I was immensly entertained by Timothy Carter's YA book, Evil? published last year by Flux. In that book, Carter proposes a supernatural explaination for extreme cases of religious fundementalism--mentally unhinged Fallen Angels. It's a smart and funny book--here's my review.
So naturally, when Flux offered me a review copy of his latest YA novel, The Cupid War (2011, 240 pages), I said yes, please, and was rewarded with another darkly light (oxymoron intended) reading treat.
It tells of Ricky Fallon, a teenaged boy who decides, at the last minute, that he doesn't want to commit suicide by bridge jumping after all. Unfortunately for Fallon (as he prefers to be known), he then accidentally falls to his death. Death brings Fallon the opportunity to repay his Karmic debt to the world. Scratch that--he is forced to repay it, whether he wants to or not. For Fallon is thrust into the role of a Cupid, charged with spreading love throughout the world, while wearing a skin-tight pink body suit with a big red heart on it (and, disturbingly, sans external genitalia).
But life as a Cupid isn't all happiness and love. The boss of the whole Cupid setup is a jerk, and smart-aleck teens like Fallon don't do so well with kowtowing. More serious, though, is the threat posed by the joy-sucking entities known as Suicides, who latch on to their victims and drive them to ending their lives.
Fallon is about to confront the most dangerous Suicide ever known--one who has taken human form, and one who has set her sights on the girl Fallon is finding himself falling for (along with a whole slew of other victems).
For a book about depression and suicide, it's a light and entertaining read, with even a bit of romance for Fallon thrown in. But there's depth to it as well. Back in an interview he did in 2010 at TRT Book Club, Carter, who himself suffers from depression and anxiety, wrote: "I wanted to suggest a supernatural cause for mood disorders.... That way, I could turn depression into an enemy that can be fought and beaten." Fallon's reflections on the course of his own too-short life, and his determination to help others in the dark grip of depression, make him a hero the reader can root for wholeheartedly.
I have no clue how a teen who suffers from depression will react to this approach, but it does make for an interesting read, one that stands out for its fresh and irreverent approach to the paranormal. The Cupid headquarters was a fascinating place (although it could have been fleshed out somewhat), the action is brisk, and Fallon is a compelling main character (although I would have liked a bit more page time for his romantic, and presumably doomed, relationship with the girl he likes...).
In short, I enjoyed it lots. (I still like Evil? better though. It tickled my fancy something fierce).
Other reviews at YPulse and CM Magazine
Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher