My Catchphrases

Monday, 5 April 2010

Review: Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens

Synopsis: Taken from the back of the book.
I met someone who changed everything.
My autistic sister's guardian angel.
Honest. Inspiring. Funny.
And immortal.
That was the problem.
What could I do?
I did what any other girl would do - I fell in love with him
Zoe's sister darts in front of cars. Her brother's a pothead. Her parents are so overwhelmed; they don't see Zoe's lost in her broken life. Zoe escapes the only way she knows how: partying.
Matthias, a guardian sent from Heaven, watches over Zoe's autistic sister. After Zoe is convinced he is legit, angel and lost girl come together in a love that changes destiny.
But Heaven on Earth can't last forever.

It has taken me a while to write this review as this book really touched me and I feel like I am about to bare my soul to the world in this review.

I have to say the synopsis leaves a lot to be desired and should not put you off reading this book. I am not going to gush as this goes far beyond gushing. I feel as if this book was written for me personally, that is how much it has enthralled me.

Written in first person narrative from Zoe's point of view. She is the oldest of 3 children, 17 years old, dealing with the traumatic diagnosis that her adorable little sister, Abria, age 5, has severe autism.   
The book shows the effect on the entire family having to cope with this disability. It is written with insight as the author, Jennifer Laurens, has an autistic child. I was able to relate completely as my oldest child has dyspraxia, although her physical skills are significantly improved to when she was diagnosed, the emotional aspect is a constant challenge and on occasion still hard to deal with. As in the book, Abria is the person  the family revolves around, so it is in my house with the oldest having the main focus of attention. It is not something that is intentional that is just how it happens. I sincerely hope that it is not disturbing the other girls emotionally or mentally.

The story deals with how the family cope with the added stress of having an impaired child in their lives. Zoe turns to alcohol while her brother, Luke, turns to drugs. The feeling of turning to any thing that will block out the reality of their stressful lives is something I can relate to. My own family (not the one with my children the one when I was a child) is completely dysfunctional and imploded on my mothers death. Believe me I would have done anything to get away from that reality if it wasn't for my children. However, the story goes on to show how these methods are just means of avoiding the problem and they generally add more problems than they solve. The best way to deal with problems is head on and with open honesty to the other people involved. it also brought to mind the therapies and developmental skills mentioned in Beautiful Dead: Arizona whose brother was also autistic.

Amazing use of the white space within the narrative adding impact and intensity to the storyline.
Although the theme of the books refers to God, Heaven and Angels, it is of a non-denominational nature, therefore open to your own interpretation/beliefs. Being of a non-overtly religious nature myself, I have my own beliefs which are just that my own, I found the ideals within the story easy to relate to. The idea of a life after death brings great comfort to anyone that has lost someone close to them.

The thought that each of us has a Guardian Angel trying to guide us and keep us safe is reassuring, although the idea that they are responsible for keeping us safe when we purposefully expose ourselves to danger/evil is quickly and powerfully dispelled within the narrative. The adage 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink' comes to mind. The emphasis that Angels cannot enter a place that contains evil is powerful and we as people are responsible for the decision to enter the nefarious circles is thought provoking. The imagery used to describe evil spirits was chilling, giving me goose-bumps. The addition of alcohol/drugs lower your inhibitions and therefore making it easier for evil spirits to take over gave me shivers.

Instead of making the Guardian Angel into a virtuous, moral, pure, spotless person, Matthias has his own past to contemplate and in some aspects repent for. Making him human and easy to relate to. The use of 'cool' or 'slang' words from the modern era side by side with those of the 1920's was rather amusing but added depth to the storyline.

This book invoked such powerful emotions within me that I just did not want to let it go. Normally I pick up another book straight away if I get the chance, on this occasion I had a 2 hour time slot to fill while waiting for one of my children and I just could not bring myself to pick up another book as I did not want to lose the feeling I had when I finished this one. The ending was bitter-sweet but gripping.

This is one book that I would recommend the entire world to read. Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime. I am keeping it on my bookshelf and will be passing it down to my children when they are old enough to read it. It is the whole kit & caboodle....touching, inspiring, heart warming, thought I need to go on ;)


  1. ooh I also just finished this - I didn't like it much (someone told me the ending and ruined it for me) but I most definitely was enlightened on difficulties of Zoe's family. Nice to know you're so passionate about this one!

  2. Thank you for the wonderful, heartfelt review, Emma. Knowing a reader truly connects with the message of the story is invaluable to me as a writer, and a mother experiencing these challenges.

  3. This book I completley Loved. It was very heart wrenching, I had tears - and knowing the Jennifer had experienced certain aspects of this book in her life was also very heartfelt. The book was an eye opener for me I didnt realize a few things about autism until I read this, I have a newphew who has a slight case of austim and Iknow how frustrating this can be for my sister, But this book shows that loves conquiers all and the things people have to do to get through every day life. The love story was heart wrenching, at the end I had tears and wasnt able to read anohter book for a day it left that mark behind. I would recomened to all the storyline is great and its nice to see an author who is not afraid to write as she pleases to please herself.
    Katrina Whittaker

  4. Thanks for the comment Jennifer.

    Kitty Cat I am totally with you, thank you for enhancing my review with your comment.

    Dwayne, glad you are feeling better. I think that reading is subjective and as I have 20 years and 3 children ahead of you my life experience is a bit different. Probably influencing my perspective when reading this book. Loved your interview with Alex Flinn :)

  5. This one sounds like a really poweful book. It's wonderful finding a book that you can relate to so well!


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