Book & Author Details:
No Angel by Helen Keeble
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication date: October 8th 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Raffi’s about to learn that St. Mary’s is actually a hub for demons-and that he was summoned to the school by someone expecting him to save the day. Raffi knows he’s no angel-but it’s pretty hard to deny that there’s some higher plan at work when he wakes up one morning to discover a glowing circle around his head.
Helen Keeble’s debut novel, Fang Girl, has been praised for its pitch-perfect teen voice, and VOYA called it “refreshing and reminiscent of Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series.” No Angel brings you angels and demons like you’ve never seen them-complete with the wry humor of Vladimir Tod, sinfully irreverent romance, and some hilariously demonic teenage dilemmas.
In which our hero arrives at his new school…
The shiny new sign above the towering wrought-iron gates said ST. MARY’S BOARDING SCHOOL FOR GIRLS AND BOYS, which, as it turned out, was wrong by one letter.
“Wait,” I said, staring at the Headmistress with a slow-rising sensation of dread. “You mean I’m just the first guy to arrive, right?”
“If you fail to understand the meaning of the word only, Mr. Angelos, I will have to schedule you for remedial English lessons,” replied the short, severe woman. “But to make it crystal clear, you are indeed the first, sole, singular member of the male gender here.” It was obvious that she considered this at least one boy too many. “I trust you will be a worthy representative of your species. Welcome to St. Mary’s.”
Declarations of outright war had been uttered in friendlier tones. I grabbed my dad’s arm as he came back from the car, carrying the last of my suitcases. “I’ve changed my mind,” I said, turning us away from the waiting Headmistress. “Don’t leave me here!”
“You were the one who begged to come to your mother’s old school when you found they were accepting boys this year. ‘A way of honoring her memory’, you said.” He dropped my bags in front of the school gates and raised an eyebrow. “Not to mention ‘a heaven of honeys in very short skirts’, as I recall you saying to your friends.”
I flushed. I hadn’t realized he’d overheard that conversation. “But I thought there would be at least a few other guys around. Who am I supposed to talk to?”
“Girls?” Dad suggested mildly.
“Ha ha. Seriously, Dad!”
“You want serious?” Dad folded his arms, looking up at me. “It’s cost me a serious amount of money to enroll you here, so I expect you to actually make an effort for once, Raffi. St. Mary’s has always been one of the most exclusive schools in England, and we’re incredibly fortunate that they’re opening up to boys at last. And even more fortunate that they’re allowing you in for just the final year.” His finger jabbed me in the center of my chest. “You will work hard.”
Behind him, the Headmistress’s expression suggested that she personally thought boys were best put to work down dangerous mine shafts.
I scowled down at my feet, stuffing my hands into the pockets of my new suit. “If it’s so fabulous here, then why didn’t any other guys apply?” I muttered under my breath.
“Our entrance requirements are extremely strict,” the Headmistress said as if I’d spoken normally. “There was no shortage of male applicants, I assure you. Were it not for your late mother, I would have rejected you along with all the rest. But she was a personal friend of mine, as well as an outstanding member of this institution.” She fixed me with a piercing stare. “I trust you will live up to her legacy.”
“You hear that?” My dad poked me again. “This is your last chance, Raffi. You’re lucky to get into any school, after what happened at your last one. You should be grateful for this opportunity.” In my head, I started reciting the inevitable speech along with him. I’d heard it enough times to have it memorized. “You can’t keep wandering around in a dream, absent-mindedly strewing chaos in your wake.“
Honestly, incinerate one lousy building by accident once, and your dad will never, ever let you forget it. “That fire wasn’t my fault!“
“Perfectly ordinary toasters do not spontaneously spout four-foot pillars of flame!”
The Headmistress took a phone out of her pocket and murmured into it, “Memo to self: Mr. Angelos is banned from Home Economics.”
My dad was still on a roll. “Your problem, Raffi, is that you’re too unworldly for your own good. You have got to quit goofing off and start paying attention to what’s going on around you-“
His voice droned on, but I didn’t hear another word. I was too busy falling in love.
She was tall, only a few inches shorter than myself, but so light and slender she seemed to float on the breeze. Her feet barely made any sound on the gravel as she slipped round the gate and headed for us, her waist-length blonde hair rippling behind her like a cloak. Even though all the girls must have been warned boys were joining them this year, she still did a very gratifying double-take at the sight of me, her summer-sky eyes widening. For my part, it was all I could do not to gawp at her like a total idiot. The instant I saw her, I knew her. She was The One.
For a moment we stared at each other. Then the girl shook herself, her hair shimmering with the movement. A delicate rose tinted her high cheekbones, but — my stomach dropped into my socks — she didn’t look pleased. A small frown marred her perfect face as she turned decisively away from me. “M- I mean, Headmistress?” Even her voice was perfect, so soft and sweet I half-expected her to break into a duet about kittens and rainbows with a passing bluebird. “Everyone’s ready and waiting.”
