Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Green Angel Review for Colorful Reading Challenge

Recently I began the Colorful Reading Challenge (more information here) It's a fun challenge, hosted by a blogger ( Rebecca of Lost In Books) who loves reading challenges.

Today I finished a book called Green Angel, by Alice Hoffman (of Practical Magic fame). I picked up this book almost by accident. It was in a give-away pile, and since I really like Alice Hoffman's books (well, most of them) I snagged it right away. No hesitation. Alice Hoffman writes on a large spectrum of human faults and strengths. Not all of her books are for all readers, but no matter what her current subject you can be sure that you are reading a book with quality writing, strong plots, and you will learn something in each book, without even realizing that you are learning.

Alice Hoffman's books usually read like a timeless fairytale. Fairytale might not even be the right word, but there is usually some hints of magic in her stories. Green Angel has no mention of year, city or country, it could be any place, at any time, in any country. It is a short young adult book (116 pages)
written in the first person point of view. The main character is a teenager called Green. The book is divided into 5 sections; Heart, Soul, Treasure, Rain and Sister. It is about grief and loss and how one teenager goes through her process of grief and recovery, at the same time surviving with no obvious support. I found it interesting that Ms Hoffman divided the book into 5 sections, and there is a strong theory that there are 5 stages of grief that humans go through during the loss of a loved one, or disaster.

Green has a way with nature, plants and animals. She has a father, mother and younger sister. Green and her family live across the bridge from a large silver and gold city. They grow fruits and vegetables they they sell in the large city. Usually only two family members at a time go, such as Green and her mother. In the city is the only place that Green does not feel awkard or as if people are judging her for her actions, (like hugging linden trees). The book opens with her anger at her family because this market day, she has to stay home while the rest go to the city, and she looks forward to her trips to the city, where she can blend in with the crowds.

Ms Hoffman's writing is almost poetic, and at the same time there is no unnecessry prose. The writing is wonderful, once I started the book I just kept reading until I was done. There is almost no dialogue, as most of Green's time is spent by herself, or with animals and plants.

While she is angrily tending the family's garden a disaster hits the city. Fire burns, the bridge is burnt and embers and ashes fly over to their home. Green comes to realize that she has lost her whole family. She is only left with her sister's dog, who only tolerated her before, and the garden that has been devastated with ashes and embers; the vegetables and fruit has been burned.

Green never really knows what has caused the fire, only that the city burned, she lost her family, many died and her own village was devastated. Since the townspeople assumed she was with her family during the disaster, no one comes to check on her. Green goes through her own stages of grief on her own, with few souls around to help her. She's angry at herself, riddled with guilt at the way she behaved when she last saw her family. She had always been a little jealous of her younger sister's carefree, easygoing ways with everything and everyone. She punishes herself. When she finally starts to do what she has to to survive, she avoids treating her burned eyes (burned the day of the fire, when embers flew into her eyes). She refuses to cry.

As the year progresses, she gets a little stronger emotionally and physically. She slowly makes friends as one by one, different animals and three people come into her life.

This is a wonderful story of grief, anger, guilt, strength, and finally forgiveness. Green's way of punishing herself, and at the same time keeping her pain at bay is totally believable for a teenager. She notes how the townspeople are either helpers,(helping the less fortunate) or opportunists (charging as much as they can for necessaties, profitting off misfortune). These are important observations in real life. Green also learns to let go of each soul that entered her life during the year that follows the disaster, it's hard for her but she lets go, emerging a stronger person herself.

I would definitely recommend this book for middle school age and up, even adults. A 6 *, on my rating system. It makes me want to read more of Alice Hoffman's books, both young adult and adult.


  1. This sounds like a wonderful story. I can relate a little to Green as I am going through the stages of grief now with my father, although I cannot begin to imagine the trauma of losing my entire family at once. Great review, Mardel! I am posting this now.

  2. I've had friends who have lost a parent, but I haven't had to deal with that yet. I can't even imagine what losing one would be like, much less losing a whole family. And all anyone can really say, is to treasure the memories; laugh at the funny memories, cherish the sweet memories, and let all the negative memories go (we all have negative memories of our families) and just hold on the the positive ones. Losing one parent is bad enough, both and siblings would be horrible. Keep your chin up.