Review: The Belief in Angels – J. Dylan Yates

Posted 23 April, 2014 by Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms in Reviews / 16 Comments

Warning: This book includes mature content such as: sexual content, and/or drug and/or alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: The Belief in Angels – J. Dylan YatesThe Belief in Angels by J. Dylan Yates
Published by She Writes Press on 28 April 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

3 Stars

Growing up in her parents’ crazy hippie household on a tiny island off the coast of Boston, Jules’s imaginative sense of humor is the weapon she wields to dodge household chaos. But somewhere between routine discipline with horsewhips, gun-waving gambling debt collectors, and LSD-laced breakfast cereal adventures, tragedy strikes with the death of her younger brother—a blow from which Jules may never fully recover.

Jules’ story alternates with that of her Grandfather Samuel, a man with a sad story of his own. Samuel, once called Szaja, is an orthodox Jew who lived through the murderous Ukranian pogroms of the 1920s and the Majdanek Death Camp—but whose survival came at a price that’s haunted him for years.

*I received a free ARC of The Belief in Angels from She Writes Press via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*

The Belief in Angels is a pretty tough story to read, there is child-abuse, drug use, 2nd world war story about the Jewish grand-dad from Ukraine. Jules never seems to be able to catch a break, her whole child-hood is filled with darkness, fear and very little hope. Her dad drinks too much, and never hesitates to raise his hand, both to his children and his wife. And the mom, she gets high, is an eternal student, and leaves the children to mend for themselves most of the time.

I have to point out that the prologue almost turned me off of the story completely, so if you can – just skip it! Telling me how to read and understand the book, while at the same time saying there are as many different truths as there are people just didn’t ring true with me – so I’m using my very own truth to just share my view on that. Written partly as if it was kind of a diary The Belief in Angels is mostly from Jules’ point of view, but there are glimpses into her grand-father’s mind as well, and with him, the readers are taken back to Ukraine, before the second world war, and the splintering of his family when his parents brought the youngest children with them to the US.

There are a lot of family secrets and hurt in The Belief in Angels, and to me, the main theme is that those secrets can do nothing but hurt everybody involved, both those who know, and those who don’t know. And keeping the secrets at bay may come at a cost that is far too much for all of them. It is a wonder to me that Jules survived her childhood, even after her father finally left, there is neglect. Her mother only cares about herself, her boyfriend and the next high, and she goes as far as slipping acid into Jules’ breakfast cereal one day, just for fun. And the fact that both of her parents are so completely unfit is what made this a difficult read for me. It always makes me sad to read about children who cannot fully live their carefree childhoods, but I think it is very important to tell stories about their lives anyway, if only to point out what to look for so someone can help those who can’t get the care they need at home.

Pretty sad and gloomy most of the time, The Belief in Angles still has a tiny glimmer of hope, and trying to find that little shimmer of light along with Jules is what kept me reading, cheering for her as she grew older, stronger and wiser. The guilt she lived with because of her parents’ way of life, and the fact that they put far too much responsibility on her tiny shoulders made me tear up, and I wanted to smack both her parents, her teachers, and sometimes her grand-father for not stepping in and making hers and her siblings’ lives better. For a long time, she only has her older and younger brother to talk to, and when she finally finds some friends, it’s like a whole new universe for her.

If you are in the mood for a tough, sad and very realistic read, you should pick up The Belief in Angels, it will take you through a very dark and narrow tunnel, but that tiny light at the very end is worth the painful journey it takes the readers on while trying to shoulder some of Jules’ pain.

The writing is pretty good, but there are some grammatical mistakes, as well as some typos in the ARC I got, hopefully these have been caught and will not appear in the final copy.

We became less like children and more like neglected pets. We got intermittent feedings until I learned to cook, no affection, and almost no attention, except when we didn’t behave in a way that please Wendy, which pretty much meant being in the same room as her and breathing. We developed independence beyond our years. Within our own pet universe we found hierarchy and function.

