Review: Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

I received an ARC of Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore as a fun surprise from her agent, Holly Root. When I talked to Holly about getting my hands on a copy of Defiance, she mentioned she may throw a couple other goodies into the envelope. This was one of them.

I hadn’t heard anything about this book before I found myself holding it in my hands. But I trust Holly’s taste, since she represents some amazing authors. Plus she has met me and read my blog, so I was pretty sure she wouldn’t send me something unless she thought I would like it.

The Plot

Two years ago, Brielle Matthews left her small-town home of Stratus, Oregon for a prestigious boarding school in the big city, ready to make it big as a dancer and model. But now she is returning home, a fragile shell of her former self, after the brutal murder of her best friend, Ali.

As Brielle struggles to assimilate back into her life in Stratus, she can’t help but notice the handsome new boy who seems to have arrived in town at the same time as her. And the boy, Jake, seems absolutely determined to be a part of her life.

But soon into Brielle’s cautious new friendship with Jake, she realizes that there is more to him than meets the eye. He possesses miraculous powers that shouldn’t be possible. And he knows way too much about her.

Brielle’s eyes are opened — literally — when Jake reveals his secret. His mysterious guardian, Canaan, is an angel. He has given Jake certain powers from the Celestial realm. And somehow, although neither Jake nor Canaan fully understand why, Jake and Brielle’s paths were destined to cross.

There’s not a lot of time to process all this information, though. Because Ali’s killer is still on the loose. The stakes are higher than anyone imagined. And he’s coming for Brielle and Jake.

My Thoughts

I have to admit, I get a little dubious when I pick up something labeled “Christian Fiction.” It’s not that I don’t admire what the authors are trying to do; I do. And I’m firmly planted in their target audience — I’m a Christian, I read a lot, and I like stories where fantastical events take place. But so often, these books come across as cheesy and kind of lame. The writing is sub-par. The dialogue is hokey. The characters are unrealistic. The plots are forced. The reader feels completely steamrolled by the “moral of the story.” And I wind up disappointed.

However, I was pleasantly surprised with Angel Eyes. I liked Brielle and Jake. Brielle asked some hard questions. Jake didn’t always have all the answers. There was a wee bit of insta-love lurking around their relationship, but it’s mostly understandable considering the scenario they are in. I liked that Brielle wasn’t able to just bounce back from her friend’s murder, and that she didn’t just blindly accept everything that Jake told her. She struggled throughout the book, and I appreciated that.

The way Ms. Dittemore writes about her angels and demons, you can tell she put a lot of thought into their realm and how it functions. It was interesting and exciting and mysterious. I definitely kept in mind that this is a work of fiction, so I didn’t really mind if not everything matched up perfectly with what I believe to be true. She’s allowed some artistic license in how she chooses to portray her world, and the spiritual warfare portrayed in Angel Eyes was very compelling.

I did have a few minor complaints with the book. I wasn’t a fan of the perspective changes between Brielle, Canaan, and Damien (one of the demons). Brielle’s perspective was easy to read, natural, and engaging. The other two felt a little forced. I understand that it would have been impossible to completely portray everything that was going on in the Celestial realm without switching from Brielle’s POV, but it just didn’t feel right to me. I’m not sure how it could have been done better; I just know I wasn’t totally satisfied with the way it was. Probably part of the problem was that I just didn’t really connect with any of the Celestial characters. I loved all the human characters, but the supernatural ones fell a little flat to me.

There was a tiny bit of cheese. Just a bit, and not enough to overwhelm the book or take me out of the story. But occasionally, cheese reared its ugly head.

And there was a bit of a Touched By an Angel moment. If you already believe in God, it probably wouldn’t bother you. It didn’t bother me. But if you don’t, you may find it a bit much. But then again, if you don’t believe in God, you’re already taking a bit of a gamble in reading Christian Fiction. Only you can know your own tolerance level for that sort of thing.

I’d categorize Angel Eyes as kind of a cross between the books of Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, but for the YA audience. It has likable characters, an intriguing story, beautiful descriptions, and a powerful spiritual message. Ms. Dittemore sets up the ending for a sequel, although the story from this book is wrapped up nicely, and I’ll be very interested to see what happens to Brielle and Jake.

Content Guide: Contains violence, spiritual warfare, and mentions of human trafficking. 

Coming soon: My interview with the author, Shannon Dittemore!