Angel, by Cliff McNish (2008 Carolrhoda Books, 311pp)
Freya is only eight years old when she meets her first angel--tall, shining, and beautifully winged. But after that one appearance, it never returns, leaving Freya in a state of angel obsession that becomes madness.
Six years later, she is home from the mental hospital, and has carefully built a "normal" identity--she's become "friends" with the beautiful alpha female of her class and her henchwomen. Keeping that place means being unable to be kind to the new girl in class. Stephanie is the archetypal total looser--wrong parents, wrong uniform, no social skills, and an obsession with angels that she unwisely shares with her class. But this obsession creates a bond with Freya, despite Freya's fear of falling back into her madness, and it is to Stephanie that Freya turns when she sees her second angel, dark and terrifying...Until she knows who the angels are, and why she sees them, Freya will never find peace. And until she accepts her own destiny, Freya will not help Stephanie, or her own troubled family.
Spoilerishness--I thought at first this was more young adult than fantasy--part of the plot is the ya standard of nice girl with bitchy friends who must befriend outcast girl. As I read on, and the angels become increasingly real, and increasingly implicated in the action of the mortals, the story became more clearly fantasy. These angels are living beings (although inhuman), and their role on earth is not specifically as a conduit to the divine.
McNish doesn't go much for subtlety in his characterizations--Stephanie, in particular, is so awfully a looser that she seems overdone (was it really necessary, for instance, for her clothes to be quite so horribly wrong?) Plot-wise, however, the interesting intersections of angels and humans make this a page turner, and I found Freya's personal angelic journey fascinating (although I would have liked a bit more explanation).
This book came out in the UK last year--here's its cover over there.
I prefer the US one, because the book really is about Freya, not about angels in general.
And here's what seems to be the paperback cover, making it look like a gothic thriller, which it isn't.
Angel has been nominated for the Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.