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The Belief in Angels

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Growing up in her parents' crazy hippie household on a tiny island off the coast of Boston, Jules's imaginative sense of humor is the weapon she wields as a defense against the chaos of her family's household. Somewhere between routine discipline with horsewhips, gun-waving gambling debt collectors, and LSD-laced breakfast cereal adventures, tragedy strikes a blow from whi ...more
Paperback, 314 pages
Published March 15th 2015 by Chenery Press
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4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  127 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
3.5 strong stars
This book is marked as New Adult. I just don't see it. This book is actually one of the better books marked as that genre that I've ever read.
It's told in alternating viewpoints, Jules story is told with her grandfather's flashbacks. The book is a very slow burn, but it's so worth the time to read it.

Jules story, good grief. I don't know how this kid made it. Her dad is abusive and her mom finally wises up and kicks him out of the house. What happens then? Her mom is a flower ch
Initial reaction: This book took me through the emotional gauntlet and back again. Very well written and presented. Probably my chief complaint for the work was that sometimes the pacing slowed it down, but it was beautifully written. The characters aren't always easy to like, but the motivations and development here? Awesome. Hopefully I can expand upon this in the full review.

Full review:

Oh my word, this was the best book I've read in a while. Seriously, I don't say that lightly. I think I had
John Inman
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly beautiful book. Beautiful, disturbing, sad, jubilant, heartbreaking. Jules's story touched me on so many levels I can't quite explain them all. All I know is that the author's writing is flawless. I was moved to tears many times, and now that I've finished reading the last page, bringing the story full circle, I have an almost unbearable urge to start it all over again and travel Jules's journey one more time. As if once wasn't heart-rending enough. I can't wait to read more from ...more
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Original review can be found at

4.5 stars

* I received an advanced readers copy of this book from She Writes Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!*

The Belief in Angels is a truly haunting story of one girl as she struggles with the cards that she has been dealt from a very young age to adulthood. Dysfunctional doesn't even begin to describe her family life and the things she was forced to endure. As I read I felt every emotion fro
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read4reviews
If I could describe this book in one word... flawless.

I don't remember how many times tears sprung to my eyes, or how many times I had to take a deep breath because I was so overwhelmed. I finished this book in one sitting, and my mind is still reeling.

Yates writing is purely magnificent. I was captivated from the first page, (and the cover). The story is like a giant circle of Jule's life, and it flows beautifully. The imagery was intense. I found myself cringing and crying from every little d
Linda Marie Marsh
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was a taste of home for on the massachusetts coast in a town where the population doubles in the summer. It is narrated by a young girl till she becomes college age, one of the 'townies'. Not one of the privileged monetarily but one who appreciates and loves the open air natural life on the small island. Where the 'ocean transforms broken glass into something precious....something you can keep...'

A family of major dysfunction where it's basically every man for himself...with
Samantha R.
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya
I'm a little surprised this is the debut novel for J. Dylan Yates. In her book The Belief in Angels, Yates proves to be a wonderful storyteller and weaver of human emotion. This is an engaging story about how far the human spirit can go to survive trauma and what brings healing and growth. It shows the effects that neglect, abuse, and death can have as well as the power of one caring and present person. The theme of trauma between generations and how is can strangle a family stayed with me. This ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This book is about Jules and her grandfather Szaja. Both are telling their stories: Jules in the 70's and her granfather in the 20's.

Jules is living in a very disturbed and dysfunctional environment with her parents. Between her parents there is violence, gambling, drugs and a lot of beating and to escape her imagination to bring some happy moments.

Szaja who in the 20's, witnessed unimaginable terror, violence and was too much that he devel
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-my-own
This is a story about a girl whose childhood is dramatic to say the least. It's engaging and amazing and I ended up reading almost all of it on the plane home from Boston! What a great read!
Elaine White
Book – The Belief in Angels
Author – J. Dylan Yates
Star rating – ★★★★★
Plot – excellently told, enjoyable, touching
Characters – very diverse, well explored and relatable
Movie Potential – ★★★★★
Ease of reading – very easy to read
Cover – ✔
Suitable Title – ✔
Would I read it again – ✔


I loved and agreed with every word of the author’s note. As a science geek myself, this really captured my attention and intrigued me. I knew after I
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 I appreciate this book for the story and the characters, but the unemotional writing style made it hard going.
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the author for providing me with an e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: This was an impressive debut novel that showcases the strength and resilience of the human spirit despite some of the horrible things that can occur in life. The story alternates between Jules' and her grandfather Szaja's stories that showcase their personal struggles and what they had to do in order to survive.