“Thank you, Faith,” the Headmistress replied. She lifted a hand, cutting off my dad’s lecture. “Major Angelos, while I am certain your son’s head has not yet been filled with your sound advice, time grows short. I must ask you to make your final farewells.”
“Of course.” Dad put his hands on my shoulders, looking me squarely in the eye. “Now promise me you’ll apply yourself, Raffi.”
“Oh,” I said, staring past him at Faith. “You bet I will.”
“That’s my boy.” To my utter mortification, Dad ruffled my hair, then pulled me in for a hug. “You’ll do fine.”
“Mr. Angelos, you may leave your bags here for now,” the Headmistress said as I disentangled myself as fast as possible. “Faith will escort you to the hall. A last word with you please, Major Angelos?”
“This way,” Faith said, holding the gate open for me. She avoided my eyes, her own gaze lingering on my dad and the Headmistress as they headed back toward his car. “Your dad seems nice.” There was an odd, wistful note to her musical voice. “You’re lucky.”
“I certainly am.” Falling into step with her, I tried out the charming, enigmatic smile that I’d spent the summer practicing in front of the mirror. “Though not because of my dad.”
“Yes, of course we’re all lucky to get to go to a school like this,” Faith said, a little too quickly. She indicated the carefully tended flowerbeds lining the path, and the landscaped woods beyond. I had to admit, it was all very pretty. Also, unspeakably girly. I could already feel my testosterone draining away. “It’s so beautiful here, don’t you think?”
I edged a little closer, trying to keep up my smile while also throwing in a hint of smolder. My face was starting to ache. “Yes, I do.”
“Some of the buildings we use for classrooms are hundreds of years old,” Faith said, in the bright, brittle tones of someone determinedly paddling against a conversational undertow. She lengthened her stride, like a tour guide on a tight schedule. “Look, there’s the main school building. It has many unique architectural features.” I had a horrible feeling that Faith was about to start listing them all. Given that the monstrosity rising in front of us sported everything from Gothic gargoyles to a sort of bonsai skyscraper, she could probably keep going for hours. “It started as a chapel, though of course it’s been extended a lot since then. St. Mary’s used to be a convent, you know.”
I was beginning to feel like it still was one. Faith wasn’t looking at me at all. Time to deploy the big guns. “I know a lot of things, Faith Jones. Especially about you.”
That got her attention. She stopped dead, swiveling to face me. “What do you mean?”
Going for broke, I reached for her hand, gazing deep into her astonished blue eyes as I lifted it to my lips. “I mean that you’re the reason I’m here.”
This was absolutely true. School brochure, page three, full-page picture: “After a hard day’s work, nothing beats a swim in our beautiful outdoor pool!” — Faith Jones. The photographer had captured her rising from the water with her head thrown back and water streaming from her hair, looking like some sort of classic sea-goddess. In a red bikini.
The instant I’d seen that picture, I’d known this was the school for me. And now all my research in the romance section of the library was about to pay off big time. All the wariness had vanished from Faith’s face, chased away by incredulous, breathless hope. Her fingers tightened on mine as my lips brushed the back of her hand-
“Ah, Mr. Angelos,” the Headmistress said from right behind me. “I see you’ve introduced yourself to my daughter.”
Our hero, Rafael Angelos, is in his first English lesson at his new school. His desk partner is Michaela Dante, a dark, smoldering beauty. Needless to say, Raffi is not exactly giving the teacher, Ms. Wormwood, his full attention…
“So let’s hear from the male perspective. If you would tell us your thoughts, Raffi?”
What few coherent thoughts I had at that moment were mainly about the view down Michaela’s top, but I didn’t think that was the sort of male perspective Ms. Wormwood meant. Dragging myself back into the everyday world, I tried to remember what the teacher had been wittering on about. Something about the summer reading assignment? What was the summer reading assignment? I hadn’t even read the back cover when I’d thrown it in my bag this morning. I glanced down now in search of inspiration, and discovered I’d taken out my Biology textbook. No help there.
Ms. Wormwood’s look of friendly expectation was starting to slide into the wary expression of a teacher who senses imminent bullshit. “Well,” I said, stalling for time. “I thought it was very interesting.” I snuck a peek at the cover of Michaela’s book, catching a glimpse of a winged and gratuitously shirtless angel tumbling in flames out of a dark sky. No doubt it was some sort of girly romance, all forbidden love and sparkly boyfriends.
“I found it very inspirational,” I said, deciding that I might as well go for broke. Michaela, still searching my face intently, drew in a sharp breath; encouraged, I ploughed on. “I really identified with, uh, him.” I gestured at the angel guy.
Ms. Wormwood did not look like she was buying this. “Could you be more specific?”
Not really. “Well, his struggle totally resonated with me,” I improvised wildly. “And the way that he decided to go for what he wanted, despite everything trying to stop him.”
Ms. Wormwood’s eyebrows shot up. “Interesting. So you would call him the hero of the piece?”
“Absolutely,” I said, hoping I sounded confident. “That sort of tenacity is definitely heroic.”
