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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Review: Penitence by Jennifer Laurens

Synopsis: Taken from the back of the book
Seeing good and evil spirits is a gift Zoe guards with her life.
Despite her guardian angel's disappearance, Zoe forces herself to accept that she still has a purpose - but how does she carry the weight of her brothers drug abuse, the hardship of living with an autistic sister, and a best friend who's obsessed with a guy who only wants Zoe?
She never felt more alone.
When a mysterious spirit appears, Zoe thinks she has a new guardian angel. Instead, her brothers addiction worsens, her parents are on the brink of separation, and her best friend tries to kill her. The spirit she thinks is her new guardian isn't there to protect her; hes out to destroy her family and seize Zoe's soul.....for hell.
Will Matthias' return mean that he's Zoe's guardian angel again/ Or is their love  the reason the jaws of Hell now gape open?

Where do I start, you all know how much I loved Heavenly and this sequel just adds to my adoration of Jennifer Laurens. Remember how I said I thought the book was written for me, well I realised for the first time that Zoe's surname is Dodd, you won't believe it but my maternal grandparents surname was DODD. How much of a coincidence is that.

Penitence starts at the exact point that Heavenly ends, there is a nice recap of the events within the first couple of chapters. Although I do think that you need to read Heavenly to fully appreciate the relationship dynamics and interactions, the recap is not overdone, refreshing the memory and emotions tied to it.
I have to say that the storyline didn't go the way I was thinking it would, *no spoilers* it is nevertheless a powerful, emotional and thought provoking book. The emotions were like a tidal wave from the very beginning.

Following on from Zoe's near death experience and time spent in paradise with Matthias. I could completely relate to how Zoe was feeling, the adage 'Death is easy it is living that is hard', popped into my head. Not only does Zoe have to cope with nearly dying, having some horrific injuries but also being dragged away from Matthias and paradise.  How awful must that feel, thrown back into a world of pain and confusion. Strangely, it brought to mind the episode of Buffy where her friends think she has been sent to hell and bring her back from the dead but really she has been in paradise (I know odd, I blame Wondrous Reads for an awesome Vampire Week)

As a parent myself, I could also relate to how Zoe's parents must have felt seeing their daughter lying on a hospital bed on the verge of death. Talk about my worst nightmare.

The idea that the spirits of loved ones are there waiting for us to cross-over when we die brought tears to my eyes. The writing is emotionally charged, I cry, laugh and despair right along with Zoe.

Zoe's return to health gives her a new appreciation for life. Her inner strength is something I envy. I found myself wondering whether Zoe herself gained some 'heavenly' (no pun intended) powers upon her return. Again the religious references are non-denominational and open to your own beliefs/faith. I think the most important ideal in this series is that having faith in something beyond ourselves can help us cope with whatever life throws at us. A karma sort of thing, everything happens for a reason.

Zoe's ability to forgive can only be described as 'divine' and again made me wonder if she had gained some sort of special powers. Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to give, even if it is supposed to unshackle our souls, so to speak.

All of the characters develop further. I found my dislike for Britt increasing and seriously wondered how Zoe could be friends to someone so shallow, vapid and self-centred. Brady actually gave me chills. Abria, although autistic, brings such entertainment with her antics. The image of a naked 5 year old eating oreos is hysterical. I can just picture my nearly 5 year old getting up to the same things Abria does given half the chance, drawing on walls with a marker (she has done that) and making angel shapes in snack crumbs is just adorable.  The only one I couldn't understand was Luke, Zoe's brother, I honestly thought that after Heavenly, he was really going to give up doing drugs and couldn't quite understand why he has gone back to them or am I missing something about the nature of addiction here.

The realism within the writing makes the book so easy to relate to. Even, Matthias, a guardian angel has emotions such as jealousy that have to be dealt with and make him more accessible. The introduction of Albert, Matthias's father, added another element to the story.  Developing Matthias's background story and being truly terrifying in the process. I don't have a good relationship with my father and I found this quite difficult to read. Reading Heavenly and Penitence have been cathartic experiences for me.

I could really go on and on about this book but if I give anymore away, it might spoil your enjoyment of it and I wouldn't want to do that. There are a few shocks and surprises in store :) The last thing I will say is that the evil spirits just get more terrifying and every time I have an argument now I picture evil, black spirits crawling over me. It certainly puts an end to an argument quickly :)

I would recommend everyone to read this book as I have already said it is powerful, emotional and thought provoking. It really stays with you long after you have turned the last page. I can't wait for Absolution even though I am sure to cry buckets of tears again :)

The BookDepository


  1. I'm so happy you enjoyed the second installment of ZOe's story, Emma!! *sniff* x x x

  2. Wonderful review! So heartfelt :)


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