Labels depress me. I understand them for marketing purposes,
but labeling books puts them on a shelf where they may or may not reach the
audience they deserve. Greg Herren’s latest mystery, Sleeping Angel, is
a perfect example. It will probably be put on the young adult (YA) shelf, but
the fact is that it’s a cracking good mystery that general readers will enjoy
as well. It just happens to be about teens.
Eric Matthews wakes up in the hospital but, due to amnesia,
has no idea how he’s gotten there. Nor does he know who murdered Sean, the dead
boy found in his car. He can’t remember his parents, his friends, his teachers
or his life—which comes back to him in annoyingly vague flashes. Despite this,
he must find Sean’s killer in order to clear his own name. Unless, of course,
he did it.
Greg Herren has breathed new life into what could have been
a tired, run-of-the-mill YA mystery by approaching the whole “bullied gay
teens” cliché-to-be in an entirely new direction—that of the bully. Eric’s
guilt and determination to make up for his past deeds are a big part of his
motivation for solving why his former friend’s body is in his car. Although
he’s desperately afraid of how he might have had a hand in it, he drives
himself to explore not only the situation but his own mind as well.
Herren’s muscular prose—flowing but never flashy—sets the
stage, brings the characters on and lets them tell their stories without
standing in the way. His eye for detail is unerring and even though there’s a
very moralistic point of view, the tone is never preachy or pompous. And if, at
times, his teens sound more like thirty-year olds that has less to do with
Herren’s writing ability than a desire to have them actually say something
intelligent. I mean, have you talked to one lately? Like, you have to
have something to work with, dude. Y’know?
A unique viewpoint, a solid mystery and good
characterization all conspire to make Sleeping Angel a welcome addition
to any shelf, no matter where the bookstores stock it.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler