Guide to Angels in YA Literature
Now that ghosts and ghouls have had their day, it seems appropriate to turn to beneficent supernatural beings. In fact, there’s a long tradition of honoring saints (All Saints’ Day) and praying for the souls of departed loved ones (All Souls Day) just after Halloween.
In recent years, we’ve seen countless permutations of teen characters with paranormal qualities. Good vampires, tormented werewolves, hilarious zombies… and so many more. Perhaps it was inevitable that angels, traditionally sacred creatures busy with the work of God, should be incorporated into YA fiction. Hierarchies of angelic responsibilities were created centuries ago by at least four major religions: Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Zoroastrian. It’s interesting to see what sort of worlds are created for today’s teen angels.
Kissed by an Angel series by Elizabeth Chandler
This is an enduring series that focuses on the relationship between Tristan and Ivy, two beautiful teens who are tragically separated by Tristan’s death. Ivy is completely devastated, but she still feels Tristan’s presence, even feels the touch of his hand. This is because Tristan has returned to Ivy as her guardian angel. His task is protect Ivy from danger, particularly as they team up to track down Tristan’s killer. The first three books in the original trilogy are now published in one volume, Kissed by an Angel. Kissed by an Angel is an early entry in the realm of transcendental love affairs.
A good love story is hard to end, so after the first “arc” of the Kissed by an Angel series ends, Chandler returns with Evercrossed, which picks up after Ivy has moved on with her life and is content with her reliable boyfriend, Will. Tristan is still the love of her life, however, and in the subsequent books, Everlasting and Everafter, Tristan and Ivy continue their fight to be together, despite formidable dark forces that threaten them both.
In this series, angels are supernatural, and governed by absolute laws. Chandler adds some twists that fall outside traditional angel lore, such as fallen angels who are able to inhabit human bodies. This creates tense situations for the characters. As Ivy explains to a bewildered Will in Everafter, “Gregory is in Bryan the same way Tristan is in Luke.” Like many of the angel books below, the main point of interest is the romance, which in this case, is to die for.
Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick
Nora’s biology class becomes infinitely more interesting when the sexiest guy in the senior class, Patch Ciprian0, is assigned to sit with her. Coyly, Nora pretends to have no interest in Patch, even as she is increasingly drawn to him. She suspects that Patch is not the total bad boy he seems to be, although that might be wishful thinking. There is another boy interested in Nora, Elliot, who may have a terrible crime in his past. There seems to be no one Nora can trust.
Fitzpatrick says that she started building this fantasy with the notion of Patch, a boy who was once good but has somehow turned very bad. As she pondered what sort of circumstances would alter a character so thoroughly, Fitzpatrick hit on the idea of a fallen angel. There’s quite a bit more mythology built around Patch – who he is, what he wants, how that effects Nora. Readers will either love Patch for his rakish ways, or despise him for his capacity for real evil.
Fallen Series by Lauren Kate
Readers meet Luce in Fallen when she is sent to Sword & Cross, a reform school for fallen angels. There Luce, who is human, is pulled into the battle between angels on the side of God, and angels who bat for Satan. It is evident that Luce has been involved in this struggle through countless lifetimes, which she can barely remember. The immediate and intense attraction she feel for one of the boys, Daniel Grigori, emphasizes her eternal connections to fallen angels. For his part, Daniel goes out of his way to spurn her. He has insider knowledge of the danger in hooking up with Luce, and is determined to keep her away.
The fallen angels in the series, which continues with Torment, Passion, Rapture, and Fallen in Love, basically behave like kids in school with the same social issues – crushes, jealousy, unrequited love. Things are a bit more life and death, however, considering the fight between good and bad fallen angels. As the series progresses, more beings are introduced. There are Nephilim (half-angel, half-human,) Elders (those who manipulate the balance of power between good fallen angels and bad fallen angels,) Outcasts (turncoats who joined Lucifer in his defiance of God but didn’t accompany him to the otherworld,) and some minor angels. Great drama, but no relation to traditional angelology.
