Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: In the Arms of Stone Angels

Jordan Dane
Paranormal Young Adult
320 pages
Available Now
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.

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. I agree with you. All the hatred and discrimination towards Brenna and White Bird was solved too easily, especially after what they go through. I thought the paranormal part was a little hard to understand. I wanted her to question it more. I also wish there had been more of White Bird in the book. However, I thought it was interesting read.

  2. A great premise and an equally interesting cover! I know what you mean about events getting resolved too easily - that annoys me too. But it does sound like a great read.

  3. I always find it so hard to deal with sadness and injustice in books :/ I just can't handle it

  4. Another amazing review Jenny! You definitely have made me very curious about this book.

  5. I like the premise of this one, although it sounds like the story falls just a little short of being a great read!

  6. Julie - Yes! I thought White Bird needed a bigger presence as well, we knew so little about him.

    Misha - I loved it right up until that end and then things just worked themselves out so perfectly. I wanted there to be a bit more of a fight since there had been the whole way through.

    Blodeuedd - I definitely had to walk away a couple times, take a breather, and then go back:)

    Nic - It was really different and I liked that about it:) The end was the only thing that kept it from being a 4.

    Leanna - Exactly. I enjoyed it overall, there were just a few small things that kept it from being amazing for me.

  7. I loved this book with all of the Indian history in it. It was one main reason why I grabbed it to read. My husband is Apache so I thought it would be a great read. Nice review!

  8. Wonderful review. I have the first one on my tbr.

  9. Seriously what is up with these YA lately that have great ideas, great writing and then a Kentucky Derby ending???

    However a love a book that spreads like wildfire..:)

  10. Savy - I really liked the vision quest aspect too, I just wish there was more of White Bird in it, I feel like I didn't really know him:)

    Tori - Thanks! Can't wait to see what you think of it:)

    Tina - I don't know. It was solid up until the end. It's not that the end was bad, things were just a bit too easy for how dark the overall story was.

  11. I have always thought that this was an adult title and didnt know that its actually young adult until I read your review.

  12. easy wrap-ups are one of my chief annoyances with stories. If there are serious issues, then I naturally expect there to be some serious reflection and not necessarily an 'easily' tied up ending. It doesn't ruin a book for me, but it's something I really get annoyed about.

    Great review, Jenny. This one had caught my eye, but now I may not make it so much of a priority - maybe more of a mid-Fall read.


  13. My sister recently read this book and really like it, though she said it was difficult to get into at first. I don't remember asking her about the end, so I'm gonna have to show her your review. She's not one to over analyze books, which sometimes frustrates me when I want to book talk. LOL

    If only truly awful attitudes could really change that easily.

    Thanks for your honest thoughts, Jenny.

  14. I have this one on my Kindle but haven't read it yet. Wow. It sounds incredibly powerful and not an easy read. Tina's comment about a "Kentucky Derby ending" made me giggle, though it's sad to see those types of endings making more of an appearance in YA books.
    Happy reading,
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  15. I don't know... I may have to make room in the freezer for this book if I read it. I know it will tick me off. However, to change the minds of those wanting to revel in other's suffering really makes me curious. I may wait on this one. Wonderfully written review as always!!

  16. Jenny - Yep, it's YA:) She's only sixteen or seventeen I think.

    Linds - I just wanted a little more time at the end to really be able to believe the change of heart. I can see how their attitudes would begin adjusting after everything happens, but it was pretty instant.

    Missie - I enjoyed it overall for sure, I like when a book pisses me off to no end (as intended of course) and then makes me happy. I just didn't feel like I knew White Bird at all and he was the catalyst for Brenna's change and then she for everyone else's and I wanted to know more about him.

    Mary - It's not an easy read, it's infuriating at times. It's worse too when there's no paranormal element to it either and you know there are really people like that out there with no excuse for their behavior. They're not vamps or demons or whatever, they're human.

    Melissa - It's definitely a freezer book. I took many a break because I got so mad at those people!

  17. I liked the book but like you, I didn't care much for the easy ending and I hated the fact that White Bird wasn't visible for most of the book.

    I think it was a bit misleading but still enjoyable, not something I'd ever read again and not really something I'd recommend to friends unless they asked about it :o]

    Beautifully written review!


  18. Wonderful review!

    I don't think this book is for me but it does sound compelling. I don't like easy endings, I think the characters need to fight for their HEA or closure.

  19. What a shame about the ending because I know I'm always left a little miffed when things get wrapped up too easily and unnaturally. Also, this seems like a pretty heavy read, which there's nothing wrong with, but I'm just not in the mood for something so dark at the moment. This one might not be for me. I most definitely appreciate the review though!

  20. I don;t know dude... I didn't really want to read this one to begin with... LOL!

  21. Wrapped endings that happen too quickly is a reading pet peeve of mine. I don't think this book is right for me. I think I'll pass on it. Thanks for an honest review, Jenny!

  22. That's always disappointing when a book seems to start so well and then everything just gets too easily cleaned up. Maybe it would be better off creating a second book and not hurry up to finish the story.

  23. It's always disappointing when you're reading a book that's well written and the ending is wrapped up a little too neatly. Still, this one sounds like it might be worth reading so I'll add it to my wishlist.

  24. Another book that I haven't heard anything about, well untill now. I'm not sure I'm going to love this, but maybe I will give it a try. ;)

  25. Oh gosh, this is such a great review Jenny, but I have to confess that I'm not sure I'd want to read it - it sounds like such an emotionally harrowing read. I'm sure this book must have taken you on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride - still, for all that, this book sounds unique and completely different to what we usually see out there.

  26. Too bad about that end. It's sort of jarring and confusing when a book pulls a 180 for an easy wrap up. I like HEAs, but not so much when they come out of the blue and negate all the build up.

  27. Bummer that the ending wasn't as strong as the rest of the book. But I do like that the author is highlighting the long-lasting effects of bullying and shows a true portrayal of how that can effect a person. Thanks for reviewing this one!


  28. I feel that I have been reading a lot of light hearted reads lately and while the vast majority of people would be a-okay with that, I am just finding them to be a bit redundant. I think that this book having a bit of a darker edge to it is exactly what I need! Hopefully I will be able to gt past the lack of the two development. So many good books on NetGalley, so little time!