My favourite part of the book was definitely Jule
Susan Obryan
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A debut novel by J. Dylan Yates reads like a memoir, but in a deep, dark way, it’s more personal. “The Belief in Angels,” published by She Writes Press, is among the 2014 USA Best Book honorees.

The novel alternates the story of Jules and her grandfather Samuel. Jules is the lead character throughout the novel, and even her grandfather’s words are written at her request (something we don’t learn until late in the family saga).

A relationship is something Julies craves, especially in her younger ye
Carla Johnson-Hicks
This book is about surviving. It's about moving on from the suffering in your life. It's told in alternating narration, Jules story as well as her grandfather's flashbacks.

Jules is the main character in the story. She is strong, gutsy and knows who she is even though her family is one of the most dysfunctional families I have read about. Her dad is an abusive alcoholic who gambles and can not hold down a job. When her mom finally wises up and kicks him out of the house, she becomes a wild hippi
Brenda A
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-4-review
This just makes me cringe so much. The poor kids in this had to go through so much crap just to make it through a day, and it was rough the whole way.

I definitely connected more with Jules the most. She's a tiny kid, one who is consistently abused and then neglected. She's had a gun pointed at her on numerous occasions by her drunk of a father, and her mother operates under a delusion that she should be as independent as possible. Which is great, except she never buys food, or surfaces out of he
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A literary coming of age novel, The Belief in Angels is a finely crafted story uniquely told through the eyes of Jules as she ages from 6 to 18, and her grandfather Samuel / Sjaza. A middle child and the only girl, Jules has a strong and likable voice that takes us through the narrative of her journey growing up on Cape Cod with abusive and narcissistic parents starting in the late 1960s. Forced into an early adulthood, she is the caretaker of her two brothers—and sometimes her parents. We root ...more
P.G. Allison
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If only it were fiction!

This is an absolutely powerful book, filled with such sad experiences the reader can only hope it’s fiction. Yet, while it may be fiction and even a fantasy, the events and experiences of the characters are so real, it breaks your heart again and again. These terrible things do actually happen to some people some of the time and the author does a fantastic job making the reader live through them, feel them, know them, fear them and strive to overcome them all while viewin
Jean Moore
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There is a feeling among some reviewers that 5-star ratings should be reserved for the greats of literature. In other words, does a debut novelist deserve the same rating as say, Tolstoi? I've followed a different philosophy in reviewing The Belief in Angels. I've given it a 5 for its clear-eyed and honest portrayal of a brave and forbearing young girl (and teenager, as the story progresses) who is growing up against seemingly insurmountable odds. With the backdrop of drugs, alcohol, abuse and t ...more
May 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The story was told in point and counterpoint by Jules and her grandfather. It just did not work for me. The grandfather's story might have been poignant and interesting if told as a stand alone but the parallels into his granddaughter's life were oblique at best.

There is no doubt that the author has mastered the art of communicating her ideas. Her thoughts, sentiments and conversations were clear and insightful but the darkne
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In her debut novel, The Belief in Angels, J. Dylan Yates proves herself an unflinching storyteller and a masterful navigator of complex human emotions-both with those of her characters as well as with those of her readers. Yates has written an engaging story about how far the human spirit can bend to survive trauma and what can bring about healing and growth.

Her characters are well developed and complex, their stories married across time, congruent events, and differing perspectives. We see the
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received this book from Goodreads.