I never believed my family made me different or that my difference grew as a result of my environment. I didn’t even feel like a member of a family. Our house very loosely held a group of individuals who happened to share a space but no commonality. We were solely growing up together.

I’m surprised he’s acting nice to me. I don’t have any real friends at school. Friends are too much bother and kind of risky. I can’t bring people back to our house because I never know what Wendy will do to embarrass me. She loves taking off her clothes and stuff and walking around the place that way.I hate the mess, the music, and all the noise form the people hanging around. Wendy and the hippie crowd don’t even notice when I walk upstairs to the visual quiet and peace of my bedroom.


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Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms

About Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms

Linda is an English as foreign language teacher and has a Master's degree in English Language and Literature. She's an avid reader, blogger, compulsive one-clicker and a genre omnivore. Ever since she learnt how to read she has been seen with a book or two in her hands everywhere she goes.

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16 responses to “Review: The Belief in Angels – J. Dylan Yates

  1. Wow, for a YA book this sure does sounds super intense. It’s always difficult for authors to tackle difficult subjects like this, and I love when they get it right and can make you feel so much for the characters. Although for me personally I can’t handle it when the story is toooo depressing (I’m a self confessed whimp!) I usually prefer a little more hope and healing 🙂

    Amy @ The Reading Realm recently posted: {ARC Review} My Not So Super Sweet Life by Rachel Harris
    • I always have trouble reading about children that aren’t treated right – so this was a very tough read. I think it’s really good that there are authors who do write stories like this one, though, because it is important to point out signs of abuse, and also to give some semblance of hope.

      Thanks for stopping by, Amy 🙂

  2. I was surpised to see such a strong warning over a YA book. From your review it definitely sounds like an intense read and, even if I have no problem with that at all (I do get lost in those, too), I’m not entirely sure this is a book I’d pick…
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lexxie!

    Silvia @ Darkest Sins recently posted: "The King" by J.R. Ward
    • It is a good story, Silvia, but not at all what I expected when I picked it up. and it is very intense.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Jules is definitely an amazing character, and really strong, because she had to be.

      Thanks for stopping by, Naomi.

    • Oh if you are in the mood for a very sad read, you should definitely pick up The Belief in Angels, Jessica 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Nice review, Lexxie – I think this one might have been difficult to write. It sounds very intense and depressing. I’m proud of you for making your way through it, especially seeing as there is mistreatment of children. I am happy there was some glimmer of hope in Jules’ story though.

    On a lighter note, I hope you have a fabulous Wednesday!! How are y’all handling the time difference?!? **BIG HUGS**

    • Yes, it must have been extremely difficult to write. To find that despair and hopelessness and put it down on paper has to have been a journey of pain!

      I think it’s an important story, though, even if it was very bleak and difficult to read.

      Thanks for stopping by, my dear! *BIG HUGS*

    • It is not the kind of story I’d be able to read too often, Lily. Because of all the heartache and pain, and the realistic way it was written.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Hi Lexxie.

    Thank you so much for requesting a read of The Belief in Angels and for your lovely review.

    Thank you also, for taking time to point out the typos. Yes, unfortunately the ARC’s sent out had over 50 typos and grammatical errors! Yikes! The finished product is quite clean, but I’m hoping folks will continue to let me know about any typos. I can fix these with future printings.

    Second, I wanted to be sure folks know that the book is definitely not intended for a YA audience. Listed as New Adult/Adult, although the story is written from the perspective of a child who grows into adolescence, the arc of the book has adult themes and language.

    Your encouragement and ability to see the hopeful message in the story is particularly heartwarming. The inspiration for the book came, in part, through my work with a volunteer organization called Voices For Children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in some of the worst abuse/neglect cases in the country.

    Hopefully, although the content is difficult, readers will gain insight and ultimately, healing, through the inspiration of Jules and Szaja’s characters’ ability to survive,thrive and finally find love!

    Thanks again, Lexxie. Thanks for being such an avid reader and for your author support.

    Readers can connect, ask questions and book both in-person book club tours or Skype tours @

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