Sixteen-year-old Rayna sees angels, and has the medication and weekly therapy sessions to prove it. Now, in remission, Rayna starts fresh at a new school, lands a new job, and desperately tries for normalcy. She ignores signs that she may be slipping into the world she has tried so hard to climb out of. But these days, it’s more than just hallucinations that keep Rayna up at night. Students are dying, and she may be the only one who can stop it. Can she keep her job, her sanity, and her friends from dying at the hands of angels she can't admit to seeing?
Paperback, 321 pagesExpected publication: January 29th 2013 by Month9Books, LLC
(summary grabbed from GoodReads)
In writing, there's a term called the suspension of disbelief, which is if you can fuse "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative (definition grabbed from Wikipedia). This means you can make something fantastical seem like it could be possible as long as everything else in the story is accurate and the abnormal or paranormal elements fit into the normal. This is the big problem with A Shimmer of Angels: my suspension of disbelief was shattered.
The angel mythos was not the issue -- as Lisa M. Basso fit that into the world without a hiccup -- the issue was the way the mental health system was portrayed. Rayna's mental stability is a big part of the book and it is talked about a lot. It gets mentioned every few paragraphs in the beginning. The problems were that everything that was said about it was not based in current reality and researched poorly. For example, we are told in the beginning that Rayna was locked up for three years in a mental clinic she refers to as the S.S. Crazy, but has been released and is going to high school. A couple huge questions arise from just that: 1.) Why was Rayna locked up for three years? and 2.) how is she in her appropriate grade when it is implied she hasn't gone to school during those three years? There are no answers to either of these within the book, other than Rayna was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The answer to question 2.) would be simple: she wouldn't be in her normal grade.
There was little to no back-story to Rayna's diagnosis or treatment, and the problem with that is the procedure for being admitted is a bit more complicated than simply, "I see things, therefore I'm crazy," go to a psychiatrist, he confirms, "Yes, you're crazy," gives stamp of approval for schizophrenia, and lock up the patient indefinitely and drug her to oblivion. It doesn't work like that. Actually, to be admitted, you have to be considered a danger to yourself or others, or it has to be seen as beneficial to the patient’s treatment to remove them from the normal stresses of everyday life. Rayna may have fallen under the latter category, but definitely not the first. In fact, a lot of the experiences Rayna describes would be accurate for a combative or suicidal patient, such as being put in restraints and watched 24/7. But Rayna is neither of those. Furthermore, according to her own accounts, Rayna is nothing but a model patient.
Rayna's mental state was just as important as the fact that there were angels in San Francisco. It affected everything within the book and was potentially talked about more than the angels themselves. Actually when I think about it, there was not a lot of background on the Angels, their hierarchy, or any of the like. They did discuss fallen angels, and that's about it from my memory.
"But Momo, this is fiction," you may be saying. Yes this is fiction, but good fiction is still grounded in reality, which makes it relatable to the reader. This distance from reality made it impossible for me to get into the book. I didn't care for what was happening, I didn't care for the characters, I didn't care about anything really. I briefly searched on the internet the basic laws regarding minors in the state of California and found plenty of information that countered the events in A Shimmer of Angels. That's all it took was a brief search, and I'm not even writing a novel about a schizophrenic girl -- I'm writing an angry review about a novel about a schizophrenic girl.
Final Thought: 1 out of 52 toadstools
This review is also posted on GoodReads