About BookNo Angel by Helen Keeble
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication date: October 8th 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
SynopsisRafael Angelos just got handed the greatest gift any teenage boy could ever dream of. Upon arriving at his new boarding school for senior year, he discovered that he is the ONLY male student. But what should have been a godsend isn’t exactly heaven on Earth.
Raffi’s about to learn that St. Mary’s is actually a hub for demons-and that he was summoned to the school by someone expecting him to save the day. Raffi knows he’s no angel-but it’s pretty hard to deny that there’s some higher plan at work when he wakes up one morning to discover a glowing circle around his head.
Helen Keeble’s debut novel, Fang Girl, has been praised for its pitch-perfect teen voice, and VOYA called it “refreshing and reminiscent of Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series.” No Angel brings you angels and demons like you’ve never seen them-complete with the wry humor of Vladimir Tod, sinfully irreverent romance, and some hilariously demonic teenage dilemmas.
In which our hero arrives at his new school…
The shiny new sign above the towering wrought-iron gates said ST. MARY’S BOARDING SCHOOL FOR GIRLS AND BOYS, which, as it turned out, was wrong by one letter.
“Wait,” I said, staring at the Headmistress with a slow-rising sensation of dread. “You mean I’m just the first guy to arrive, right?”
“If you fail to understand the meaning of the word only, Mr. Angelos, I will have to schedule you for remedial English lessons,” replied the short, severe woman. “But to make it crystal clear, you are indeed the first, sole, singular member of the male gender here.” It was obvious that she considered this at least one boy too many. “I trust you will be a worthy representative of your species. Welcome to St. Mary’s.”
Declarations of outright war had been uttered in friendlier tones. I grabbed my dad’s arm as he came back from the car, carrying the last of my suitcases. “I’ve changed my mind,” I said, turning us away from the waiting Headmistress. “Don’t leave me here!”
“You were the one who begged to come to your mother’s old school when you found they were accepting boys this year. ‘A way of honoring her memory’, you said.” He dropped my bags in front of the school gates and raised an eyebrow. “Not to mention ‘a heaven of honeys in very short skirts’, as I recall you saying to your friends.”
I flushed. I hadn’t realized he’d overheard that conversation. “But I thought there would be at least a few other guys around. Who am I supposed to talk to?”
“Girls?” Dad suggested mildly.
“Ha ha. Seriously, Dad!”
“You want serious?” Dad folded his arms, looking up at me. “It’s cost me a serious amount of money to enroll you here, so I expect you to actually make an effort for once, Raffi. St. Mary’s has always been one of the most exclusive schools in England, and we’re incredibly fortunate that they’re opening up to boys at last. And even more fortunate that they’re allowing you in for just the final year.” His finger jabbed me in the center of my chest. “You will work hard.”
Behind him, the Headmistress’s expression suggested that she personally thought boys were best put to work down dangerous mine shafts.
I scowled down at my feet, stuffing my hands into the pockets of my new suit. “If it’s so fabulous here, then why didn’t any other guys apply?” I muttered under my breath.
“Our entrance requirements are extremely strict,” the Headmistress said as if I’d spoken normally. “There was no shortage of male applicants, I assure you. Were it not for your late mother, I would have rejected you along with all the rest. But she was a personal friend of mine, as well as an outstanding member of this institution.” She fixed me with a piercing stare. “I trust you will live up to her legacy.”
“You hear that?” My dad poked me again. “This is your last chance, Raffi. You’re lucky to get into any school, after what happened at your last one. You should be grateful for this opportunity.” In my head, I started reciting the inevitable speech along with him. I’d heard it enough times to have it memorized. “You can’t keep wandering around in a dream, absent-mindedly strewing chaos in your wake.“
Honestly, incinerate one lousy building by accident once, and your dad will never, ever let you forget it. “That fire wasn’t my fault!“
“Perfectly ordinary toasters do not spontaneously spout four-foot pillars of flame!”
The Headmistress took a phone out of her pocket and murmured into it, “Memo to self: Mr. Angelos is banned from Home Economics.”
