Angel Tree is a lovely Christmas-y read. I think it is a good, balanced blend of bitter and sweet. I'll explain more of what I mean in a bit.
Pine River. Angel Tree is set in a small, cozy community called Pine River. Every December, a large community tree goes up. No one knows--at least officially--who is responsible for putting up the tree. But by the time this novel opens, the "angel tree" is legendary. (It has had a decade or two to get that status.) What makes this tree special or legendary is the fact that EVERYONE is welcome to write down their wishes and put them on the tree. Supposedly, in all the decades, the wishes have always come true. The whole community provides for its own, in a way. It gives every person an opportunity or two to be kind and generous.
Angel Tree introduces readers to a community, and it does so through several narrators/protagonists. One is named Lucy. She's blind. She's adopted (from China). Her guide-dog is dying of cancer. Her wish for the tree: medical treatment for her dog. One is named Joe. He's new to town. He's living in a small apartment with his uncle, I believe. His mom is a soldier stationed overseas. His wish for the tree: to spend Christmas with his mom. One is named Max. His house just burned down. His wish for the tree? A new house. The last is named Cami. She has a gift for bringing people together. And a musical gift as well. I honestly can't remember her wish for the tree since her wish isn't nearly as dramatic as the others.
So before the novel starts, these four young people aren't exactly close friends. I believe they are all in the same grade, and some have classes together. I think Cami and Max might have already been friends perhaps. Most of the book is about making friends, being friends, working together, thinking of others. One thing that all the kids seem to have in common--especially Max, Joe, and Lucy--is poverty.
Cami, I believe, decides that someone NEEDS to find out who is responsible for the Angel Tree. The person deserves recognition and honor. She knows she can't do it by herself, at least not in time to honor her THIS Christmas, so she involves other people. Can four kids working together solve the mystery?
The story is sweet in that it brings people together; friendships are formed; strong connections are made. In that way, it is an affirming read. The story is not perfectly sweet in that life is never made perfect. Even with all wishes fulfilled, life can never be perfect, stay perfect. For example, even if Joe gets his wish to spend Christmas day with his mom, she'll still have to go back. He'll go back to worrying about her when she does.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews