Review: Outcast by Adrienne Kress

Monday, December 2, 2013
Title: Outcast
Author: Adrienne Kress
Genre: young adult, supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 324
Published: May 16 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

After six years of “angels” coming out of the sky and taking people from her town, 16-year-old Riley Carver has just about had it living with the constant fear. When one decides to terrorize her in her own backyard, it’s the final straw. She takes her mother’s shotgun and shoots the thing. So it’s dead. Or … not? In place of the creature she shot, is a guy. A really hot guy. A really hot alive and breathing guy. Oh, and he’s totally naked.

Not sure what to do, she drags his unconscious body to the tool shed and ties him up. After all, he’s an angel and they have tricks. When he regains consciousness she’s all set to interrogate him about why the angels come to her town, and how to get back her best friend (and almost boyfriend) Chris, who was taken the year before. But it turns out the naked guy in her shed is just as confused about everything as she is.

He thinks it’s 1956.

Set in the deep south, OUTCAST is a story of love, trust, and coming of age. It’s also a story about the supernatural, a girl with a strange sense of humor who’s got wicked aim, a greaser from the 50’s, and an army of misfits coming together for one purpose: To kick some serious angel ass.

After reading The Friday Society earlier this year, I knew that Adrienne Kress was a fun author. Her characters shine, her dialogue pops, and her writing is strong. I knew all that going in, and yet Outcast managed to pleasantly surprise me. Despite my wild enthusiasm for a very few angel books (Laini Taylor's series, Angelfall), I don't really read books that feature angels. I am glad I broke my habit for this book because it really was very good and made for a very entertaining afternoon.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Outcast was how many hats it wore. It could be genuinely fun and funny one minute and then abruptly creepy as hell the next. It's a good switch -- Kress effectively captures how residents in a town besieged by angels might feel. The small town feel of the Southern area where Riley, Gabe, and co make their home feels quietly authentic to real-life. The background characters fit in without being caricatures, and the atmosphere element is strong. The magical realism aspect is limited but pivotal to the plot --- not much besides the angels is shown to be supernatural but it's all tied together in important ways.

Character-wise, things are strong across the board in Outcast. Riley is a pretty evolved protagonist. Kress has a knack for crafting vibrant characters and both Riley and Gabe exhibit that talent. Their relationship with one another is complex, but above all, it is a friendship. It was so refreshing to see a YA heroine get to know someone before deciding "they're in love." The way the teenage romances were handled in Outcast were really impressive and hopefully more novels will follow suit. Riley also has a family to deal with; another surprise is that this doesn't fall victim to Missing Parent Syndrome.

The smallest issues plague Outcast -- weird pacing (three chapters for ONE DATE?), and blatant dramamongering. For a novel about religion, the book doesn't preach at the reader. The narrative remains blissfully message-free in that regard. For all the small errors it makes, Outcast more than makes up for with humor, creativity, suspense, and surprise. With all that Laini Taylor and Susan Ee have done for angels I wouldn't have bet on another book with a completely new spin on them, but Adrienne Kress did it, and she did it with flair.


  1. YESSSSSSS. I'm so glad you liked this because it's one of my favorite books of 2013 and I still tear up when I think about it. "Sing 'em to remember" and the variation it gets in the last few paragraphs of the book gets me every single time. I forget if you've read Kress's other YA novel The Friday Society, but you should if you haven't. It's fun in its own way and it made me enjoy thought-screaming "AND THEN THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION." (Or something along those lines.) Great review, Jessie!

  2. Okay, I am super intrigued! Sounds like a bizarre setup, but your comments on the writing style have me VERY curious!


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