Book Review: Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn

Ideal Angels

In this modern time, people are often surrounded by social media. Taking pictures for Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, posting status updates on Twitter or Snapchat, these things are all normal activities for many people every day. It can be an empty feeling to be unconnected in the world of social media, but it can be just as pressure-filled to be always connected. Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn explores the idea of connection in the age of social media. This book follows a whirlwind relationship between two characters as they navigate the ups and downs of living a life online. Ideal Angels is written in the second person and throws you right into the middle of one of the fastest weeks of your life.

1. Thoughts on the plot

The plot itself is fairly simple. Boy meets girl—probably the perfect girl—and they end up in a relationship. Said relationship moves quickly until life happens and then, well… spoilers. I would say that this familiar plot is actually a useful device, as the book takes a very, very close look at what goes on during this whirlwind week. Everything explored is a typical reaction or feeling and yet it is quite different seeing things on such a minute scale through the eyes of a character that is meant to be, as strange as it is, you.

2. Thoughts on the main character

It is a very strange thing to be told that you are the main character. Often people can relate to characters in books and they can see themselves participating in the plot, facing the problems, saving the day. However, when you are told that you are the one doing all of the action as opposed to just watching it, things become very strange. The main character makes questionable decisions. I know they’re questionable, you know they’re questionable, even he—you as he—knows they’re questionable. But suddenly everything feels different because it is not some person that you’re reading about making these decisions. You are making these decisions. 

For me, this was a very bizarre sensation. I found it easier if I thought about myself as the narrator and the main character as someone I know and can picture in the situation. This made things easier and it was then possible for me to distance myself from the character enough to see the story rather than the moment.

3. Favourite part

I found the progression of the main character as the most fascinating part. He developed in a direction that I would not have expected. It was very interesting to see that progression in regards to you/myself as the main character. It was also interesting because the reader got to see every thought, every idea, every action, as the character saw and participated in the action. The imagery was vague, but the thoughts were clear. It was, frankly, very much like life. And to see that character progress in such a manner was extremely intimate and a little disconcerting. But fascinating.

4. Critique

This was one of the first times I’ve read a longer piece in second person perspective. I would have to say that it, combined with the longer, run-on sentences and the slightly disjointed progression of thought, made this book a little difficult to read. Reading Ideal Angels felt unlike any book I’ve read before (well, except some of the samysdat books from the twentieth century Russian authors). Instead, this felt very much like reading an avant garde piece of art. Which is to say, it was interesting, I understood it, but it was a little unsettling and bizarre. I imagine this is rather the point, but even so. 

Overall, this book read a lot like an Albert Camus novel with a modern take on the world. It was a completely different artform from what I’m used to and it was fascinating and a little strange to see how it turned out. Still, the message was very clear and this is definitely a story that will stick with me for a while. I would rate this book as right between GOOD and VERY GOOD. 

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