Grief Angels by David Owen
Published by: Atom
Released: 5th March 2020
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
15-year-old Owen Marlow is experiencing a great, disorienting loss after his father suddenly passed away and his mother moved them to a new town. None of his old friends knew how to confront his grief, so he’s given up on trying to make new ones. There is one guy at school who might prove to be different if he gives him a chance but lately, Owen has been overwhelmed by his sadness. He’s started to have strange, powerful hallucinations of skeletal birds circling above him. Owen tells himself that these visions are just his brain’s way of trying to cope – until one night, the birds descend and take him to an otherworldly forest. There, he is asked to go on a dangerous journey that promises to bring him the understanding he so desperately seeks – if he can survive it.
Grief Angels is an urgent and heartfelt look at the power of nostalgia and the many different forms of grief. It’s about young men learning how to share their stories, and teens discovering who they are, and who they might one day become.
I am really interested in reading books that feature the topic of mental health, especially in YA. So, when I heard about David Owen’s new release Grief Angels, I knew I had to read it. This sounded like a read that would take a different approach to the topic of mental health and I was intrigued.
The story focuses on two teenage boys Owen and Duncan. Owen is the new boy at school, after moving due to the death of his dad. Overwhelmed by his grief Owen starts t have hallucinations of strange birds circling above him, at first Owen thinks it’s his brains way of coping, until one night the birds take him away to a mysterious forest where he is asked to undertake a quest that will hopefully give him the understanding and closure he desperately needs. Duncan befriends Owen, but with his own problems can he really help Owen in a time of need?
First things first, this was a real unique way of tackling such sensitive topics such as depression and grief. As someone who loves when magic intertwines with realism it was a breath of fresh air to read something like this, and I did find myself engaged for the most part. Despite this, I did find the fantasy elements to be somewhat confusing? It was all a little bit unclear and I was desperate to know if it was real, a dream or a hallucination. I was hoping this would have been cleared up the the end of the book, but alas it wasn’t, which left me disappointed.
Mind you, what I did enjoy was the contemporary side of the story (and many of you know I love YA Contemporary). The way Owen and Duncan were written was highly believable and I commend the author. David Owen has such a great way to writing teenage boys, and this, in turn, made me believe these characters were authentic. Also, as the story was written from both POV’s we got to really see inside both characters, which I really did enjoy. Although, I must admit I found myself liking Duncan’s POV more if I’m being brutally honest. The isolation he felt within his group of friends, and the way he tried to hide his depression did relate to me as I’d been through that previously. The friendship that blossomed between the two boys was also remarkable. We got to see them support each other through talking about their feelings, hopes and also dreams.
One other topic within Grief Angels that really got me thinking was the topic of Toxic Masculinity. This is one topic that I really don’t see enough of in YA, and yet again I commend the author for focusing on it. We saw Duncan involved with a group of friends who were sexist and very focused on being what they thought was the norm of being a man. This included body image, getting with girls, getting drunk and not showing their feelings. Toxic masculinity is something that is engrained in many men today and Owen and Duncan were proof that men do have feelings and can show them.
Grief Angels was a beautifully written story that had a unique way of capturing your interest. I found myself emotionally invested in the stories of Owen and Duncan and I hope that if you pick this up, you will feel the same.