Bright Angel, by Isabelle Merlin

Anything can happen. Everything can change in an instant. It doesn’t matter who you are. You could be the cleverest, bravest, strongest person in the whole world or the most ordinary and humdrum – and still it can come to you. The bold from the blue, the heaving of supposed solid earth under your feet, the shark in the summer water, the truck on the wrong side of the road, the maniac in the crowded street. Wrong place at the wrong time. That’s what they say. That’s what they say…

Sylvie and her sister Claire are recovering from a truly dreadful experience and their parents decide it could be a good idea to get them right away for a little while. The girls’ aunt Freddy is a non fiction writer and she’s currently in France researching her new book. Perfect. The ideal diversion. The girls are happy to go, neither of them wanting to talk about the trauma they’ve suffered. And at first, France is everything they could possibly imagine and more. The scenery is beautiful. They’re invited to watch a movie being filmed. There are gorgeous guys. Even a gorgeous small boy named for an angel, Gabriel. Gabriel knows there are angels, but neither his cute big brother Daniel or Sylvie are quiet as sure. But when Gabriel, angel of a child, is kidnapped, everything changes.

Sylvie and her sister Claire are just ordinary people to whom something extraordinary (not in a good way) has happened. They are proof that there is no protection against the randomness of living. But in France they discover that there is no running away from trauma, no protection from bad or evil things. Sylvie tells the story in first person and is the main character. She’s a brave and resourceful character, but not without her foibles. She’s rash and impetuous and this gets her into more trouble, as she seeks to understand the relationships that are developing around her. Shock and grief affect people in very different ways and Sylvie must try to understand if she is to be able to help her friends. Bright Angel twists and turns like a French country lane on its way up a mountain. Recommended for mid-secondary readers and beyond.

Bright Angel

Bright Angel, Isabelle Merlin
Random House Australia 2010
ISBN: 9781864719635

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Cupid's Arrow, by Isabelle Merlin

‘Sure, Mum,’ I said, mock-meekly. ‘I promise you I’ll never be smart again,’ and then we both laughed. The sudden excitement of this unexpected trip to France was bubbling up in us. For a moment we quite forgot the terrible event that had actually set all this in motion.

Fleur Griffin is haunted by terrible nightmares, but when her mother unexpectedly inherits the library of a French author, the nightmares are forgotten in the excitement of a trip to France. Once she’s there, though, the nightmares come back. When she’s awake, Fleur is having a wonderful time – including a chance meeting with a boy – but when the nightmares start to intrude into her waking hours, Fleur doesn’t know what to believe.

Cupid’s Arrow is a blend of mystery and romance with a touch of fantasy. Aimed at teen girls, the foreign setting and mystic elements will appeal. The French town where the action takes place – Avallon – is linked with the legend of King Arthur – and the murder mystery is partially connected to this legend.

An additional element likely to appeal to teens is the extension of the story beyond the book, with a website at

Cupid's Arrow

Cupid’s Arrow, by Isabelle Merlin
Random House, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Pop Princess, by Isabelle Merlin

The most important moments of your life aren’t the ones you plan for. They’re the ones that you don’t see coming, that hang on a an accident of timing, a simple twist of fat. It’s like in that old Gwyneth Paltrow movie, you know, Sliding Doors, where what happens to her character depends on whether she manages to catch the train before the sliding doors close. Or not.

Lucie has just discovered that her best friend and her boyfriend are cheating on her. She doesn’t know what to think, what to do. So when her grandmother’s agency offers her an opportunity to travel to Paris for Christmas, she seizes it. She is to be a paid companion to Arizona Kingdom, an international pop singer. But this imagined paradise has some challenges. Arizona’s guardian is an overprotective relative they dub the Gorgon. Lucie is sure she and Arizona’s father are overprotective and should just lighten up. Sure, there are some odd characters around, but nothing that two teenagers can’t handle. Nothing is that simple, and Lucie’s already shaken sense of who to trust is rattled further. Being 16 in Paris might be glorious, but she’s discovering that there are secrets and mysteries almost everywhere she looks.

Pop Princess begins in Australia but the action rapidly moves across the world to Paris. Lucie’s life is already a little unusual in that she lives with her grandmother while her father jets around the world in search of stories for his books. He’s seldom at home. Her mother was a writer too but was killed in Russia in a botched kidnap-rescue attempt. But travelling to Paris to stay with a pop star and her apparently paranoid aunt and father, Lucie learns a lot more about different types of family. She tells her story in first person and is full of curiosity and confidence. These traits get her alternately into and out of trouble, both by herself and with her new friends. She’s constantly trying to make sense of the strangeness around her and having to reassess the trustworthiness of the people around her. Along the way, she learns to listen to her own voice. Pop Princess is aimed at teenage girls who enjoy a mystery, especially one set in the capital of fashion, history and romance, Paris. Recommended for 13 + readers.

Pop Princess, Isabelle Merlin
Random House Australia 2009
ISBN: 9781741663365

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author