Review: Natural Born Angel – Scott Speer

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Summary:

Life turned upside down for Maddy Montgomery when she found out she was half-Angel and was catapulted into the scene of flashbulbs, paparazzi, and the fervent adulation that comes with being in the celebrity Angel world. She’s trying to juggle her ordinary life—high school, family, friends—with the intense demands of being in the public eye as heartthrob Angel Jackson Godspeed’s girlfriend.

And now Maddy must face the most difficult choice of her life. She’s been offered the chance to become a Guardian. This means entering into dangerous and high stakes training, with no guarantee that she can succeed. But more than that, it would mean leaving her mortal life behind—forever—and allying with the Angels at a time when their relationship with humans is heading for war. . . .

Review:

Like a lot of second books that come on the heels of a great first book, Natural Born Angel doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but there is still a ton that this book does right.

First, the book summarily deals with Maddy’s decision to become a Guardian within the opening pages of the book and I think it was handled really well. That she was going to decide to become a Guardian was never really in question – cover art, title, and nature of the genre aside, this was the only choice possible that would have allowed for growth of the character. And yet, Speer shows respect for his character. When she makes her decision, it feels right for the character and you could see her character doing.

Second, and I know this sounds kind of odd, but I like that the leadership for both the Angels and the Humans are assholes. By the end of the book, Maddy is asked to pick a side and honestly, it’s not an easy call. I mean, okay, no one wants the earth destroyed, but when you’re choice is between Angels who are using Maddy for PR purposes and don’t want to save anyone who can’t afford it and humans who want to throw Angels in jail if they so much as show off their wings simply because they’re a part of the capitalistic NAS…it’s a tough one. Add in the fact that even the human who has been of the biggest help to Maddy has clear and obvious anti-Angel bias doesn’t help either. It’s rare to see YA that does have this balance to it, as opposed to the obvious Good and Evil

Finally, I like that this book does show a deterioration in the relationship between Maddy and Jackson. Speer’s day job is in Hollywood (in fact, he’s Excutive Producer of Step it Up: All In) and he uses that to craft a relationship falling apart that is too painfully Hollywood. The first book the press were all about Jackson. Jackson, Jackson, Jackson and Maddy was a curiosity. In this book we watch Jackson fade from relevance, to the point where he’s no longer even invited to events while it’s become Maddy, Maddy, Maddy. It’s not an uncommon way for relationships in Hollywood to come to an end. I honestly and legitimacy felt bad for Jackson here as he tried to find new purpose as he slowly recovers from the events of the last book. I really gained a lot of sympathy for him, even as I lost some for Maddy as you can definitely see her lose a piece of herself in the new life sytle (though without question, her heart is still firmly in its place)

On the downside, I do have two major complaints:

Once Maddy does start to train, it’s pretty trite high-school cliche stuff. Jealous classmates, she’s an outsider, etc. It may make the experience relatable to the core YA audience, but it’s old hat and these sections are easily the dullest part of the book. And second, as much as I liked the realistic faltering of their relationship, I really do think the book suffered for having Maddy and Jackson apart for so much of it. Where as the first books was really their story, this book was her story, and I genuinely missed the chemistry of the pair. On top of that, many of her solo sections were the bits of her doing press junkets or training and it’s just not that interesting. I really do wish Jackson could have been a larger part of the story.

We’re coming upon the finale in a few weeks here, and I hope that Speer is able to strike a better balance this time around. What made Immortal City so great was that sense of freshness and the feeling that something different was being done. This is decidedly a much more conventional novel and I think the book does lose something for that.

It’s still a good and enjoyable read, but it’s hard to not be at least a little disappointed with it.

Verdict:  Buy It

Available: Now

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