I finished this book yesterday and I'm still reeling. I can't honestly describe what I'm feeling right now. All kinds of emotion about this book is fighting for dominance but none of them can come up on top because this book can't be labeled as one thing. It's multiple things and everything. Its human.
That's the word I'm looking for. Human.
If I could describe this book in one word, a signaler word that holds infinite amount of meaning, it would be this one. Hu
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Here are two entwined stories about coping with survivor's guilt. Teenage Jules (aka Julianne) and her grandfather Sam (aka Szaja) have come through personal ordeals, she with a brilliant but abusive mother, and he through the persecutions of eastern Europe in WWII. The cruelties visited on him were more overt and violent, but the psychological terror Jules must endure is just as real and emotionally damaging. Yates artfully crafts this book through meticulous detail crafted from the often munda ...more
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Finally a book I could really get in to. this started out a little confusing. There was an older Jewish man that had witnessed the atrocities of the Nazis on his family and a young girl who lived through a really dysfunctional family life. It reminded me of some of the lives of students I had in junior high. Finally whole thing came together and I found out how these seemingly unrelated people were in fact related after all. This is a book about living through the worst of circumstances and pos ...more
Rossandra White
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I had the pleasure of attending a reading by the author who shared that writing this book gave her the opportunity to create a part of her life that was missing: grandparents. She did a masterful job of bringing to vivid life the grandfather in the story: Szaja, an orthodox Jew who survived the Ukrainian pogroms of the 20s along with other horrors in his journey to the United States. The author alternates his story with that of his granddaughter Jules, who is trying to survive her own horrors wi ...more
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I worried based on what I heard about this book that a belief in angels would be required, or at least the willingness to be persuaded. That wasn't the case at all. That sort if thing can be found if you want it, but it doesn't club you over the head if you don't. The angels are less concrete than that, taking a backseat potential interpretation-wise to character and story. I love the character voices. Jules in particular changes marvelously from believable child to adult. It's an engaging and c ...more
Patricia Eimer
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, compelling literary novel whose heroine -- Jules Finn-- will leave you reeling once you've finished the last page. Interwoven with her own tragic tale of being raised by selfish, self involved parents, is the heartbreaking story of her grandfather-- a Ukrainian Jew who survived both the Holocaust and the Soviet pogroms-- both at a terrible price. This is a heartbreaking read that proves once again that in all people and in all things it is the sense of loss that ultimately unites us ...more
Destiny Brown
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Deeply Moving Coming of Age Story

Author J. Dylan Yates has done an amazing job in this unique coming of age tale - The Belief in Angels.

A compelling, yet haunting family saga. Raw, emotional and at times harrowing, The Belief in Angels shares the story of a young girls triumph over abuse, surviving yet dealing with issues that at times break her, but will ultimately make her stronger.

Truly inspiring, emotional read.

Highly Recommended!!!
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jules has a childhood from hell. She and her brothers, David and Moses have two of the most selfish, unloving parents I have encountered in many a book. Deadbeat Dad shows up when running from bookies and the law, Mom parties with the Hell's Angels. Every once in awhile, Grandfather visits and Jules seems to connect with him. He is a survivor too, of the Holocaust and Russian Pomgroms. A sad tale with a glimpse of hope.
Gwendolyn Plano
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Belief in Angels covers the expanse of human travails through writing that is skilled and beautiful. I was as moved by the story as by the author’s choice of words. Compelling and at times riveting, the book walks the reader through life in a dysfunctional family to the choices a child must make to salvage meaning and dignity.
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good read

I chose to give this book five stars because it captured and held my interest. It switched between two individuals life experiences without losing you in the mix. It was almost like reading two books at one time, each related to the other. I wish I could learn more about Samuel. That is the only thing that disappointed me at all.
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Raised on a tiny, New England peninsula, J. Dylan Yates graduated with a BFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

THE BELIEF IN Angels, Yates's debut novel, was written over the course of many years while she worked a number of BFA-related jobs, including: waitressing, teaching, corporate training, real estate, nursing, interior design, directing, acting, producing, library science, parentin
“Last night I dreamt Moses and I were rowing underwater.
We could breathe and talk to one another.
We rowed past schools of fish and sea anemones and Moses named them for me.”
—Jules Finn”
“it’s okay, even wonderful, to be different.” 0 likes
More quotes…