Author: Adrienne Kress
Publisher: Diversion Books, 2013
First off, Adrienne Kress has taken a trope that’s been done to death in YA fiction and recast it in a way that’s both fresh and quirky. This is not [yawn] *yet* another angel book.
Riley, who lives in a typical small town in the American South is your average teen girl. She does okay at school and has all the regular issues you’d expect. Except that the small town where she lives isn’t exactly normal. Once a year, on the same day, “angels” come down to take a select few young people. What makes it worse is that there’s a pastor at the head of a new church dedicated to these angels who’s convinced the townsfolk that it’s not just okay that this is happening, but that it’s an honour for them to be chosen.
But Riley’s having none of this. During the previous “angelic” raid, her best friend Chris was taken, and Riley’s not quite over his disappearance. So, naturally, when an angel pitches up in her parents’ yard, ostensibly to take her too, she’s more than just a little bit peeved. As it turns out she’s pretty handy with a shotgun too, and she shoots the angel in the face.
From there on in, things get interesting. When Riley goes to investigate, she finds no dead angel on the lawn but a young, hot and rather naked guy who’s still alive and unharmed. She does the most sensible thing (of course) by trussing him up and holding him hostage in the garden shed. The mysterious young man – aptly named Gabe – has no recollection of any angelic doings. In fact, he claims to be a local. The only problem is, he remembers the town as it was during the 1950s. Between the two of them they have a year until the next angelic visitation to unravel the mystery of the so-called angels and why they’ve been snatching people.
Overall, Kress keeps the story going with a healthy balance between typical teen angst of budding romances and the bigger picture. At times I did feel that Riley lost sight of her goals and gets lost in everyday issues, but Kress brings in little nudges to progress the plot where necessary. Characters are well-realised, the dialogue is often laugh-out-loud funny, and Kress delivers on a satisfying tale despite the amount of down time. Riley, in particular, stands out as a strong female protagonist in a genre riddled with vapid heroines; Outcast has none of the fatal pitfalls that mar other well-known stories in this genre. The dead-tree version of this might be a bit on the pricy side, but definitely consider this for your Kindle or preferred electronic reading device.