It’s probably fair to say that the intense passions between the central characters is more significant than the fact that they are angels. But many teen readers are hooked on the concept of love that lasts forever. Fallen is being made into a movie that is expected to be released in 2014.
Threshold series by Christa Kinde
In The Blue Door, fourteen year-old Prissie discovers that she is able to see beings that are usually invisible to humans. It’s quickly revealed that these are angels, and that many of the people she knows are angels as well. Kinde uses the Scriptures as inspiration for the hierarchy of these angels, which she helpfully shares on her web site. Kinde translates the esoteric descriptions of angels found in ancient scriptures into language that is meaningful for contemporary readers.
For example, Cherubim are traditionally described as winged creatures with the head of a lion, or sometimes as winged creatures with four heads, that of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. Their main task is to magnify the glory of the Almighty. They also show up guarding the way to the Garden of Eden. Kinde calls these beings, “Protectors.” The Protectors are also primarily occupied by singing the praises of God, but they are the angels who combat the fallen. Kinde describes her Protectors as, “Taller than humanly possible, these muscular warriors are well equipped for battle.”
Prissie is increasingly drawn into the world of the angels over the course of the series, which continues in The Hidden Deep and The Broken Window. Despite the ongoing battles between the angels and the fallen, the series respects the inherent sanctity of the angel population. The characters are friends rather than lovers, making it a good choice for teens who prefer their angels focused on God.
Angelfire series by Courtney Allison Moulton
For most of us, bad dreams are temporal experiences, pretty much over when we wake up. But Ellie’s bad dreams are memories from former lives, when Ellie was something more than human. In her human form she is powerful, but unable to express the magnificence of her true archangel form. In Moulton’s angel world, Archangels are the highest order of angel and the closest to God. There are also Soldier Angels, which sound somewhat like the Cherubim/Protector angels in the Threshold trilogy.
But things get quite complicated when the fallen angels are pulled into the mix. “Reapers” are descended from angels, and their moral inclinations are determined through maternal lineage. If the mother is of an angelic nature, so will the child. The child of a demonic mother, one that has herself descended from fallen angels, will inherit a demonic nature. This allows Moulton to really mix things up in the unavoidable battle between the two groups. Angelfire is followed by Wings of the Wicked, Shadows in the Silence, and A Dance with Darkness.
Sixteen-year-old Clara is a Quartarius, one-quarter angel. With the loving guidance of her mom, Clara is learning what this means in her life, starting with discovering her purpose. Clara is drawn to a lovely, handsome boy named Christian, and comes to believe that saving him (from what, she doesn’t yet know,) may be part of her purpose. But there’s also Tucker, very hot and possessed of a devilish grin. This triangle is familiar to fans of paranormal romances. Clara is deeply involved in the destinies of both these boys. By the end of the first book in the series, Unearthly, Clara comes to learn the tremendous responsibility that comes with angel blood.
When Hand was asked about her angel creations, she responded, “I think Unearthly is different from the other angel-related books in that it is, at heart, a human story. My characters aren’t angels; they’re humans with a bit of angel blood in them.” Nevertheless, the series enjoys comparable popularity in the field of angel lit. The story continues in Hallowed, Radiant, and Boundless.
The Sweet trilogy by Wendy Higgins
Anna is sixteen when she learns that she is a Nephilim, a child born of angelic or demonic parents. In Anna’s case, her parentage is mixed: Mom’s a guardian angel, and Dad’s the demon Belial, The Duke of Substance Abuse. In Sweet Evil, Anna learns that Nephilim are pulled to follow the nature of their parents, which in her case, are completely opposite directions. She’s being schooled in the details of angels and demons by the devastatingly handsome son of The Duke of Lust, Kaiden. Unsurprisingly, there is an attraction between them.
