How to describe The Angels Are the Reapers? Sure, it's a zombie story, but it's so different than most other books with that theme that it's hard to know precisely what to say. I finished the book a few days ago and I'm still digesting the story, and I imagine I'll still be thinking about it long after I finish this review.
The Angels Are the Reapers is the story of fifteen year old Temple, born after whatever it was that caused the dead to start returning as zombies happened. It's the only life she's known; she has no clue who her parents were, having grown up in an orphanage very quickly. When the story opens, Temple is alone on a small island with a lighthouse, thinking she's safe for the time being, but it doesn't take long for the "slugs" to begin to invade and Temple has to go back into "civilization", such as it is. It's obvious there's more to Temple's background, but we're only teased about it; Temple finds a community to join, but things go downhill rapidly and she's forced to flee almost as soon as she arrives. How a fifteen year old invokes the deadly wrath of a fellow warrior in the fight against the zombies and finds herself on his personal hit list is only part of the story; how she manages to take on an adult, intellectually challenged male in her travels, abide for a time in a genteel southern home, and face off against mutants round out the tale but still doesn't fill in all the gaps.
Temple may be the young adult heroine of this story, but it's not really a YA novel in tone or message. Temple is fascinating in so many respects, revealing layer after layer to her personality even though she seems not to be sophisticated enough to know what she does about people. She faces down her enemies in deadly fashion, yet it's obvious she still has a conscience. She adapts to her world because that's all she's ever known, showing a grudging respect for the man, Moses Todd, who is determined to hunt her down and kill her. She shows compassion when necessary and is ruthless almost all the time. Her story is going to grip you hard and won't let you go.
If there's anything I disliked about The Reapers Are The Angels, it would be the ending. I'm not going to spoil anything, but I will say that I was disappointed. Though it's well written and entirely believable, I wanted more...more emotion, more explanation, more redemption, more revenge, more everything. And maybe that's the point of the whole story: It is what it is. I know I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come, and I suspect that was the author's purpose all along: To get in there without apology.