Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audio Review: Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt

Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt. Unabridged audiobook on 5 compact discs. 5 hours and 2 minutes. Read by Laurel Kathleen. Simon & Schuster Audio, March, 2019. 9781508276975. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

A new book by Kathi Appelt is basically an automatic purchase for me. Her books are always lyrical, complex and atmospheric. I also assumed she was solidly middle grade but learned my lesson here - make no assumptions. Read the reviews even if you love the author or read the book before cataloging. And, thank goodness I did that here. 

Angel Thieves is decidedly YA. The F-bomb is dropped (quite appropriately) in the first minutes of the story. Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis and his dad are robbing a cemetery in the early hours of the morning. The angel is unwieldy and he receives a slash near his eye by a pricker bush. I'd say the same, but not at school and I try to keep books with mature themes and profanity in the YA section. 

Cade is the same age his father was when he was born. He was rejected by his mother who instructed his father to place the baby in a church or fire department. The boy did neither, choosing instead to raise the baby he named Cade, by himself. The two lucked into a job with an elderly woman who ran an antiques business and happened to have a garage apartment for them. She just had a few items they needed to procure from time to time to keep the business running - angels.

Though set in modern day Houston, it is not an Appelt story without shifts in time and non-human narrators. In Angel Thieves, the story travels back to the time when Texas was a republic and tells of Achsah, a slave who was to be freed upon her master's death, but whose daughters were bequeathed to another slaveowner. She refuses to leave without her daughters. She needs to find an angel in the dark before the hounds track her.

The Bayou is also a narrator. She has observed changes over the millennia dispassionately. She has a long memory. Especially of times when animals such as ocelots were plentiful. Now they are rare and Zorra, one of the last was recently poached and caged. She's dying though because her poacher has disappeared. Then there's Soliel Broussard, sixteen-year-old preacher's kid and classmate of Cade's. She sports a tattoo of a honey bear on her wrist and is intrigued by Cade.  

Any one of the threads that bind this story were compelling on their own. Surprisingly, they don't come together quite satisfactorily. The shifts in POV were frequent, sometimes jarring and often left unfinished business, such as Cade's mother's sudden appearance in his life at age six. Or, why Soliel so intensely bonded with the Bird family. I wanted to like the book more. 

The narration was competent. Perhaps the production might have been better served with multiple narrators. Laurel Kathleen's narration rarely changed accents or inflection, making the already difficult job of keeping events and characters in place, more so. Were I reading with my eyes, I could at least back up a few pages when I lost my strand. 

Hand Angel Thieves to patient teens who enjoy multiple POV stories or who were fans of the author's middle grade fiction when they were in middle school. 

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