Cancer is the Villain in These Novels for Young Adults
These two books aimed at teens and young adults do not have happy endings, so be warned. The books are very different in tone, but cancer is the villain in both of them.
Raoul (The Angel of Music Book 1): The Plot
Viktor and Christine Homeless in Amarillo
The first book, Raoul (The Angel of Music Book 1) opens with two homeless people, a father, Viktor Daaé, and his eleven-year old daughter, Christine, leaving the Greyhound Station in Amarillo, Texas, as it closes on a snowy night. Someone directs them to a shelter. They receive kind treatment.
Before leaving, Viktor takes the stage in the dining hall with his violin, which he always carries in its case, and Christine sings with a voice developed far above what one would expect for her age. When she sings, it’s said to be with the voice of an angel.
Homeless In California
When they leave the shelter, they head for California, where Viktor hopes to find work with his violin. He hopes to play in a symphony orchestra someday. He had been a musician in Chicago until his wife died of cancer. Their goal had always been to go to Los Angeles to enroll Christine in the Belen Conservatory of Music. They wanted Christine to train to develop her vocal talent. Now Viktor is determined to carry on with that dream.
To earn money for food when they get to Santa Monica, father and daughter play and sing on the Promenade. A policeman says they need a permit to play there and shoos them away. They discover government policies make it hard for the very poor to make a living . The process they go through to get a permit is indicative of this. They slept in the park that night.
Viktor Finds Work and a Place to Live
The next day they go to City Hall to get a permit. Viktor gets a part time job in a local coffee shop, but only because the owner sees Christine. Viktor convinces the owner he will be reliable – that he’s not a drifter. The cafe owner helps Viktor get a room in a transient motel and says he’ll pay the first week and take it out of Viktor’s wages. Christine must stay inside all day and let no one in.
At night they busk on the pier to bring in more cash. Victor had been a professional violinist in Chicago, and Christine is a musical prodigy, so they quickly find an appreciative audience and collect a lot of money in Viktor’s violin case. One whose attention they attract is Zoë, a young woman dressed all in black. Next to her is twelve-year-old Raoul, dressed in a private school uniform.
There are frequent flashbacks in the book. We learn how Viktor met Christine’s mother and what happened to her. We discover how Viktor, originally from Sweden, came to be in America. We also find out how other characters introduced in the book become important in Victor and Christine’s story.
My Review of Raoul (The Angel of Music Book 1)
The book is well written.The author provides enough background to help readers of all ages who are paying attention anticipate what will happen next. The end is sad, but there is still room for hope.
I enjoyed watching the characters interact, especially Raoul and Christine. Zoë is a sort of governess to Raoul and lives with his very wealthy family. All have music connections to the Belen Conservatory of Music. As the book progresses, Raoul and Christine become friends, and we begin to wonder if they will have a future together.
I see one fault in the book from an adult standpoint. Everything falls into place a bit too neatly to be realistic. The characters are vivid and developed enough so that one can predict how they will behave. Although many of the minor characters are no angels, the main characters are all caring people who like to help others.
It’s a heart-warming story, if a bit sentimental in tone, and I enjoyed it. I suppose one could call it a coming-of-age story. It is very sympathetic to the homeless. It will be of special interest to young adult music lovers. The complete trilogy below is a modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. This book is just the first volume.
Here is the complete trilogy.
James Patterson and Emily Raymond’s First Love: A Review
At first, I couldn’t believe Patterson was writing a book whose main characters had no qualms about breaking the law. It stars two teens who are in love and afraid to admit it to each other. It begins in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Axi, the girl, is sixteen wants to run away from home. She wants her close friend Robinson, the boy, seventeen, to come with her. She has the itinerary all planned and has decided they will go by bus. Robinson agrees to come. He has other ideas about the transportation, though, and wants to ride in style.
He steals a Harley. This freaks Axi out. She is basically a good kid. In fact, Robinson’s pet name for her is GG – Good Girl. She is the more academically inclined of the two. Her name for him is Scalawag.
It is three weeks from the end of the school term. Robinson hasn’t been going to school anyway. He doesn’t seem to have a family — at least he never mentions one. Axi is a good student, but she thinks getting away is important enough to ditch those last three weeks of classes.
We learn that Axi’s mom had left after her other daughter, Axi’s little sister Carole Ann, died of cancer. Axi’s dad was an alcoholic. Before she left on the trip at 4 AM, Axi kissed him goodbye, but she didn’t wake him or leave a note. She wasn’t happy with any of the drafts she had written so she skipped the note altogether.
On the Lam
On their travels the two do many wild and illegal things, stealing other vehicles as they go, and even worse. Axi is often terrified at some of the things Robinson does, but she goes along with them. She follows Robinson’s directions, hoping they won’t land in jail. They never did suffer the kind of consequences you might expect for their behavior, but readers won’t really care.
You are far into the book and past the crazy stuff when the real truth of how and where Robinson and Axi met comes out and Axi has to deal with a crisis. I won’t spoil it for you.
My Opinion of First Love
Readers will enjoy watching Axi and Robinson banter back and forth and tease each other, and they will sympathize with how vulnerable the two feel when it comes to expressing their hidden feelings. The book’s beginning is so humorous that readers are caught off-guard when the first hints of how the book will end come out.
This book is outrageous, unrealistic, and funny at the beginning. The humor continues until almost the end. The characters are engaging and even if you don’t approve of all they do, you will still love them. You will want to grab some tissues as you near the end as you finally come face to face with what is real life for too many of today’s youth.