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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Reapers are the Angels

Todd Jepperson

How would a person get by in a fractured world overrun by monsters? What if that person was a woman, on her own? What if she was 15? The Reapers are the Angels gives us just a glimpse of the life of Temple (a.k.a. Sarah Mary Williams) as she saunters, unassumingly, through the nightmare she was born into. Temple knows a lot more about the world than most, because she’s learned how to get by in it. She knows that the Meatskins and Slugs that have the scant populations of humans shrinking into the small corners of the world are just doing what they’re meant to. The world has order, and the world is right. As frightening and dangerous as it may be, it’s easy enough to get by if you just keep your eyes high, and your heart stuffed way down deep where it can’t tell you to feel. It’s the people that you’ve gotta worry about. The people are the real monsters, the people like her.

I found myself really liking Bell’s characters, Temple and Moses Todd. Their vernacular and the Deep South drawl was really fun to read. Temple came across to me as a teenage girl John Wayne. She was strong, defiant, and reckless, but bit by bit Bell feeds you pieces of who she is inside. He shows you her vulnerabilities and her attachment to a boy, who may or may not have been her brother, named Malcolm. She doesn’t really know who he was, but he was there in her earliest memories. It doesn’t seem to matter much whether he’s true blood related, or not - he’s her brother all the same.

Moses Todd is another sort. He’s resigned to play the hand dealt him regardless of what the house is betting. He sees the same order to life that Temple sees, only through different eyes. He’s older, stronger, and knows what the world was like before. Come hell or high water, Moses Todd will make his way same as always. He and Temple become linked throughout the story, and as much as I didn’t want to, I really grew to like him.

The narrative of the book probably details only a few weeks, but by the end of the book I felt that I knew Temple’s whole life story. The way she deals with the lemons of life is heartening. Not only does she have a “glass half full” kinda way about her, she brings it out in others. She does her very best to be a cold, hard stone, but she’s too innocent and good to really let that happen. When she comes across a poor, handicapped old man named Maury, she can’t help but go out of her way to see him safely to someone who’ll take care of him. She’d never admit it, but she develops a matriarchal type of love for the poor “dummy” and can’t bear to leave him on his own. It’s probably a lot like the way I felt about poor little Temple. The end of the book left me feeling all mushy and benevolent, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little bit leaky-eyed.

Now for the disclaimers: this book is a Young Adult novel – heavy on the ADULT. I don’t know about you, but when I think YA, I think Young (not quite) Adult; where maybe the publisher was thinking over 18, but not grey. This book has Drug use, Alcohol, Smoking, Sex, and Violence. It sounds like the recipe for a great book, and I agree. It was a GREAT book; only, I wouldn’t recommend it to my kids until late in their teens.

An excellent story, outstanding characters, and impressive world building make this a definite good time read for any corpse happy zombie nut. The third person progressive style of writing, disorderly word choice, and minimalist punctuation style was a little bit of a texture I had to get used to, but I got used to it.

Highly Recommended

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