12-year-old Riley and Tia, friends since they were six years old, are finally and irrevocably separated when Tia’s family move to New Zealand. This leaves Riley devastated – Tia is her best and only friend, the one she shyly hides behind as Tia breezes her confident, enthusiastic way through life, the one in whom she confides every detail of her life. Riley’s life has had its own upheavals – after the death of her mother 11 years earlier she and her father had been a self-contained and supportive unit, until he met Hazel. She and her endearing small daughter Dot have moved in and, though she loves Dot dearly, Riley feels tolerated, when she longs to be loved.
Without Tia, school goes from bad to worse as she is targeted by the class bullies and trapped in a locked room with her teacher about to give birth! However, help is at hand from the new family who are now occupying Tia’s house: eccentrically named triplets: Sunshine, Pearl and Kitten. Strange things happen around them: a bully is given a taste of her own medicine; the sisters’ foster father is saved from a catastrophic fall; glitter suddenly appears in strange places. When their wings begin to unfurl, Riley knows she has angels – albeit trainees – on her side and this gives her the confidence to be herself, instead of hiding comfortably in Tia’s vivacious shadow.
The book is peopled with instantly recognisable characters who will appear in the rest of the series, giving a sense of belonging and continuity to young readers. Most importantly of all, it wades in chest-high and confronts the fears, preoccupations and problems common to us all – the loss of a friend, the horror of bullying and the loneliness when friends are no longer there. The accuracy and sensitivity with which these issues are explored reveals a writer who knows and likes her audience.