Voices of Angels, Hannah M. Davis – Okay, so the title could use some work (it sounds like a made-for-TV movie). And looking back, I find it a strange that the cover features a female angel when the stone statue starring in this novel is so distinctly male. Nevertheless, Davis’s debut YA novel is a raging success.
Davis has taken her marketing by the horns and hands out the first chapter of Voices of Angels complimentary on her website. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with it. The plot had potential, but the writing just didn’t grab me, so I shelved it and moved on. (What really did me in was the sheer number of typos and editing errors. I was a bit disappointed in her publisher, O Books, for the volume of obvious mistakes they allowed into this novel.) But when I discovered Voices of Angels was only available in eBook format, I decided, “Well, shoot, it’s only $2.99. Why not?”
Lizzie Fisher is a bit of an odd duck. As is typical in the genre, she’s an outcast tormented by her gorgeous, vapid nemesis Belinda (Bee). But when Lizzie’s classmates discover she can predict death (and a few characters meet untimely demises), Lizzie escapes to Spain to live with her estranged and lovingly eccentric grandmother–where she meets Rafa, an enigmatic Spaniard.
The obvious caricatures of the London characters are distracting at first, but Davis soon finds her stride and the novel blossoms in the second act. The Spanish countryside, posing like a sexy underwear model in the background, really gives Voices of Angels outstanding color and flavor. Ariadne, Lizzie’s grandmother, owns an exotic mountain villa that Davis paints in masterful strokes. Not to mention that Ariadne herself is a fabulous character: she reminds me so much of my own grandmother that it was sometimes hard to read about her. She is genuine and free, a personality that speaks to the troubled and yet passionate Lizzie.
“I love this place, you know.” Ariadne murmured. “Do you feel it?”
But Ariadne didn’t reply.
The romance almost explodes off the page in Voices of Angels. Rafa, a young flamenco guitarist, is vibrant. (And I don’t just mean his sexy Spanish accent.) Let me just say that Davis knows how to write a real, raw kiss. It’s been so long since I read one that good, I’d almost forgotten what it was like. (It’s awesome, in case you’re wondering.) Not to mention that Davis’s exploration of death and the vibrance it can bring to life gave me tingles.
But, as is so often the case with dramas, the conflict between the protagonists–Lizzie and Ariadne–and the antagonists–Bee and Lizzie’s mother–becomes a bit of a trope. Bee is an obvious caricature of “that popular girl,” to the point of maddening and frequently unbelievable. Lizzie has an equally irritating habit of gloating her victories over the other girl; it seems to me that a teenager like Bee, who parades her body around and survives on attention, is experiencing just as much insecurity and self-doubt as the outcast. Taunting her is like rubbing salt in a festering wound.
For an indie book, Davis’s Voices is–shall I say (in the cliché language of movie reviewers)–“a triumph.” Check it out. And it’s only $2.99.
This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5