Author: L.A. Weatherly
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Format: Review copy from publisher (Thank you!)
Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself does. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil.—Goodreads
Angel Burn is a lot of things: a paranormal romance, a road trip novel, a coming-of-age story, and, I'd argue, a dystopian satire. It's full of evil angels, power plays, personal agendas, and some very kick ass action scenes. While that sounds like a whole lot of things that could potentially NOT come together, the story is very well-plotted and very cohesive.
The book centers around Willow Fields, a girl I immediately like solely because of my devotion to all things related to Buffy, but learn to super like when she starts fixing cars and reading people's minds. After she gives a not-so-happy-ending type psychic reading to a very popular girl in school who has been "blessed" by seeing an angel, Willow finds her life turned upside down.
You see, in this sort of dystopian world, angels feed off of the auras of humans, depleting them of their health, but the humans believe that they've had a divine experience and find themselves irrevocably devoted to the Church of the Angels, a nation-wide mega-church with maybe the most devout members ever.
Then there are the Angel Killers, people who know that the angels are actually bad news, and who have devoted their lives to finding and killing the angels before the human race is laid to waste. The other main character of Angel Burn, Alex, is one such person, groomed to kill angels from the sweet age of five.
So how do the two main characters meet? As it turns out, Alex has been hired to kill Willow. But once he meets her, he realizes there is something very different about her, and can't bring himself to do it. Instead, the two find themselves on the run across the country, being pursued by not only evil angels, but the Church members who have been charged with a fatwa-like duty to kill both Alex and Willow if spotted.
While I ultimately really enjoyed this book, the first hundred pages or so were really hard for me to get through. I found the story unfolding very slowly and didn't think that the book needed the moody scene-setting and world building that it has. However, in the long run, I was very glad that I had the background information, though I think the page count for it could have been cut in half.
My other gripe about the book is that it's told from multiple perspectives, and in different points of view. When you're reading from Willow's perspective, everything is first person, but when it shifts to Alex (or another character, Jonah's) perspective, it's suddenly third person. This will happen in the middle of chapters, which is probably the reason for the different points of view, but I found it very distracting and halting.
However, there are a lot of things to really like about Angel Burn, and I found myself endeared to it not just because of the Willow's name, but because it mentions TWO places I've lived in—Syracuse, NY and Arkansas! I was all kinds of excited about this, because, I mean, it's a little rare to have two places you've lived listed in the same dang book. Then, as it turns out, the author, L.A. Weatherly, is an Arkansas native! *does happy dance*
So, if you're looking for a book that you can really invest in, and that has a very rich, detailed, inter-woven plot, with a bit of paranormal thrown in, Angel Burn is absolutely the book for you.