One of the biggest arguments against YA fiction is that the characters are so very stupid. While reading Ethereal, I realized that they aren't stupid. No. They're teenagers. Case in point, Skyla, the main character in this book, is told by a ghost to stay away from a certain boy that Skyla, at the age of sixteen, has already fallen madly in love with. Skyla decides that the ghost is just jealous because when the ghost was a person, she and this perfect paragon of teenagerhood used to date and the fact that this former girlfriend (Chloe) is dead now is in no way a warning for Skyla. I should also mention that Chloe was murdered. Just so you know.
All right, so the story. Skyla is a Nephilim, or angel-human hybrid. These things exist in the Bible. They are the main reason why Noah's Ark happened. They are not a good thing, except in this story they are. Well, they are except for the fact that they tend to die young. In the Bible, Nephilim were fearsome giants with great capacity to commit evil deeds. Their fathers were fallen angels, mothers willing participants in hubris. In some areas of Jewish mythos (not main-stream Judaism, think more Gnostic), even after the flood, Nephilim continued to populate the earth and do great and terrible deeds. Goliath is purportedly (in some areas) a Nephilim. The lore concludes that the Nephilim were incited to war against each other by Gabriel (God instructed him to start the fire) and were eventually killed off by each other. None of this is mentioned in the book. There is mention of factionalism and that there are certain sorts who are more friendly, and one sort that's like a New Jersey crime syndicate (they may actually be a New Jersey crime syndicate) and they exact revenge, kidnappings, executions, etc. in the name of their faction.
Skyla is naturally of the most rare order, Celestra, and she is somehow pure-blood even though that would mean that both her mother and father were Celestrae, and her mother doesn't appear to be anything other than human. Skyla also has a younger sister who is perfectly normal. I have only read the first book, but I'm wondering if Skyla was maybe the product of her father and someone else? Her mom really does love her, though.
Skyla has a creepy stepfather, a horrid stepbrother (who is actually kind of cool, though I don't know if the author meant for anyone to like him) and a stepsister. She is the same age as her stepbrother, and her younger sister is the same age as the stepsister. The mom thinks it's great, but I think it's odd. Skyla does, too. They all move to a small island in Washington State (how close is it to Forks?) and move into the late-great Chloe's house. Skyla gets her room, her next-door bestie, her boyfriend, her boyfriend's cousin, and pretty much everything else Chloe had. It's at this time that Chloe reaches out to Skyla and tries to warn her to steer clear of Logan, but Skyla's all, "u jus jellus hor." Chloe's all, "Pearls, swine, no thanks." and leaves Skyla alone.
Of course there's a hugely unequal relationship between Skyla and her boyfriend Logan, who is also a Celestra (quelle coincidence). He knows everything there is to know about being an angel-on-earth, but he won't tell everything to Skyla for her own good. I'm sorry, but I've spent a little too long reading YA paranormal fiction, and I know that any time a boy does something for the good of his girlfriend/stalker obsession, it always ends badly. The worst part is that Logan's aunt and uncle (his parents were killed after he was born. For being Celestras.) are both angels, and even though a normal adult would be like, "This girl knows nothing of our ways, let us teach her!" the adults in YA fiction have a curse that forces them to be as completely ineffectual as possible in any given situation.
Skyla's stepfather is also typecast as The Worst Sort Of Stepfather Short Of Being A Pedophile Rapist. He thinks that Skyla is using drugs and having sex even though it's his son who does those things. He thinks Skyla is unhinged and dangerous, and when she thinks she's being attacked by someone and stabs them in the stomach with a pair of scissors while her best friend cowers under the covers during a sleepover, Tad The Stepdad has Skyla put into a mental health facility because stabbing a guy who doesn't answer when you repeatedly ask, "Who's there? Who are you?" isn't a normal reaction to him. To Skyla's credit, she never answers his accusations with cross-accusations about his son, but she does scream and yell at him. In her defense, he's an idiot.
I liked the book all right, though I'm not sure if I want to buy any other books. It really sort of drove me crazy, especially the stuff with the parents. I can kind of see that she's displaying somewhat erratic behavior and that it's worrying to her parents, but there's a huge jump between "erratic" and "we must incarcerate her." At the same time, I am curious to know more. I just don't know if I can slog through another book. I may give it a try, though. All over, I'd give it a C+/B-