The story begins with a coffee shop conversation between a Fallen Angel, Gadriel (don’t you dare call them Gabriel), the Fallen Angel of Petty Temptations and Barachiel, the Angel of Good Fortune, Chief of Guardian Angels - or Barry to the humans. I immediately started to get Good Omens vibes as their conversation progressed. I love Good Omens so this was a very positive start for me.
Gadriel is persuaded by Barachiel to accept a challenge. A human named Holly Harker has not committed any sins for a long time and appears to be living a thoroughly bland life. Barachiel wants Gadriel to use their temptation skills to ensure Holly’s life improves and she begins enjoying herself. Through the relationships and conversations between Gadriel and the other characters the book explores the messy human emotions we all struggle with from time to time - jealousy of our peers, guilt that we don’t love our relatives enough, teenage grief and anxiety to name but a few. Holly begins to enjoy life again through friendship with Gadriel and fosters a much improved relationship with her teenage ward, Ella. Gadriel’s love of chocolate was amply satisfied by Holly’s expert baking skills and a cozy, warm-hearted feeling pervaded the friendship and the book as a whole.
“In truth, the entire scene felt… warm, and homey. It was comfortably cosy—rather like his knitted vest. Gadriel couldn’t help basking in the sheer normalcy of it all.”
Ella and her snarky teenaged schoolmates are portrayed expertly - I have two teenagers of my own and the concerns and conversations rang true and I connected easily with them. Ella and Gadriel form a bond when Gadriel shows up at school claiming to be Mr Sweet the new school counsellor. The angels are able to appear as male or female at any time and apart from initial confusion this gender fluidity was accepted very quickly by the other characters. Acceptance of others is a clear theme throughout the book. Mr Sweet manages to steer Ella through failed tests, power hungry teachers, petty jealousy, the pain of losing her Mum and her love of guitar, helping Holly and Ella to cement their relationship in the process.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book with its focus on the small things of life that have such a large impact on our mental health and well-being.
SPFBO Score: 8/10