My dad was still on a roll. “Your problem, Raffi, is that you’re too unworldly for your own good. You have got to quit goofing off and start paying attention to what’s going on around you-“
His voice droned on, but I didn’t hear another word. I was too busy falling in love.
She was tall, only a few inches shorter than myself, but so light and slender she seemed to float on the breeze. Her feet barely made any sound on the gravel as she slipped round the gate and headed for us, her waist-length blonde hair rippling behind her like a cloak. Even though all the girls must have been warned boys were joining them this year, she still did a very gratifying double-take at the sight of me, her summer-sky eyes widening. For my part, it was all I could do not to gawp at her like a total idiot. The instant I saw her, I knew her. She was The One.
For a moment we stared at each other. Then the girl shook herself, her hair shimmering with the movement. A delicate rose tinted her high cheekbones, but — my stomach dropped into my socks — she didn’t look pleased. A small frown marred her perfect face as she turned decisively away from me. “M- I mean, Headmistress?” Even her voice was perfect, so soft and sweet I half-expected her to break into a duet about kittens and rainbows with a passing bluebird. “Everyone’s ready and waiting.”
“Thank you, Faith,” the Headmistress replied. She lifted a hand, cutting off my dad’s lecture. “Major Angelos, while I am certain your son’s head has not yet been filled with your sound advice, time grows short. I must ask you to make your final farewells.”
“Of course.” Dad put his hands on my shoulders, looking me squarely in the eye. “Now promise me you’ll apply yourself, Raffi.”
“Oh,” I said, staring past him at Faith. “You bet I will.”
“That’s my boy.” To my utter mortification, Dad ruffled my hair, then pulled me in for a hug.
“You’ll do fine.”
“Mr. Angelos, you may leave your bags here for now,” the Headmistress said as I disentangled myself as fast as possible. “Faith will escort you to the hall. A last word with you please, Major Angelos?”
“This way,” Faith said, holding the gate open for me. She avoided my eyes, her own gaze lingering on my dad and the Headmistress as they headed back toward his car. “Your dad seems nice.” There was an odd, wistful note to her musical voice. “You’re lucky.”
“I certainly am.” Falling into step with her, I tried out the charming, enigmatic smile that I’d spent the summer practicing in front of the mirror. “Though not because of my dad.”
“Yes, of course we’re all lucky to get to go to a school like this,” Faith said, a little too quickly. She indicated the carefully tended flowerbeds lining the path, and the landscaped woods beyond. I had to admit, it was all very pretty. Also, unspeakably girly. I could already feel my testosterone draining away. “It’s so beautiful here, don’t you think?”
I edged a little closer, trying to keep up my smile while also throwing in a hint of smolder. My face was starting to ache. “Yes, I do.”
“Some of the buildings we use for classrooms are hundreds of years old,” Faith said, in the bright, brittle tones of someone determinedly paddling against a conversational undertow. She lengthened her stride, like a tour guide on a tight schedule. “Look, there’s the main school building. It has many unique architectural features.” I had a horrible feeling that Faith was about to start listing them all. Given that the monstrosity rising in front of us sported everything from Gothic gargoyles to a sort of bonsai skyscraper, she could probably keep going for hours. “It started as a chapel, though of course it’s been extended a lot since then. St. Mary’s used to be a convent, you know.”
I was beginning to feel like it still was one. Faith wasn’t looking at me at all. Time to deploy the big guns. “I know a lot of things, Faith Jones. Especially about you.”
That got her attention. She stopped dead, swiveling to face me. “What do you mean?”
Going for broke, I reached for her hand, gazing deep into her astonished blue eyes as I lifted it to my lips. “I mean that you’re the reason I’m here.”
This was absolutely true. School brochure, page three, full-page picture: “After a hard day’s work, nothing beats a swim in our beautiful outdoor pool!” — Faith Jones. The photographer had captured her rising from the water with her head thrown back and water streaming from her hair, looking like some sort of classic sea-goddess. In a red bikini.
