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When I first started Angel Eyes, I was hesitant: here was another book about angels; however, shortly into Shannon Dittemore's debut novel, I was happily devouring Brielle's story. Ballerina Brielle has returned home to her small town after a few years away at a school where she pursued her love of dancing. Following the death of her best friend, Brielle is shocked and grief-stricken, and I thought that Dittemore portrayed Brielle's heart-ache very poignant and realistically. I connected instantly with Brielle because of this, knowing that if I were to lose one of my best friends, I would be right there with Brielle. She doesn't stop living, but she does have her issues, fears and doubts that go a long way to humanize her. Brielle is sad, but very likeable - she's independent and curious and the kind of girl I'd like to know. I liked Brielle, and I really liked her father, and was really glad to see a supportive parental figure in a YA novel.
When Brielle meets Jake - the only person who has made her feel warm, comfortable, or safe in some time - sparks fly, but in an absolutely heart-melting way. From their unorthodox first few meetings, to their growing relationship, to the revelation of what Jake can do, and who he becomes to Brielle, I adored them. (And personally, I was glad to FINALLY read a book without a love triangle. I'd forgotten how amazingly awesome it was just to get to watch one girl fall in love with one boy.) Normally I would label a couple like this as "insta love," considering that in some ways, they did move fast, yet there was something so appealing, so fantastically believable about Jake and Brielle, that I couldn't help but fall for them. There is a question further into Angel Eyes that makes you wonder: can Fate really bring two people together? For Jake and Brielle, there weren't any easy answers - nothing was easily wrapped up with a bow for them, and you definitely got the sense that these two people will have to fight for their happiness...but are prepared to go about that fight together, stronger for having known one another.
Shannon Dittemore has a lovely writing style, and a way of leaving the reader with questions. She doesn't over-explain; rather, she gives you clues enough so that you aren't lost, but makes you work for answers. And I liked that. Angel Eyes is told in various points of view, and while sometimes it switched too fast for me, I also thought for the most part, that worked for this book. Largely because of the different view points - including one of the villains - the sense of danger is magnified in a heart-pounding way. There's a great deal at stake, and I absolutely adored all the angel mythos and look forward to seeing where it all goes in the sequel.
Finally, yes, there are religious overtones in Angel Eyes. I was somewhat wary of that aspect of this book, yet I knew I HAD to read it, and I am very glad that I did. Some authors make the mistake of becoming "preachy," and yet, Dittemore doesn't. Instead, there is a peace to Angel Eyes that made me want to wrap my arms around this book. Personally, I know I struggle with religion, as do many people I know. But somehow, you could feel an intense sort of love in this book, a light that yearned to break through and combat the dark, a sense that somehow, someday good WOULD triumph over evil. And yes, good, evil, God, and angels are all scattered across the battlefield here, and it's clear that a fight is coming, but it's equally clear that Jake and Brielle are on the right side. Bravo to Shannon Dittemore for daring to put forth such a brave story, and I cannot wait to read the sequel, Broken Wings.
With a phenomenal cast of characters - both major, and secondary - and a love story you won't soon forget or dismiss, Angel Eyes isn't a debut novel that you want to miss.