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Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens

January 28, 2010
Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens
published by Grove Creek Publishing August 15, 2009

Eighteen-year-old Zoe and her sixteen-year-old brother Luke have been living on the edge. Since their little sister Abria was born, and eventually diagnosed with autism, life has changed radically. Abria is nonverbal and she persistently runs away and tries to climb out windows. Keeping her safe requires the whole family to be constantly vigilant.

Zoe is a loving sister, yet she is angry and resentful at the way Abria’s complex needs have twisted her life beyond recognition. She escapes her pain through drinking and promiscuity. At the same time, she worries about her brother Luke’s heavy marijuana abuse.

In the midst of this, she meets someone new. Matthias is perfect — gentle, compassionate and handsome, and he makes Zoe swoon. He is also Abria’s guardian angel. Gradually, Zoe gets closer to him and learns a bit about his mortal life. Yet romance with an angel is impossible — or is it?

When my teenage daughter saw this book had come in the mail, she warned me it might be “a bad Rules/Twilight mish-mash.” I love this kids edgy sense of humor. 🙂 However, I was looking forward to see how the author would weave together paranormal romance and an exploration of life with an autistic sibling.

Heavenly explores autism in a believable way and it offers an imaginative premise. The author writes very well, and her rich life experience as a mother of six kids, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, illuminate the story. There was no subtlety in Zoe’s ambivalence toward her little sister, love and guilt tangled with anger over the weight of Abria’s needs, but I think that is typical of YA literature — issues and themes are explored with less subtlety than it “adult” novels. And I think that’s a story well worth exploring.

I also liked the fact that the author wasn’t afraid to be honest about teen sexuality and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. I am not saying Zoe’s and Luke’s choices are “typical” of adolescent life, but it’s definitely out there, and I like it when YA writers don’t patronize their readers by pretending otherwise.

However, as much as I wanted to like this novel, the characters and dialogue just didn’t draw me in. I found Matthias, an angel out of his own time, interesting, but he seemed one dimensional. He repeatedly asked Zoe “what does your heart tell you,” until it made me cringe. I just didn’t find the romance, or Zoe’s story, compelling.

On the other hand, it is a unique story with a surprising ending. For more positive reviews, see: Stop, Drop, and Read and I Am Nonfiction

I borrowed this book from Around the World Tours

Read More Reviews:
Sarah’s Book Reviews
Book Fanatics
The Bibliophilic Book Blog
Stop, Drop, and Read
I Am Nonfiction

Did I Miss Yours??

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