The instant I’d seen that picture, I’d known this was the school for me. And now all my research in the romance section of the library was about to pay off big time. All the wariness had vanished from Faith’s face, chased away by incredulous, breathless hope. Her fingers tightened on mine as my lips brushed the back of her hand-
“Ah, Mr. Angelos,” the Headmistress said from right behind me. “I see you’ve introduced yourself to my daughter.”
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1. How would you describe Rafael Angelos, the hero of No Angel?
He’s an odd mix of great self-confidence and crushing anxiety – for example, he’s supremely (and mistakenly) certain that all girls will find him irresistibly good-looking, but at the same time desperately unsure how to act in a romantic situation! And despite his attempts to cultivate an aura of cool, he’s always accidentally letting his inner dork show through.
He’d describe himself as “just a normal guy”… apart from this whole halo-and-wings thing, which he is REALLY not happy about!
2. In No Angel, Rafael Angelos discovers that he is the only male student at a previously all-girls school. Where did you get the idea for that?
I was listening to a radio program about private single-sex schools in England, and whether parents thought that they were still a good idea. There was an interview with the Head of a boys’ school that had gone mixed-sex because they were struggling to attract enough pupils. He mentioned that the first year they had only had five girls in the entire school! I immediately started wondering what it would like to be the ONLY girl at a boys’ school… and then the only boy at a girls’ school. And No Angel was born!
3. One boy surrounded by girls? Sounds like there’s a lot of potential for romance...
Yep, and that drives a lot of the comedy! Rafael’s main motivation in coming to the previously all-girls’ school is because he thinks he’ll have his pick of the lovely ladies. Unfortunately for him, it turns out that the hottest girl in the school wants to kill him, the nicest girl in the school is more interested in saving the world than noticing Rafael’s charms (not to mention that she also has the world’s most terrifying mother), and while he does end up with a fan club pining after him, they’re entirely pre-pubescent. And all of that is just the start of his troubles…
4. Did you find it difficult to write from the perspective of a teenage boy?
Not really, because we’re all just people ultimately, and I think that gives us all more commonalities than differences. But boys do have different social pressures on them than teenage girls, and it was very interesting to have a chance to explore that.
5. Who’s your favorite character in No Angel?
I love them all, but I have to admit I have a soft spot for the Headmistress, who is like all the worst, meanest, scariest teachers you ever had rolled up into one personality and magnified by a hundred. It’s so much fun to write someone that sarcastic!
6. Are any of the characters in No Angel based on people you know?
Not directly, although my mom used to be a teacher, so a lot of the teachers in the book are inspired by some of her war-stories.
(I hasten to add that my mom was NEVER sarcastic to students like the Headmistress is in No Angel… though she may sometimes secretly have wished to let rip with a devastating put-down to snotty kids sometimes!)
There is however a lot of myself in the various No Angel characters – one of them has my relentless (and I’m told occasionally aggravating) optimism, another of them is a weird loner geek like I was as a teen, one of them has a terrible pre-teen unrequited crush on an older boy like I… um, that is, I definitely never had one of those. Nope. No way. *shifty eyes* Uh, next question!
7. Your first book, Fang Girl, was a paranormal comedy about a vampire fan girl who becomes a real vampire. Is No Angel a sequel?
No, they’re completely unrelated – no characters from Fang Girl show up in No Angel. There isn’t any mention of vampires in No Angel, and Fang Girl didn’t have any angels or demons in it, so the jury is out as to whether they’re even set in the same world. (Even I haven’t quite made up my mind on that one)
However, for those who enjoyed Fang Girl, I can promise that No Angel has the same sense of humor, including affectionate mockery of ridiculous paranormal romance tropes! Basically, what I do to vampires in Fang Girl, I do to angels in No Angel.
8. Fun fact about No Angel?
It’s dedicated to my mother, with apologies. The reason for the apologies will become obvious after reading the book…
Her first novel, a YA vampire comedy called FANG GIRL, is out 11th Sept 2012, from HarperTeen. She also has another YA paranormal comedy novel (provisionally titled NO ANGEL) scheduled for Sept 2013.
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