Vero has never been a normal child, but it’s not until he’s 12 years old that he realizes just how different he is. From the odd way he came into his family, to his overwhelming desire to fly as a kid, to the strange creatures he keeps seeing, Vero knows something about him is strange.
After two terrifying creatures throw him off a building, Vero finally learns the truth—he’s a guardian angel, and he’s about to become a guardian angel-in-training.
During interludes from his life on Earth, Vero travels to the Ether, a spiritual realm between heaven and Earth, where he begins learning how to become a guardian angel alongside five other young angels. Vero asks questions, gets in trouble, learns how to fly, answers a prayer, and has to complete a dangerous quest. Only the best angels make it to guardian status, and Vero and his classmates are all determined to succeed.
Vero still has to manage his earthly life, however. He has to go to school, put up with a sister who can’t stand him, and deal with a crush on a girl who’s more interested in the bully that likes to beat Vero up. He can’t tell anyone who he truly is. Plus, he knows that eventually he’ll have to leave his family—by dying. He will leave his earthly body behind and become fully angel, and he will never see them again. Oh, and Lucifer’s minions, called maltures, are trying to kill him.
It’s a lot for a 12-year-old kid to handle, to say the least. But then Vero starts having troubling dreams about Davina, the girl he likes, facing a deadly threat, and he realizes he’s going to have to step into his role as a guardian angel sooner than he expected.
“The Ether: Vero Rising,” from Christian imprint Zonderkidz, is Laurice Molinari’s first novel, and that is often apparent. Molinari is best known as the screenwriter for the movie “My Girl,” as well as other well-known films like “The Brady Bunch”and “The Amazing Panda Adventure.” One of “The Ether’s”strongest assets is its cinematic action scenes, and Molinari’s screenwriting experience shines during these moments.
“The Ether’s” other strong points include its imagination, the way it portrays preteen relationships, and its breakneck action. A strong thread of Judaic elements and literature is woven through the story—one of the characters often references the Talmud and other teachings. Vero is likeable and easy to root for. Flashes of humor lighten the tense action scenes, everything from sly sarcasm to gross-out toilet humor.
Unfortunately, the book's strong points are overshadowed by clunky writing. Molinari’s prose lacks subtlety and nuance, and has a choppy, abrupt feel throughout. The lack of nuance means that the emotions of the characters all seem to be very extreme. Everything in “The Ether”happens right on the surface, with no layers or depth beneath it. This is probably just a result of Molinari’s relative inexperience in the novel format, but at times it feels like she is making the mistake of “talking down” to her readers because they are kids. By the time children are old enough to read books of this length, dealing with this kind of subject matter, they are more than capable of handling depth, subtlety, and complication.
To her credit, however, Molinari doesn’t shy away from the fact that life is not always pleasant. Several of Vero’s fellow angels-in-training have truly difficult lives on Earth, and their experiences help Vero put his own troubles into perspective. In addition, the only way for Vero to reach the Ether is to die, which leads to him experiencing a string of fatal accidents—which, upon Vero’s return to Earth, never happened.
“The Ether: Vero Rising”is clearly the first in a series following Vero as he completes his training and embraces his foretold destiny. With strong Judeo-Christian roots and a theme of listening for God’s voice, this book is a fast-paced, action-packed read for nine- to 12-year-olds. If Molinari’s writing develops more depth and skill in future books, this could be a series worth reading.
Image copyright Zonderkidz.
Jessica Barnes edits inspirational fiction at a small publishing company. She can also be found at storydriveneditorial.com.
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