Angels Next Door ISBN: 9780141344522
Published by Puffin, 2014
Riley is 11 at the beginning of the novel, but turns 12 during it. She is a quiet, unsure-of-herself girl and depends heavily on her best friend Tia, her total opposite. Tia is beautiful, talented and very self-assured. Each loves the other just as they are, but there is no doubt that Tia is the stronger, braver one, and when she announces that her family are moving to New Zealand, Riley is truly bereft. 'How will I be only me,' she thinks. How will she cope at school with bully Lauren and her two chums who try to make life miserable? When three girls move in next door into what was Tia's house, Riley is a bit taken aback. They seem very strange and different, and glitter starts appearing everywhere. Riley puts this down to her 'sort-of-stepsister' Dot, who is five and is very keen on glitter. But then all sorts of odd things begin to happen, circumstances that can't be explained. Riley's mum died when she was very young, but in her head she has always heard the words, 'It's going to be all right, Riley', and believed that somehow her mum was there all along. Dad refuses to talk about her mother, so all she has is one picture, taken on the hill behind their house beside a statue of an angel, a place that has always been important to Riley. Her missing of her mum is a recurring theme in the book and one feels is part of the reason that she isn't keen on her dad's partner Hazel, even though she loves little Dot. She and Hazel are wary of each other. Sunshine, Pearl and Kitt, the three Angelo girls who have moved in next door continue to be an enigma, and Riley seriously doesn't understand whether they are friendly or not. School is something of a nightmare, and Lauren continues to be seriously difficult. But when the strange things that happen all seem to be connected to the girls next door, and Riley begins to feel that something or someone is cherishing her, life begins to be happier. This feeling is dented when on her birthday the school takes a trip to a theme park and Lauren is at her worst. The tables are turned when she is attacked in the Haunted House by a giant spider web and spiders! You have probably guessed by now that the three girls are trainee angels and that they have become a sort of communal guardian angel to Riley. She becomes more sure of herself with their help and with the help of her own talent as photographer, and while she and Tia will always be close even though living far apart, she will be a 'star that starts shining for herself'. You have to suspend disbelief a bit with the angels, but they serve as a way of showing Riley that she has lots going for her. There are going to be more stories about Riley and the Angelos, and girls will love the whole set-up.