Tuesday 4 September 2018
#CBR10 Book 64: "Outcast" by Adrienne Kress
Rating: 3.5 stars
#CBR10 Bingo: Backlog (on my TBR list since June 2013)
Riley Carver lives in a little town somewhere in the Southern USA. For the past six years, on a particular day, angels come from the heavens and take away some of the townspeople. One year ago, the angels took Riley's best friend, almost boyfriend, Chris. So she's refusing to to leave the house (even though the whole town is supposed to the public celebration - or face strong censure), and when she sees an angel in the backyard, she shoots it in the face. Imagine her surprise when she finds a hot naked guy in place of the angel. Riley locks the unconscious guy in her father's tool shed, determined to question him when he wakes up.
Turns out, the hot naked guy has absolutely no memory of being an angel, and can't tell Riley a thing about where they go or why they're abducting townspeople every year. In fact, Gabe McClure thinks it's still the 1950s, which is apparently when he was snatched by the angels. Obviously, Riley can't keep him locked up in the shed for ever, so she gets him some clothes and soon he's used his charm to convince her mother he's been hired as a handyman and promised room and board, and he enrols in Riley's school and becomes super popular with his good looks and general James Dean vibe.
Gabe doesn't seem to take all that long to adjust to modern times, and while he and Riley don't spend a lot of time together in school, they work together to try to figure out the mystery of the angels and the kidnappings in their spare time. Why did the angels snatch a group of people in 1956 and then no one for another fifty years or so? Why are they returning annually now? Is the creepy Pastor Warren in league with the angels somehow? How can Riley and her motley band of allies (because of course she recruits some) get the missing townspeople back?
Ah, the joys of reviewing something about a month and a half after I actually finished it. Luckily, the plot of Outcast is quite memorable, even though I can't give you the names of specific supporting characters or an exact time frame without looking stuff up (and I really can't be bothered).
The "outcast" of the title can refer to Riley just as easily as Gabe. Riley isn't exactly one of the popular people at school and really only had one friend, Chris, who gave her a kiss about a week before he was taken by the angels, and Riley doesn't even know if she could have loved him, because he's just gone and she's had to mourn and miss him for a whole year, growing steadily angrier. Initially, she's a little bit too convinced of her own superiority and seems to almost look down on her fellow high schoolers, but she warms up and makes some new friends as the story progresses.
Gabe (for those keeping count, I think this is the third book this year that I've read where the hero is a Gabe or a Gabriel) was a bit of a bad boy, who lived on the "wrong side" of town and mainly spent his time with the poor, black people who lived nearby before he was taken. He suspects one of the reasons nobody knew about the angel abduction in the 50s was because he was the only white person to disappear, nobody much cared about the people who went missing.
While I enjoyed this book and the angels turned out to be both mysterious and a bit creepy, my biggest problem is that the story doesn't feel finished. This very much has the feel of the first book in a series. There's a lot of stuff we discover about Riley that's never adequately explained, the romance in the latter third with Gabe is very rushed, and the conclusion just screams the need for at least one sequel. According to comments online, it seems this was always supposed to be a duology, and the story certainly ends on a cliff hanger. Sadly, five years later, Ms Kress still hasn't produced a sequel, and so this book frustratingly stand alone and the story is unfinished.
Judging a book by its cover: This cover actually does a pretty good job of evoking some of the elements of the story. The silhouette of Gabe and Riley on his lovingly restored motorcycle against the romantic sky (possibly after their date) with angel wings outlined in the sky above them. It's not bad at all, in fact.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.