5.0 1
by Tammar Stein

View All Available Formats & Editions

The first time I meet an angel, it is Raphael and I am eighteen.

Miriam is an unassuming college freshman stuck on campus after her spring break plans fall through. She's not a religious girl--when pressed she admits reluctantly to believing in a higher power. Truth be told, she's about as comfortable speaking about her faith as she is about her love


The first time I meet an angel, it is Raphael and I am eighteen.

Miriam is an unassuming college freshman stuck on campus after her spring break plans fall through. She's not a religious girl--when pressed she admits reluctantly to believing in a higher power. Truth be told, she's about as comfortable speaking about her faith as she is about her love life, which is to say, not at all. And then the archangel Raphael pays Miriam a visit, and she finds herself on a desperate mission to save two of her contemporaries. To top it all off, her twin brother, Mo, has also had a visitation, but from the opposite end of the good-evil spectrum, which leaves Miriam to wonder--has she been blessed and her brother cursed or vice versa? And what is the real purpose behind her mission?

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—College freshman Miriam is stuck at school during spring break when she receives a terrifying visit from the archangel Raphael. Although her father and mother both teach theology and are, respectively, a rabbi and a former nun, Miriam chooses not to seek their help but rather turns to the library for research. She saves the life of another student as instructed by Raphael but Tabitha is left permanently injured, causing Miriam to feel that she has failed. Then her twin brother, Mo, comes to town and tells her that he, too, has had a supernatural contact but with an entity from the other camp. Her health begins to suffer and she is constantly distracted by her visitation so she decides to drop out. She accepts an internship at a newspaper in a small Tennessee town where she meets Emmett, an intriguing tattoo artist, and receives her next mission. She attributes her worsening health to angelic retribution but her doctor tells her she has Crohn's disease. The lack of resolution of several plot strands or promise of a sequel makes this an unsatisfying read. Miriam and Mo don't end up as enemies as the cover suggests. Miriam never recovers her health nor are we sure why she has been chosen and whether she will continue to be given tasks by divine messengers. Supernatural fiction seems to be on the rise so this may appeal to some teens, but it isn't strong enough to earn a general recommendation.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Publishers Weekly
In this refreshing twist on a traditional call narrative, theological musings transform into urgent moral questions requiring decisive action as well as literal and metaphorical leaps of faith. Skillfully intertwining family, medical, and supernatural dramas with a sweet romantic subplot, Stein (High Dive) unleashes cosmic battles to play out among the inhabitants of smalltown Hamilton, Tenn., a setting replete with Civil War history. Narrator Miriam, a college freshman and budding journalist, responds with a persuasive blend of faith and doubt to archangel Raphael's terrifying appearance, dropping out of college after her only partly successful attempt at obeying his command to "evacuate Tabitha before the Sabbath." Thus launched on an unexpected path, Miriam confronts a serious illness and the growing awareness that her spiritual quest pits her against her twin, Moses, a recruit of demonic forces. Additional parallels add intriguing nuance, such as the Christian and Jewish faith perspectives offered by the twins' divorced parents. Miriam's initial interpretation of her illness as divine punishment gives way to more complex theological reflections in this riveting tale, an angel book that stands out from the chorus. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
VOYA - Leah Sparks
College freshman Miriam is stunned to receive a visit from the archangel Raphael, who tells her to "evacuate" a girl named Tabitha. Miriam succeeds in convincing the other girl to leave her dorm despite the freak lightning storm outside. As soon as they exit the building, it explodes, leaving Miriam with only minor scrapes, but Tabitha suffers a serious head and eye injury. After the accident, Miriam's twin brother, Mo, visits from his nearby college and tells her that he had a visit from the devil and has agreed to complete a task for him. Frightened and full of doubts, Miriam takes a leave of absence from school and gets a job with a small-town newspaper in Tennessee. Shortly after arriving, she dreams of angels climbing up and down Jacob's ladder. Among them she sees Tabitha, Mo, and another human she does not meet until weeks later when he joins the newspaper—Jason is a surly summer intern who rebuffs her attempts to get to know him. As Miriam is enjoying her work at the newspaper and forging a tentative relationship with a sweet tattoo artist named Emmitt, she is becoming increasingly ill and is eventually diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that is usually considered treatable though not curable. Meanwhile, Mo comes for an extended visit and quickly befriends Jason; only later does Miriam discover that Mo has been encouraging Jason to carry out his fantasy of a school shooting, going so far as to help Jason buy guns as part of Mo's agreement with the devil. Although Jason's story is resolved when the police discover his plot and arrest him, there are still plenty of loose ends for author Stein to follow up on if she chooses to write a sequel. Miriam is a likable protagonist and Emmitt, a strong supporting character, but Mo's few appearances are not enough to bring his character to life for the reader. The interjection of multiple competing subplots, such as Miriam's Crohn's disease and Mo's dealings with the devil, are too fragmented and feel abruptly crammed into an already bulging plot with little context or attempt at seamlessness. If Stein does write a sequel, this reader hopes she will focus on one or two major plot points and let the others stay in the background. Reviewer: Leah Sparks
Kirkus Reviews

For the Abbott-Levy siblings, good versus evil is a family affair. The archangel Raphael descends on Miriam, a college freshman, and issues a cryptic command that she botches. Guilt-ridden, Miriam confides in Moses, her twin brother. Mo's had a similar visitation, only his was demonic. Miriam abruptly leaves school and lands a reporting job at a rural Tennessee newspaper while coping with a sudden, severe gastrointestinal illness of possibly supernatural origins. Supported by her boss, two friendly organic farmers and, especially, Emmett, an appealing tattoo artist, she struggles to understand what's happening and to accomplish her next task. Then Mo shows up with an agenda of his own. There's much to like in this series opener: Miriam is engaging, her interfaith roots (Roman Catholic mother, Jewish father) interesting and the heavenly visitations credibly devastating. Less believable are her blind affection for selfish Mo and her circumstances (the job and the world's best medical benefits). Despite uneven pacing and loose plotting, this intriguing exploration of divine intervention and cast of complex characters add up to a compelling read. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


The first time I meet an angel, it is Raphael and I am eighteen.

