When Katrina discovers an oddly-dressed boy asleep in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffeehouse, she assumes he’s homeless and leaves some food and coffee for him. But then everything she thinks she believes is thrown into question when the supposed vagrant finds her later and tells her that he will grant her greatest desire to reward her for her kindness. With the coffeehouse’s future in grave danger, the last thing Katrina needs is a deluded boy in a kilt following her around… even if he is extremely good-looking. It’s not as though he can really grant wishes. Right?
I picked up Coffehouse Angel thinking that it was a contemporary YA novel, courtesy of the cover and the back blurb. If I’d looked inside the front cover, I’d have realised that it’s actually a supernatural romance but, instead, I discovered this once I realised that Malcolm isn’t just your average teenage boy. I’m actually glad I was surprised, because I’m not sure I’d have picked this up otherwise and it was a very pleasant read.
The absolute stand-out aspect of Coffehouse Angel is its sense of place. Selfors explains that the book’s location was based on a town near where she lives, and it’s possible that the fictional Nordby feels so authentic due to this. As an Australian, I was fascinated by the depiction of an American town that mixes surprisingly strong Scandinavian ties with local Native American culture. Selfors creates a wonderful cast of minor characters; the men who frequent Anna’s Old World Scandinavian Coffehouse are particularly appealing.
The teenage characters are also well-crafted. Katrina is a likeable and accessible protagonist – although I’m not sure how being five foot eight makes her an undateable giant! It seems quite an average height to me. Elizabeth and Vincent work well as foils for Katrina’s character, with Elizabeth providing creativity and humour and Vincent providing a sense of safety and stability that is most obvious once Katrina thinks it’s gone.
Malcolm reminded me enormously of the Eleventh Doctor – a comment that will mean nothing to readers who are not familiar with the revamped ‘Doctor Who’. He combines childlike actions with a sadness which hints at far more worldly experience than is initially apparent. As a potential love interest, however, I’m not sure how alluring he is.
I enjoyed Coffehouse Angel because it casts aside the supernatural stereotype of a weak female protagonist being rescued by a supernatural love interest who becomes her entire world. Katrina makes her own choices and lives her own life. She learns and grows and rescues herself.
That said, there was something missing for me. I cared about the future of the coffeehouse and Katrina as a character, but I think the storyline was a little slow-moving for my liking. I would certainly seek out other books by the author, however.