the idea that they are responsible for keeping us safe when we purposefully expose ourselves to danger/evil is quickly and powerfully dispelled within the narrative. The adage 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink' comes to mind. The emphasis that Angels cannot enter a place that contains evil is powerful and we as people are responsible for the decision to enter the nefarious circles is thought provoking. The imagery used to describe evil spirits was chilling, giving me goose-bumps. The addition of alcohol/drugs lower your inhibitions and therefore making it easier for evil spirits to take over gave me shivers.
Instead of making the Guardian Angel into a virtuous, moral, pure, spotless person, Matthias has his own past to contemplate and in some aspects repent for. Making him human and easy to relate to. The use of 'cool' or 'slang' words from the modern era side by side with those of the 1920's was rather amusing but added depth to the storyline.
This book invoked such powerful emotions within me that I just did not want to let it go. Normally I pick up another book straight away if I get the chance, on this occasion I had a 2 hour time slot to fill while waiting for one of my children and I just could not bring myself to pick up another book as I did not want to lose the feeling I had when I finished this one. The ending was bitter-sweet but gripping.
This is one book that I would recommend the entire world to read. Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime. I am keeping it on my bookshelf and will be passing it down to my children when they are old enough to read it. It is the whole kit & caboodle....touching, inspiring, heart warming, thought provoking....do I need to go on ;)
Heavenly is the first book in the Heavenly series by Jennifer Laurens. It was published in 2009 (US) with the second and third books in the series being released in 2010. Heavenly is 280 pages long. Thanks to the author for sending me a copy for review.
Zoe's home life is a nightmare. Having an autistic sister means never having any real time for herself and always having to help out. Her brother is a drug addict, which doesn't help any. The only way Zoe knows how to cope is by extreme partying. Drinking, out all night and random boys is a recipe for disaster but her parents don't even notice. They never even see that something is wrong.
When Zoe thinks things are never going to get better, she meets Mathias, her sister's guardian angel. To begin with, she thinks all of the drinking and no sleep is playing tricks on her mind but Mathias is real and he isn't going anywhere. Will this angel sent from Heaven be able to save Zoe and her disaster of a life before she goes too far?
What I thought
After hearing really good things about this series from a blogger friend, I was really excited to read it. We usually have very similar tastes in books so I was all ready for a book I was going to love. Unfortunately, this is one book that we don't have the same opinion on.
One thing that I did love about this book was the idea behind the plot. Angels are really big in YA books at the minute but the idea of Zoe's sister being autistic and her having the guardian angel instead was something new and different. Usually, the angel has more to do with the MC so it was nice to see this changed up a little bit. I am really liking YA novels which really try to break away from the norm of what is out there at the minute and Jennifer Laurens certainly does try with Heavenly.
Siblings Zoe and Luke are very easy to relate to. Both have their problems and try to sort them out in different ways. I was quite the rebellious teenager myself so I could certainly relate to them both. I went out all of the time and did crazy things to take my mind off my home life so these parts of the story brought back some of my own memories. Laurens writes teenagers extremely well and I felt like these were two of the most real teenagers (for the most part) that I had read about for a while.
The dialogue was what bugged me about this book. It was very unbelievable at times, especially from Zoe and Mathias. Mathias' background dated back to the '20s and he didn't really understand too much about pop culture. I would have understood this a lot more if this had been more consistent. Sometimes, Mathias would appear to be quite current but then he would go back to speaking like someone in the '20s would have. Also, there was a part of the book where Mathias explains about other angels bringing each other up to date with what is happening in the world but if this were the case, surely his language and knowledge would have been better? He also said 'I'm blown away by that' WAY too much and in the end, I wanted to take these words out of his vocabulary just so he couldn't say it anymore.
Heavenly did have some great plot twists though and I didn't see them coming at all. Everything was built up nicely from the very start and had a lovely mixture of tender moments between Zoe and Mathias as well as some excitement. Overall, Heavenly just didn't live up to my expectations. It has quite a lot of good things going for it but there were also some things that I hated which makes me unsure about whether or not I want to read the next instalment in the series.