IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS
Paranormal Young Adult
Received via Net Galley for review
Two years ago Brenna Nash called 911 and informed them she found the boy she loves crouching over the dead body of a classmate gripping a knife and chanting to himself. She hasn't seen him since that day. Now, after a couple long years, Brenna and her mother are returning to the small town where she made that fateful call and sentenced her best friend and first love to an unfathomable fate.
Upon her return, Brenna learns that White Bird has been in a mental institution the entire time she's been away, locked in his own mind and unresponsive to any outside stimuli. Though she's spent most of her time thinking about how that call changed her own life, she's finally realizing the impact she had on the one person she feels truly understood her.
There are plenty of people in town who aren't happy to see Brenna and her Native American sympathies back however, and they seek to keep her from looking into White Bird's case any way they can. The more she digs though, the more she begins to think her accusation against her best friend was very, very wrong, and maybe the person responsible for her classmate's death isn't the most obvious choice after all.
In the Arms of Stone Angels is a story both saddening and disheartening initially, drawing our attention to a darker side of humanity where certain individuals take gross pleasure in the pain and suffering of others as a way of ensuring their own misery isn't without ample company. Because we know people like Brenna's peers are unlikely to express any type of guilt or remorse over their actions, it becomes agonizingly clear that they will only steadily increase the intensity of their assault on her, a realization that causes are fingers to itch with the need to skip ahead to the end to hopefully relieve some of our stress and give us the strength to endure whatever atrocities are likely to occur. Even if we did flip to the end and find the opposite to be true– things with Brenna only getting worse instead of better–at least we could take a small comfort in being able to prepare ourselves for what's to come. We therefore wrestle with ourselves the entire time we're reading, wanting a definitive emotion, either happiness and relief or anger and hurt, to latch on to as a lifesaver to keep us afloat in the tempest of hate found in this little town.
Brenna is a hard young woman, an attitude of indifference firmly in place as she shuns a world she feels shunned her first. She's shrouded herself in so many layers of simulated feelings it's almost impossible to get to the heart of her, and we falter repeatedly as we attempt to decipher her true emotions from those she merely projects as a diversion from the truth. Her relationship with her mother is strained to a truly spectacular degree, so full of holes she doesn't even know where to begin patching should she wish to, so she instead decides to do nothing and allows those holes to slowly widen. Luckily for us though, Brenna exhibits some truly impressive growth as the story progresses, expanding her Brenna-centric world to eventually include her mother and us as she fights for the life of a friend to whom a grave injustice has been done.
Though the story is powerful and compelling and Brenna is a strong young heroine, the events toward the end seem to get resolved rather easily for the strength of the hatred and discrimination infecting both the teenagers and adults in this tale. For hundreds of pages we are tied in mental and emotional knots of increasing complexity, but then just as our determination to see wrongs righted reaches its peak, the ties unwind and slip free of their own accord and we're given a neatly wrapped-up resolution. People who have been truly awful seem to change their attitudes with little argument or opposition, causing the sincerity of their repentance to remain suspect with us given the quick nature of their turnaround. Perhaps if we were given a little extra time in the town itself and with Brenna and White Bird as well instead of being cut off fairly immediately after the truth comes to light, the changes might not have been as questionable. Overall however, In the Arms of Stone Angels is a darkly entertaining read, angering and pleasing us equally as we see a slow attitude adjustment start with one young woman and then spread like wildfire.