Jan 03, 10
Read in August, 2003
This is still a highly visual story that would translate well to the graphic novel medium - but only if it could be illustrated by Charles Vess. On a farm across the river from a city live two sisters different as night and day. Shy retiring Green, older and capable, is left behind to mind the house farm while younger vivacious Aurora gets to travel into the city with the parents to trade their produce. While they are there, something unspeakable and indescribable happens, something that produces smoke and ash and people jumping out of burning buildings. Terror and looting follow. It is many days before Green stops listening for her family's voices. Armoring herself with leather boots and jacket, she changes her name to Ash and briefly lashes out her anger by drinking and smoking until she succumbs to numb grief.
In spite of her desire not to feel anymore, Ash finds solace in a form of self-[destruction:]. She decorates her body with homemade tattoos of trailing vines, plants and animals with a pin and black ink. Left to run wild, she develops a keen intuition towards nature, and in her ramblings through the woods her heart begins to take in strays - an elderly neighbor, a dog, and then a boy with a hawk who was injured in the accident. As Ash forges new relationships and works the land, her burdens lighten until one, one day she finds herself singing. Her black tattoos turn green, a symbol not only of rebirth of the barren landscape, but also of the slow healing of her heart and soul.
It is impossible not to interpret this lyrical allegorical novel as a response to September 11th. The swiftly paced story, haunting tone and detailed language almost mask over the fact that the reader comes away with a feeling that Hoffman is not giving her YA novels the attention the audience would demand. A lack of varied vocabulary and the same repetitive (though gorgeous!) imagery hammered home over and over indicates she either has little faith in teen reader's capacity for complex literature, or an editor who is asleep at the switch. In any case, Green Angel is truly the best of Hoffman's YA novels to date; it will leave your throat aching and the taste of apples in your mouth.