TAD by M. D. Neu
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
TAD positions a human and a former Angel of Death so that they can mutually grow and inspire each other to be better. This isn't a linear process, and early on the characters are pretty rough, to themselves and to those around them. Learning to live.
This book paints a loving but messy portrayal of drag culture, mostly set in the early/mid 2000's, with an earnestness and detail that makes it come to life. There is such fondness expressed in the book, looking backwards when the story moves on from that time in the character's lives, but also in the vividness of the portrayal in the early part of the story.
The one thing that gave me pause was the way that one character's asexuality (or something that looks very close to it) is handled. This character seemed to be initially written as asexual, but felt (mostly internal/people-pleasing) pressure to perform sexually. I think the resolution works all right, but the process of getting there may be stressful to some readers, so proceed with care if the rhetoric and/or pressures of mainstream allosexual culture are likely to be triggering for you.
The ending was touching and meaningful, a measure of peace in a book about how hard that can be to find. I just wish the story had spent more time dwelling in that peace after being so stressful early on. The conclusion felt like the characters had (years of) aftercare, but as a reader I wasn't quite ready for everything to be resolved.
Overall I enjoyed it, and I would recommend it to someone who wants a version of time-travel and a hint of multiverses without being a sci-fi book. It's definitely a different take on an angel losing their wings, and that was its own kind of refreshing.
CW for bullying, assault, sexual assault, suicide.