Tots to Teens
IN a Publishers Weekly article (tinyurl.com/yjn7yme) about this year's Bologna Children's Book Fair (March 23–26), Japanese publisher Rei Uemura said, "There are too many zombies, vampires, werewolves. I can't tell them apart anymore. I'm looking for something uplifting and positive, but I haven't seen many of those."
Would angels meet his requirements? I'm told that they are the next big thing in teen fiction.
According to a recent piece in The Observer (tinyurl.com/ykgkxzs), "at least seven new literary series about angels targeted at young adults" have been published in Britain and the States this spring, and more are are scheduled for release over the next year. Some focus on romantic relationships between angels and humans.
For example, Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (published late in 2009) is about a fallen angel and the girl who has a crush on him.
It must be something to do with being raised Catholic but I can't quite wrap my head around angels as objects of desire. It's not even that I consider the concept blasphemous. It's just that like every Catholic infant, I collected "holy" pictures and many of these featured angels: "men" in long white dresses, sporting giant feathery white wings and flowing golden locks. Unfortunately (fortunately?), that's the image that comes to mind when I think of angels. Sometimes, thanks to that TV series, I picture Pa (Michael Landon) from Little House on the Prairie, but that's just as off-putting.
However, in the same Observer article, Professor Joad Raymond, of the University of East Anglia, and author of Milton's Angels, says, "Angels have become particularly accessible in recent generations. Before that, they were discussed only strictly theologically." He adds that most people now regard angels as mythological creatures. Hence, there is no taboo in writing about them as there might be if they were considered religious figures.
Still, their association with heaven persists and allows writers to give them superhuman qualities, including devastating good looks (no long white dresses) and the ability to fly and read minds. Sound familiar? Angels are Edward Cullen without the fangs, although in L.A. Weatherly's new series, they are deadly creatures who feed, not on blood, but on human energy.
As angels are supposed to be immortal (Little, Brown is publishing a new angel series, by Cate Tiernan, called Immortal Beloved), I guess we'll be seeing more of the same sort of creepy age-gap-defying romance as featured in the Twilight books. Am I the only one grossed out by the idea of a 100-year-old man lusting after a 16-year-old girl? And creeping into her bedroom night after night to watch her sleep? Come on, people, think about it! Edward Cullen is just a sleazy old man in hot-young-male's clothing. And don't even get me started on that werewolf bloke imprinting on a child! Is that relationship supposed to be Stephanie Meyer's endorsement of child brides?
Anyway, back to angels. The mythology that surrounds them is fascinating and I can see how it might be mined by authors for the creation of some really stunning fantasy literature. For this to happen there has to be deeper exploration of the world of angels, not just the use of the most obvious aspects of these beings to pander to the current teenage predilection for pretty boys.
Personally, I find the the angel of death, Azrael's four faces and eye- and tongue-covered body a much more interesting prospect than yet another non-human masquerading as a dazzling youth. Danielle Trussoni's new Angelology series sounds promising as there is nary a lovesick girl in sight. What you get instead is a young nun and the unwitting part she plays in the conflict between a society of angelologists and the Nephilim (the descendants of humans and angels) who want to rule mankind. The first book in the series is published this month by Michael Joseph (464 pages, ISBN: 978-0718155582).
Watch this space for my review.
P.S. Cate Tiernan emailed about Immortal Beloved. She said: " I wanted to clarify that Immortal Beloved, my trilogy from Little, Brown whose first book will be published this September, is about immortals, but they're not angels or vampires. They're just plain old immortals. Or, as plain as magickal immortals can be."