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Grief Angels by David Owen - Review

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you very much to Little, Brown Book Group for granting me access.

What's it about? Duncan is in his last year of school and has three close friends - Lorenzo, Saeed, and Matt. Duncan feels a bit left behind, though, and he feels like the group is splintering a little bit. The other three are sometimes kind of dickheads (I loved how this was portrayed) and Duncan feels like he's just not as mature as Lorenzo, who is obsessed with the gym and his new buddies there, and Matt, who has a girlfriend. 

There's a new boy at school, Owen. He's transferred in the middle of a school year and there's tons of rumours about why. He and his mum go to church with Duncan's parents, so they're invited over. Duncan learns that Owen's dad has recently died and he and his mum have moved a couple of towns over. 

The two start a tentative friendship, brought closer by a love of a sci-fi programme that they watch together over video chat. Lorenzo and the others try to drive a wedge between Duncan and Owen. Everyone acts in terrible ways in one way or another, but eventually, friendship prevails. 

The story is told from both Duncan's and Owen's points of view, which I really liked. I felt like I really got to know each boy, and I liked them. There are also parts where something magical happens to Owen - something which has to happen to get him through the grief and the other emotions around losing his dad. 

I thought that the relationship between all the boys was realistically portrayed, in both good and bad ways. I've seen David Owen speak at a couple of conferences, so I was keen to read something by him. However, I was tweeting about this book when I first started reading it, because there's some fatphobia especially at the beginning but throughout. I was very disappointed by this. Matt is fat, and there's some really horrible parts about his body. For instance, Duncan thinks that Matt's "garantuan" hands are usually more used to holding a kebab than whatever it is he's holding at that point, and there's a whole bit about how it's surprising he has a girlfriend "despite" his giant belly and all of that. 

This is not okay. It's not okay to have phrases like this in any book, but especially not one for teenagers, whose bodies are changing very quickly and sometimes in confusing and surprising ways. For a book that does so well in other ways (which I mention later), I think it's a shame and I was disappointed. I'm sick of fatphobia all over the place. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No, but there's some homophobic teasing from Duncan's friends and Duncan and Owen both respond by being like "We're not together, but it wouldn't matter if we were". I liked that. 

Are any main characters people of colour? No. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Duncan has depression and I really liked this facet of the book and how it was written about. Also Duncan's sister Emily uses a wheelchair, and it's a very non issue, which I also liked. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Only prescription medication, I think. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, as Owen's dad has recently died. It's not too graphic, but it is there. 

Are there swear words? A few yeah 


What criticisms do I have? The fatphobia, but that was almost it. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, but be careful if the fatphobia will be triggering for you. It was for me, and I'm a grown up. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I've been meaning to get around to it. 


What do I think of the cover? It's nice, but I'm not sure it really gets across what the book is about. Yes, there's a fantasy element, but it's really about the friendship between the boys and how, although each of them has dealt with difficult things in their lives, they're still whole and still human. 


What other books is it like? I can't think of any, I'm sorry 

How many stars? Four out of five 

Grief Angels was published on 5th March 2020. I was given a free electronic copy of the novel but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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