There's something very wrong with me. I can't remember who I am or how old I am, or even how I got here. All I know is that when I wake up, I could be any one. It is always this way. There's nothing I can keep with me that will stay. It's made me adaptable. I must always re-establish ties. I must tread carefully or give myself away. I must survive.*
Angels and YA have a tumultous relationship. Certain books holding them are blacklisted and others are seen with indifference. I can count only three so far that have been heralded for their content specifically because of angels: Unearthly, Angelfall and Mercy.
Angels and I have an excellent relationship outside YA, my favorite originating from Supernatural. With the YA boom, I've been waiting for an angel of the young and female variety to sweep me off my feet. Most of the angels I see nowadays are male, like an overwhelming amount of supernatural creatures. I'd been spoiled some time ago about the twist and decided to delve in without knowing anything else. (Note: the U.S. summary gives away far too much. I'm glad I decided to skip it.)
My expectations weren't sky high, but I remembered some of the praise about Mercy herself and was beside myself with excitement over a complex being identifying as female to knock Castiel off his pedestal. (He's been there for a while.)
I came out fairly disappointed.
My main problem was with Mercy herself. The first chapter frustrated me, as I was sure the information given would be repeated several times before the end of the novel. I was unfortunately right. Mercy narrated with the same degree of vocabulary and feeling of a teenager who viewed herself as mature - and a narrative that agreed with her. Mercy is an angel. I can't see how an angel would share the same thought process and feelings and senses with a human being, especially one that can exist non-corporeally. I found it doubly odd that she couldn't catch any hint as to what she was when it was incredibly blatant. The diction used by the people who knew and by Mercy herself slapped Bible all over them, and yet Mercy ignored all the signs. She frustrated me as much as the first chapter had, and it wasn't just with overlooking clues.
There were too many moments to count where Mercy would deride Carmen and everything she held dear. Any other book I could get behind this as fantastic characterization, but not only did Carmen confirm that what Mercy said was right at every turn, when Mercy was leaving her, there were no words of acknowledgement to her host. I would say that all this analysis might have been in depth because I find it incapable of reading otherwise, but the treatment of other female characters was just as bad. Outside of the dead, there were no girls of Mercy's "age" that were seen without some form of disdain. She even manged to deride one of the girls she had been kidnapped with! How does that happen? The other female characters ranged from the beautiful but needy ex of her love interest and the competitor for Carmen/Mercy's spot as soloist. I had to take a star away for this, because seeing that kind of female characterization everywhere in media is just becoming tiring and repetitive.
While all of these problems affected my reading, there were many things that elevated it as well. The setting was a definite pleaser. YA books have a reputation for getting setting right on the mark, and Mercy was no different. The description was minimal but effective, and lent great things for the chorus part of it. I don`t believe the school itself was ever described outside a sentence and yet the entire campus seemed laid out in front of me. I especially enjoyed the workings of being a chorus girl, and the amount of musical terminology I was able to learn. Lim was genius using this as an introduction to angels because with all the Latin and religious references in church hymns, it set the stage without ever even revealing it.
I would have thought Mercy's dreams irritating, but Lim knew how to use them to her advantage. She didn't plop us in every chapter or use them all in the first half and forget about them later. They enhanced the suspense and the sense of inevitablity.
Outside of guessing the villain and what was about to happen, I did enjoy the plot. It kept me reading when I've been on a bad streak with books lately, and that's what counts.
*Summary and photo from Goodreads.