Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review: In The Arms Of Stone Angels by Jordan Dane


In the Arms of Stone Angels by Jordan Dane

Pages: 313
Publisher: Harlequin Teen Australia
Published: May 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781921793110

Two years ago Brenna did the unthinkable. She witnessed the aftermath of a murder and accused her only true friend — the first boy she ever loved — of being a killer.

Now sixteen, Brenna returns to Oklahoma only to discover that Isaac ‘White Bird’ Henry isn’t in juvie. The half-breed outcast is in a mental hospital, frozen in time, locked in his mind at the worst moment of his life. When Brenna touches him, she’s pulled into his hellish vision quest, seeing terrifying demons and illusions she doesn’t understand.

Feeling isolated and alone, Brenna’s up against the whole town: targeted by bullying former classmates, a bigoted small town sheriff and a tribe who refuses to help one of their own.

But when Brenna realises she’s as trapped by the past as White Bird is, this time she won’t turn her back on him. She’s the only one who can free them both. Even if she has to expose her secret — a ‘gift’ she’s kept hidden her whole life.

Brenna lost the only person she'd ever really connected with, and if that weren't hard enough alone, she has to deal with the guilt that comes with being the one that sent him away. Two years ago Brenna saw White Bird deranged and bloodied over the body of a classmate and called the police, despite knowing that he was the person least likely to ever commit such a violence. Now it's clear that the only way she can ever move on is by going back and helping White Bird out of the mess she left him in.

I consider myself pretty skilled in eye-rolling, but this book made me feel out of practice. I literally couldn't keep up with the demand for eye-rolling. The characters were painfully contrived and the dynamics and interactions between them unrealistic. So much of the novel demanded angry, audible responses. "This is not how you do people."

For instance, Brenna herself is established almost immediately as an individual. She reminds us constantly just how different she is, seeming at times to be consciously choosing not to fit into with the town Dane created full of stock characters. She condemns anyone with a) friends and b) popular interests as sell-outs and indiscriminately hates them all the way she says they indiscriminately hate her. She thinks her town is small-minded and can't stand individuality, but they mostly dislike her because she thinks she's better than everyone else. Or else because she talks to herself a lot.

The narration shifted out of Brenna's perspective and at some point into the third person narration of almost every other notable character, leaving nothing to bolster this book's esteemed mystery. Even when the change felt like a respite from Brenna's irritating and disingenuous voice, the next character -- the unrealistically cruel bullies, the hackneyed police sheriff, or the inexplicably intense doctor with the unexplained ulterior motive -- proved to be as terribly constructed. I'm left wondering whether it was that Dane doesn't understand people or how to recreate them.

In The Arms Of Stone Angels was pitched as a psychological drama/thriller, which is what I picked up the story for, and what I hoped would make up for the characterisation. But it was ultimately rather boring. There was no suspense, just Brenna trying (not very hard at all) to clear White Bird's name and angsting about the impact what she did had on her. The height of the drama came at the very end in a separate plot thread to the main concern, like an afterthought when the first crashed.

In The Arms of Stone Angels 
is full of characters who evoke more irritation than sympathy, and with a slow, unmysterious plot that doesn't compensate. Although, the book has been generally well-received, so don't rule it out too quickly.