Angels in YA Literature (Part 1)

In continuing with my angel and devil-themed posts, I wanted to take a closer look at Young Adult literature, which has recently heralded a host of books on dark or “fallen” angels, in particular.

These are no mere cherubs – they’re winged beings with a dangerous edge. The male lead in current YA angel novels still tend to be Edward Cullen-esque, with their possessiveness and their secretive nature, but lately, things have been getting a wee bit darker.

Hush Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick (released 2009) has Patch, a fallen angel who is Bad News. Yet Nora Grey, our requisite damsel-in-distress protagonist, can’t stay away from him. When this book was first released, bloggers were split clean down the middle. On one side, YA romantics loved the forbidden love and compared the book favourably to Twilight, calling it “thrilling” and “seductive”. On the other side were YA bloggers who were disturbed by the physical interaction between Patch and Nora, considering Patch’s actions to be less seductive and more ‘abusive’. What example is it setting for young adults, to have a protagonist drawn to a bad boy who slams her against a bench, when she has a sinking feeling that he wants to kill her and yet still yearns to trust him?
I’ve read the book, and find myself somewhere in the middle: yes, there are a couple of questionable scenes in the novel, but I figure most girls are smart enough to draw a crooked (okay, sometimes very crooked) line between fantasy and reality, and can enjoy Hush, Hush for what it is: a forbidden romance between a paranormal guy and a human girl, testing the boundaries of hormonal attraction.

I must say, though, I prefer the idea behind Lauren Kate’s Fallen, released just after Hush, Hush. In Fallen, Lucinda falls in love with Daniel, a guy at her new school. Life gets a little more difficult for Lucinda after she finds out Daniel is actually a fallen angel, and that they’ve had a history (ie. many previous lives) where they’ve fallen in love and lost each other each time, thanks to good and evil forces trying to keep them apart. What I like about this scenario is that Lucinda isn’t a passive character – she has responsibility from the experience of her previous lives, and she plays a more active role in attempting to combat fate and the forces, rather than be prone to them. There’re some nice mythology references as well.

Having a dark and tortured celestial being for a boyfriend is a pretty seductive scenario to me – no wonder these kinds of books are so popular. But what I’m really looking forward to is the YA novel where the FEMALE is the fallen angel and the male is the human – would put quite a spin on things, no?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Angels in YA Literature, which focuses on angels existing in a world populated with other sorts of paranormal beings.

Angels in Literature: Who Dares Disturb Their Slumber?

I noticed recently that Boomerang Books had twittered about a book trailer for The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson. Released back in 2008, I read the book as soon as I could get my hands on it because the blurb just sounded so damn good:

The nameless narrator of The Gargoyle is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and wakes up in a burns ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned. His life is over – he is now a monster. One day, Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress of gargoyles, enters his life and tells him that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. As she spins her tale, Scheherazade fashion, and relates equally mesmerising stories of deathless love in Japan, Greenland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life – and, finally, to love.

This strange debut offering – which had such a high-falutin’ storyline – turned out to be compulsively readable. From the first sentence the book leapt free of the Gothic Classic narrative I’d been banking on, and was testing its wings in an entirely more modern context. And it may have been more of a shock, because the narrator wasn’t some damsel-in-distress wooed by a chance at love, it was a Hollywood heartthrob with a face of ash, being wooed by an excaped patient from the psychiatric ward next door. So yeah, romance can happen in all places, to all types of people. And this message gave The Gargoyle its ability to enter massmarket fiction for adults. Indeed, it was the first time since the 90s (when angels were popular for the ‘Hard Rock Goths’), that I sensed the concept of a winged being had embarked on a dark road: one to commercial success (excess).

Gargoyles; vampires; angels; demons; concepts of heaven and hell, have all experienced a resurgence in literature. Gothic is all the rage right now, for some reason. You could perhaps, credit Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Gothic poem Christabel (one of me faves) as the stirring of vampires in the 1800s. From there, friend and contemporary Mary Shelley produced Frankenstein, Sheridan Le Fanu was inspired to write a cracking novella titled ‘Carmilla’, and this in turn is said to have partly influenced a book you may know: Dracula, by Bram Stoker.

While Twilight may have awoken the sleeping dead for teenagers and starry-eyed 20- and 30-something women, word around the book blog traps has been that angels, riding on the coattails of the humanised vampire, are ready for a descent themselves. Not only a descent into the world of teens, mind you, but with a plan for fantasy fiction world takeover (including all its subgenre cities).

I don’t know just yet if angels are indeed the new vampires, but the whole religious idea and how it has been translated into popular culture definitely deserves some further investigation. Why are they popular again? How do they differ from their original concept? Religious connotations of heaven and hell, as alluded to in The Gargoyle, also requires some exploration.

Grab a shovel, and get ready to do some digging. Stay tuned for future angelic/demonic posts – it’s a heaven/hell extravaganza!