Ms. Wormwood beamed at me, as a little murmur ran around the classroom. “Very good, Raffi. I do like a student who rejects dogma and draws her — his — own conclusions. Why don’t you read us the famous quote summing up his argument? Lines 258 to 263.”
I cast Michaela a sideways glance, to see if she was rapt with admiration at my sensitive nature yet — and was met with a narrow-eyed glare that suggested that if I asked to share her book I was likely to get walloped over the head with it. Recoiling, I hastily fumbled my own copy out of my bag, trying to work out what I’d done wrong. Had I come across as too nerdy? Too pretentious? What?
Finding the right page, I squinted at the text. Oh, great. Poetry.
“Here at last
We shall be free;
the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
“Excellent, pet,” Ms. Wormwood said, as I blinked at the page. “Now, who can tell me what Satan means by his speech to the fallen angels here?”
Satan? What the hell kind of romance was this? I checked the back cover as half a dozen hands shot into the air. Paradise Lost, it said. By John Milton. Apparently it was all about the war between God and the Devil.
Who I’d just held up as a paragon of manly virtue.
No wonder Michaela had glared at me. She’d now let her hair swing down like a curtain between us, hiding her face. I stifled the urge to groan and thump my head on the desk. This day just kept getting worse and worse.
Busy kicking myself, I barely noticed Michaela whisper something Italian-sounding under her breath. Then her fingers brushed my thigh.
Ms. Wormwood broke off mid-sentence. “Is there something wrong, Raffi?”
From flat on the floor, I managed to make a strangled sort of noise, shaking my head. Aware of all the eyes staring at me, I quickly picked up my overturned chair and reseated myself. Burying my face in my book, I waited until all the girls had turned back to Ms. Wormwood. Then I cautiously peered over the pages at Michaela.
Her face was still hidden, but somehow she knew I was looking. “And now,” she murmured, in a low, throaty voice that made every syllable sound like an invitation to a dirty weekend, “I know everything about you.” Her knees bumped mine under the desk as she turned toward me. “Do you know what I’m going to do?”
I maintained my smoldering, mysterious silence, mainly because my brain had utterly fused.
Michaela pushed back her hair. Her blood-red lips curved upwards, slowly.
“I’m going,” she whispered, her black eyes burning with passion, “to kill you.”
In which Rafael Angelos -- high school student, would-be Casanova, and unexpected angel – attempts to get to grips with his awesome new powers...
So I was, for want of a better word, an angel, possibly with a holy mission to protect the world from the forces of evil. Obviously there was one thing I had to do as soon as possible.
The next morning I got up at the crack of dawn, liberated a helmet from the communal bike shed, and set off to learn how to fly.
A half-hour hike found me a nice wide clearing in the woods, well away from the school buildings. With a last glance around to check for onlookers, I shrugged my wings out. Early morning mist scurried along the ground as I lofted them to full vertical extension, the glowing pinions reaching for the sky like outstretched hands. I crouched, looked up, and took a deep breath.
“Okay,” I said softly, and swept my wings down.
It was a good thing I’d worn a helmet.
“Right,” I muttered to myself, spitting out dirt. “Less sideways, more up.”
After another ten minutes of running, leaping, and rather unangelic swearing, I was still resolutely earthbound. I brushed the mud off my knees, scowling. Maybe what I needed was motivation. I’d certainly had plenty last night. Unfortunately, I didn’t think Faith would appreciate her own guardian angel pushing her out a window, not even in the interests of science. And I wasn’t quite confident enough in my wings to want to throw myself out of a window, either.
I crouched down in a sprinter’s stance and squeezed my eyes. Just think of all the things I’d be able to do once I mastered flight. I’d be able to confirm my suspicions about the true threat to the school. I’d be able to save Faith if she fell again. I’d be able to sneak out in the evening and find the nearest pub-
“Oh my God,” said a voice behind me.
I leapt into the air in alarm — literally. A short mid-teens girl in a baggy cardigan and unflattering glasses stood frozen in the bracken, staring at up me with her mouth hanging open. “You’re… you’re an angel,” she said.
As I was hovering six feet above her on glowing, slowly-beating wings, this did not seem like something I could deny. The rising sun highlighted the girl’s tear-tracked face and red eyes. She took a hesitant step forward, holding up a hand to shield herself from my light. “Who are you?” she breathed.
With my head backlit by my incandescent feathers, she must not have been able to make out my features. If only I could get away quickly, she need never know my identity. “Yes, I am an angel,” I said in the deepest voice I could manage, while frantically trying to work out how to go up. I wobbled dangerously in the air. “Sent from Heaven to, uh…”
“Smite the wicked?” the girl suggested hopefully. She sniffed, swiping her sleeve across her nose. “Because I can totally give you a list. Starting with that bitch Joanne.”
“Er, no.” What the hell did angels talk about? Half-remembered bits of the few Christmas services my dad had forced me to attend drifted up out of my memory. “I come bearing Good News! For unto you a child shall be born!”
The girl stared at me. She did not look like she considered this to be Glad Tidings.