I am not a religious girl. I do not belong to a Bible study, group, though I was invited. Twice. I do not belong to a synagogue at school. Or a church, for that matter. When pressed, I admit a reluctant belief in a higher power. Reluctant, because such admissions invariably open me up to long, intense discussions. The asker wants to know either how I could possibly hold such childish and naïve beliefs, given the state of the world, or, conversely, given my said beliefs, how I could not be attending services, deepening my understanding and devotion of said higher power.

I am as comfortable speaking about my faith as I am about my sex life. That is to say, not very.

The day I meet Raphael is not a good one, though not so horrible as to merit celestial intervention. It is spring break, and I am the only student staying in the dorms on my floor. There are only three of us in the entire building. We chat a bit when we bump into each other in the common room, but the two of them are working on a project for their astronomy class. They are filled with that low-key intensity that comes from having uninterrupted time to work on an extensive project. Whereas I am here, bored and lonely, by default because my spring break plans fell through. This is my brother's fault. But more on that later.

I have never stayed in a nearly vacant building before. There are the creaks, pops, and groans of an aging dormitory resting for a moment. Other than that, it is so quiet I can hear dust mites landing.

In my room, I am obeying the rules of cohabitation even though my roommate isn't here. Instinctively I find myself staying in my half of the room. Slouched on my bed, listlessly flipping through my con law textbook, I'm keeping an eye on the clock. The cafeteria has reduced hours, and though I've never cared for their food, the new, shorter mealtimes are the only thing giving my aimless days some structure. Dinner is from five to seven. Miss that and I'm stuck snacking on stale crackers or spending too much money on greasy pizza or hamburgers from the no-name restaurants nearby.

I keep an eye on the clock.

At this moment in time, if asked what I think about life, I would say that it is sometimes hard, sometimes beautiful, that we are alone in the universe, and that although there is probably a God, He is far away and not paying much attention.

I am skimming halfheartedly through the chapter on search and seizure when a tsunamic shrieking noise splits apart my dorm wall. I fall off the bed, smacking the sharp point of my elbow on the side of my desk, knocking over a chair. A cold, burning, glowing light singes my clothes, scorches my skin. The light fills the room, pouring in from the broken wall. I can't see. My bed, the desk, the chair, have disappeared in the flare. The icy light is glacier blue, exosphere thin. A voice coming from the light speaks in Ancient Hebrew. No, it is the light. I feel the words, the voice, reverberating down the vertebrae of my spine, coursing with the blood cells in my veins, and a terrible face neither female nor male imprints itself on the retinas behind my tightly closed eyes.

I curl into a protective comma, arms covering my head. The light tears me, burns me. I claw at my hair, my eyes, weeping. I wet myself. I pass out.

When I come to, I am sprawled on the floor in a parody of drunken abandon. I slowly sit up, drawing my limbs inward from their starfish-like stretch. Rubbing the growing bruise on my elbow and wincing from my aching head, I hold myself, crossing my arms over my chest, rocking back and forth. I notice with slight detachment that I am shaking like a struck tuning fork, vibrating.

Hesitantly, I look at the wall. It is whole, smooth, seamless. Its painted Sheetrock, scarred and dinged from years of freshman abuse, mocks the notion that anything has ever come through it. It has never split in two. Never has, never will.

There is no trace of the event. Nothing to show that I have just lost my mind except for the puddle at my feet, the deep scratches on my face.


Perhaps it is divine intervention that made Raphael choose spring break to come visit. I spend the next three days stupefied. I can't shake the memory of that voice; the terrifying feeling of my skin scorched with ice; the wall ripped open, then closed without a seam. I look up "delusions of grandeur" on the Internet; also "schizophrenia." I read that the insane do not think they are mad. The voices in their head, they claim, come from God.

It takes three days before my subconscious gets around to translating the angel's words. I studied Hebrew for my bat mitzvah, but it's been a while.

"I am Raphael, the archangel. Evacuate Tabitha, daughter of John, before the Sabbath."

A quick search of "Raphael" and I discover that he is considered the left hand of God. The founder of medicine. The root of his name, rapha, is the same as the root for "medicine" in Hebrew, rephuah. Raphael, while giving the doctors the desire to heal, also supports the coldness needed to inflict necessary acts of pain. I decide, then and there, that I will not study medicine.

To prove to myself that it is absurd, an LSD flashback without the LSD, I ask the few remaining stragglers around campus if they know anyone named Tabitha. A last name would help, but maybe hallucinations aren't supposed to be easy.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

TAMMAR STEIN is the author of Light Years, a 2006 ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and High Dive. She lives in Florida with her family and her bilingual dog.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Kindred 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Isnt this the cover of maxride?