“First thing I did was, I stole a body”
These words introduce the reader to Kiriel, a fallen angel who is fed up with his job tormenting souls in hell. So he does what any demon who is feeling bored and underappreciated at work would do: he takes over the body of a teenage boy. There are a few wrinkles – how to get rid of Shaun Simmons’ soul, for example, or the fact that Kiriel’s little vacation from hell is highly unauthorized.
I loved the perspective that Kiriel brings to Shaun’s life. A total outsider who has never experienced life as teen, Kiriel can see through many of the ways in which Shaun holds himself back in his life. For example, Kiriel can immediately see how much Shaun’s little brother wants his friendship and love in a way that Shaun never could. On the other hand, it is also empowering for teens to see how much knowledge of the world they need just in order to get through the day. Watching Kiriel struggle through familiar situations and social dynamics that a teenager would understand without a second thought can demonstrate to a young person how much they already know about the world.
There was also a nice exploration of fantasy versus reality in Kiriel/Shaun’s relationship with Lane, a girl who has a long-time crush on Shaun. When Kiriel, who seems to think about sex just as much as your typical teenage boy, starts to act out one of Lane’s fantasies about Shaun word for word, her reaction is not exactly positive. It’s a scene that’s very funny and very revealing.
I enjoyed the way that this book highlighted everyday experiences – the little joys in life that are so easy to forget or gloss over. As Kiriel experiences things for the first time, he calls attention to the many pleasures in life that often go unremarked.
The book’s message got a little bit heavy-handed toward the end, but it is still an important one. Even in the life of fairly introverted teenage boy, he has made important and lasting connection with the people around him. Shaun is chosen as a host body exactly because he was a pretty isolated person, and Kiriel assumed that no one paid too much attention to his life. But Kiriel learns that “Shaun Simmons had made a specific mark on his little world, simply by being,” and that his absence would be missed.