Rayna was the worst kind of protagonist. At first, her mental stability was hanging by such a thin thread, I was anxious to the point of uncomfortableness, worried for her seemingly inevitable return to the S.S. Crazy – her term for the mental health institution she stayed in. As A Shimmer of Angels progressed, I looked forward to her character development as she slowly grew to realize that her hallucinations were real. Instead, I watched her tumble into confusion, as she warred with herself about her sanity. Her constantly conflicting emotions made her extremely self-centered, to the point where I began to dislike her as a character.
"Worry bit at me like a pesky mosquito. Lee was the only person in this world I could trust – with everything but the angel thing; no one would believe that. Except, well, the angels. And to repay his kindness, I’d gone and twisted myself up with Cam and Kade, leaving him high and dry. What a spectacular friend I was turning out to be. No wonder he’d missed school; he was probably avoiding me."
He couldn’t have missed school because he was sick, or because he had a family emergency. No, that wouldn’t make any sense. He must have missed school to avoid having to see Rayna. *headdesk* Somehow, she managed to turn her friend’s possible illness or personal emergency into something concerning her; conceited, much?
I also didn’t enjoy Basso’s writing. She repeated the same imagery, to the point of ridiculousness.
"My hair blew into my face."
I lost count, the number of times an angel’s wings made Rayna’s hair blow into her face. Every time it happened, I waited to see what everyone’s reaction would be to the mysterious and sudden indoor breeze. Of course, Basso never had anyone else comment on this oddity, which kept distancing me from her world. Why have something happen – and happen often – if no one’s going to comment on it? Even Rayna seemed to get more agitated with each use of it, pushing the hair out of her eyes with more and more ferocity.
And then there was the list of Twilight-esque cliches that had me cringing at every instance. Rayna describes herself as plain, especially in comparison to her sister who inherited their mother’s shiny blond locks and heart-shaped face, yet numerous guys seem to fall instantly in love with her – Luke, Cam, Kade – without explanation. Her clumsiness was written to rival Bella’s,
"I jerked back. Too hard. My chair tipped over, talking me with it. I smacked Jeremy in my mouth on my way down. My head bounced off the floor…"
"The coffee pot shattered against the tile floor, littering me with tiny fragments of glass and a hot rush of coffee."
and she was caught in between the ultimate love triangle, with the good, white-winged angel on the one side, and the bad, black-winged angel on the other (even though the “bad” angel did nothing but help her whenever she asked…). And lastly, because what paranormal romance is complete without it’s insta-love!, she managed to fall in love with someone she had about a handful of interactions with.
"Trust Cam. With not only my life, but so many others. I’d never been able to trust any of them before. But Cam was different. He had…oh what the hell, if I couldn’t admit my feelings when I was falling toward Hell, then when could I? He had my heart. There, I’d said it."
But don’t trust me, trust Rayna’s best friend Lee:
“'Sorry, Ray. I never would’ve pushed him on you if I’d known he’d only be around a few weeks.'
I had to change the subject. The thought of Cam gone forever hurt too much."
While these YA cliches on their own are annoying enough, easily, my biggest issue with A Shimmer of Angels was Basso’s treatment of the mental health system. Rayna’s mental stability is a large part of A Shimmer of Angels, and it was referenced repeatedly throughout the whole book. But even though it is touched on constantly, I didn’t understand Rayna’s father’s reasoning behind institutionalizing her for so long – and at such a young age – because we were told nothing about Rayna’s history with her illness, other than the fact that she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. How long had she been seeing wings for? Had it ever caused her to harm herself or others? Was she in therapy for a while, and because it wasn’t working they decided on something as extreme as institutionalization? And why was she in the institution for so long? Considering how often Rayna commented on her “craziness” during the first half of the book, I expected to learn quite a bit about her illness and the reasons for her extreme treatment. But not only was the fact that she was institutionalized at thirteen never explained, Basso takes it even further by having Rayna explain how awful it was to be restrained, which had me wondering what such a meek and scared little girl could do, while heavily drugged, in order for someone to think it was necessary to forcibly restrain her limbs? I am often asked to suspend disbelief in fiction. In this case, as nothing surrounding the treatment of Rayna’s mental illness was grounded in any type of reality, I was unable to suspend such disbelief and thus, unable to enjoy anything else A Shimmer of Angels might have had to offer.