CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 31. . . .April 16, 2010
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
287 pp., pbk. & hc., $10.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55453-307-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55453-306-0 (hc.).
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Rachel Steen.
"He's an angel Ivy," she said, speaking so quietly I almost didn't know if I had heard her correctly. She held up her hand as if to stop me from arguing, from denying, but there was no need. I was speechless. "He's an angel, or whatever word you want to use to describe a messenger from God. He didn't have wings or anything, of course. And he didn't have a halo or white cloak," she continued thoughtfully. "But he was undoubtedly an angel. I realized that as I listened and watched. I felt it." She placed her hands on her chest. Her fingers splayed, like a flower opening.
"That's why it's all okay. That's why nothing bad is going to happen. He appeared, and we talked. He told me I was chosen. I don't know why it was me. He didn't explain that part. But he told me I was chosen. Me."
Virginia has always stood out from the other kids, and ever since her father died four years before, she seems to have become even odder. Ivy and Virginia were friends as children, but they haven't spoken in years. So when Virginia calls her up, wishing to confide in her, Ivy is understandably confused. Even more confusing is her secret. Virginia believes that she has been visited by an angel, asking her to bear God's child, in order to deliver his message to the people. Could this be possible, or is this story simply a way for Virginia to cope with some traumatic event? At the same time, Ivy begins to notice that there are other strange happenings in Virginia's house. Her older brother Paul is planning something that could have momentous consequences. Could this be connected to Virginia, and if so, what should Ivy do about it?
The narration alternates between Ivy's first-person recount and italicized passages written in third person that fill in some of the missing pieces of Virginia's story that Ivy doesn't see. The author's language is vivid and descriptive, and Virginia is, overall, a really well-written book, but there are some weaknesses in the novel as well.
There is never any real character depth, and many of the characters seem superficial and in the book to fulfill a particular role. Ivy, the primary narrator, is a 14-year-old girl, but other than running track, she seems to have no friends or interests. Virginia and her family are consistently referred to as being odd, and different, but the author only makes vague allusions to what is behind their beliefs. The reader will have a lot of questions about these characters but won't find a lot of reasons to like or care about them.
Ivy also makes it clear that Virginia wasn't really a childhood friend, but more of a tolerated playmate, which is why it seems so implausible that she would become that deeply involved with her now. The girls haven't spoken in at least four years, and she bases her decisions entirely on what she thinks she knew about Ivy at 10-years-old. She takes a tremendous leap of faith by confiding in Ivy, for reasons that are somewhat understandable, but too weak to make it wholly believable.
There are a lot of questions raised about faith, religion, and extremism, and the author offers no easy answers. There is no true resolution at the end, and while there is an explanation, it is really left to the readers to wrestle with their own ideas of faith and decide what they believe.
Virginia is a novel of challenging concepts, and the story is unique and engaging, but due to the potentially contentious subject matter, it is best suited for a more mature, high school audience, or read with parental/teacher supervision at a lower level.
Rachel Steen is the Elementary/YA selection manager at S&B Books in Mississauga, ON.
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