Thursday, June 20, 2013

ARC Review: Outcast by Adrienne Kress (@adriennekress)

OutcastFrom the blurb:

After six years of “angels” coming out of the sky and taking people from her town, 16-year-old Riley Carver has just about had it living with the constant fear. When one decides to terrorize her in her own backyard, it’s the final straw. She takes her mother’s shotgun and shoots the thing. So it’s dead. Or … not? In place of the creature she shot, is a guy. A really hot guy. A really hot alive and breathing guy. Oh, and he’s totally naked.
Not sure what to do, she drags his unconscious body to the tool shed and ties him up. After all, he’s an angel and they have tricks. When he regains consciousness she’s all set to interrogate him about why the angels come to her town, and how to get back her best friend (and almost boyfriend) Chris, who was taken the year before. But it turns out the naked guy in her shed is just as confused about everything as she is.

He thinks it’s 1956.
Set in the deep south, OUTCAST is a story of love, trust, and coming of age. It’s also a story about the supernatural, a girl with a strange sense of humor who’s got wicked aim, a greaser from the 50’s, and an army of misfits coming together for one purpose: To kick some serious angel ass.

Sandra's rating:

Wow. That was simply stunning. With quirky story telling, this somewhat dark and creepy and often laugh out loud funny story is no Angelfall. And that's a good thing.

In a small southern town, angels are said to be taking several young people once a year. No one has ever seen the angels, but every August, a few people disappear in the great taking. The town's minister has convinced the people that he's talking to the angels, and that their town is special. The good townspeople even built him a church. The author subtly reminds us of sheep mentality, when she describes the rising influence the minister enjoys, even going so far as giving him special powers on the town's council. I drew parallels to similar situations, where one person convinced the masses of his own goodness and people simply followed along because they didn't want to be seen as different.

Riley Carver is one of the dissenters, ever since her almost boyfriend Chris (he of the first and only kiss) was taken the previous year. She's not attending the gathering this year, no sirree. She's angry and grieving, and sick of living in fear. And when an angel shows up in her yard, she takes her shotgun and shoots him straight in the face.

I cheered and fistpumped, and I had only just started this book.

When Riley realizes that instead of a dead angel, there's an unconscious, seriously hot and very naked guy lying in her yard, she does what any smart girl would do and drags him into her daddy's shed. All tied up, the guy comes to, confused because he thinks it's 1956.

I was giggle-snorting at their witty banter. Riley gives as good as she gets and Gabe McClure is no shrinking violet either.

As the story progresses and we find out more about Gabe and where he came from, the mystery about the angels and the yearly disappearances only deepens.

I applaud the author for letting the relationship between Riley and Gabe progress slowly, and for avoiding the YA pitfall of instalove. Thanks so much for that.

The angel and nephilim mythology is slightly twisted to suit the plot, but made overall sense. The author did a good job with world-building in this novel, and I didn't see any apparent plot holes. I was also quite surprised (and rather impressed) that the author used the standard mean girl (Lacy) and allowed her to become so much more than the stereotype, letting her grow into an integral part of the novel and the finale.

Riley herself is a very complex and very well crafted heroine. She's dealing with grief and anger without the usual woe-is-me teenage can't-get-over-myself mentality, and she is also not afraid to admit to making mistakes and misjudging people. And brave. Wow, she sure is brave. She's a natural leader, resourceful, doesn't shy back from a difficult situation and completely defies the YA stereotype of the female teenager. It was quite a privilege to live inside her head for the duration of this book.

Gabe is also portrayed as more than just a guy from the wrong side of the tracks. He's smart, even though he has no idea about technology beyond the '50s, and he's just as brave and self-sacrificing as Riley.

Both characters grow throughout the book, in a way that doesn't seem forced or contrived. The progression of their characters made sense in the situations they faced, and even though Gabe has an Edward Cullen moment, Riley doesn't let him get away with it.

The ending was unexpected, to say the least, and I really liked how the author chose to conclude the story. It was an ending that made me happy and a bit sad at the same time. Happy with the perfection of it, and sad that the book was over.

There were a couple of things that were unrealistic, primarily Riley's mom's reaction to Gabe showing up at their house, and buying his explanation without verification. Her father isn't much different, just taking him at his word, despite never having seen him before.

Gabe's reaction to being fast forwarded 50 years or so was also slightly unbelievable. He seemed very accepting of this fact, more so than I expected him to be. I thought he would have questioned it a bit more, instead of diving head-on into high school and working. I assume part of this was to establish his character traits, showing him as someone who's laid back and takes things as they come. This then does make sense considering his backstory.

I did quite like the fact that the author let him speak in a way that fit the time period in which he grew up, and I giggle quite a few times when he said 'swell'. Oddly enough, nobody questions this, but I supposed that people sometimes feel a bit shy about bringing up someone else's differences, especially in the PC world we live in today.

Then there was quite a bit of proofreading/editing that was missed. I'll forgive this in an ARC, but hope that these issues were addressed prior to publication.

Overall, I very much enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it. If you enjoy a kickass heroine with an awesome sense of humor, and a riveting and slightly creepy angel tale, this is a book for you.

I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return.

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