Wiggins took the time to set up her celestial world. The earthly dimension is filled with Dukes and their fiendish Legionaires, also known as “whisperers.” A list of all the Dukes, with descriptions of their evil responsibility, is included at the end of the book. The series continues with Sweet Peril.
Mercy series by Rebecca Lim
Angels that chose the wrong side in the battle between the Fallen and the Loyal may end up doomed to reside in human bodies on Earth, with no memory of their true identity. This is the fate that befalls Mercy, who knows that she is weirdly different from her classmates but doesn’t know why. As it turns out, Mercy is one of the angels who fell with Lucifer, her very own ancient lover, and now must atone for this grievous transgression. Lim doesn’t put much emphasis on the God aspect of angelhood, except to underscore all that is at stake. In the first book in the series, Mercy, Mercy is in the body of a girl named Carmen. While in Carmen’s body, Mercy meets a guy named Ryan, whose younger sister has been abducted. Her angelhood gives Mercy special gifts that she uses to help Ryan find his sister.
Violet Eden Chapters by Jessica Shirvington
Violet has only been seventeen for a few hours when her sort-of boyfriend, Lincoln, reveals that both of them are Grigori -part angel, part human. And that they are meant to be partners. Violet finds this so disturbing that she blames Lincoln for delivering the news. When the two of them go out that night, Violet becomes aware of a very hot guy staring at her. She is strongly attracted to him. He is, of course, a BAD angel, known as Phoenix. With the three central characters poised for a romantic triangle, the scene is set for an epic battle.
Shirvington does set up a backstory for her angels. It begins in the usual way, with all angels serving in the highest realm. As soon as angels begin to desire servants of their own, they are exiled from the kingdom. These exiled angels are able to assume a human form, retaining supernatural abilities and their own immortality. It’s not an ideal situation for them, however. Spiritual beings fit awkwardly in bodies of earthly elements, and the strain of maintaining a human presence can affect their minds for the worse. Both light and dark angels, forever at war with each other, can fall into exile, bringing their terrible battles to earth. To Violet’s annoyance, both light and dark angels hate Grigori.
On her web site, Shirvington address the connection between religious belief and angels. “I find the role of religion fascinating and the power it wields quite frightening,” she says, “but really the story in THE VIOLET EDEN CHAPTERS comes from the mythology and the fantastical more than anything else.”
My Totally Awkward Supernatural Crush by Laura Toffler-Corrie
Angels are mysterious creatures, but who knew you could find one waiting tables at Cowboy Clems Chow House? Jenna is appalled when her family takes her to Clems for her fourteenth birthday, until Cowboy Luke shows up to take their order. He. Is. Gorgeous. When Jenna’s mom gives Jenna a perfectly ugly heirloom necklace for her birthday, Luke is suddenly all in her business. Not just Luke, however, but also a scary-looking boy named Adam. This is a lighthearted parody of supernatural love triangles perfect for younger teens and tweens, though the angel authenticity rating is low.
Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (Book 1 of the Memory Chronicles)
Lenore died the day before she would have turned eighteen. Since then, she has resided in Level 2, a stark environment where souls are virtually imprisoned by guardians. In Level 2, Lenore is able to play back scenes from her life. Gradually Lenore discovers that there are many factions in this otherworld, some divine and some evil. There is a sense of a hierarchy here, but it’s mostly used as a structure for intrigue and battle. This is another “angel” book that could be re-staged with any sort of magical effects with equal success.
This is but a brief overview of angel books in YA literature. In addition to these, there are books that have angel characters as part of a broader fantasy world. For many of the books included above, the romance overshadows the angel lore, with just a few imaginative elements that reflect back to the traditional angels and their hierarchies. Few even mention God or heaven, sticking to the exploits of fallen angels, half-angels, and eternal soul mates.
As a final treat, here’s a student-created parody of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush,Hush.
-Diane Colson, currently reading Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin