Cover image for The angel factory
The angel factory
Blacker, Terence.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2002.

Physical Description:
216 pages ; 24 cm
Spurred on by his best friend, twelve-year-old Thomas uncovers two major family secrets: that he was adopted, and that his perfect-seeming family is part of an other-worldly organization.
General Note:
Originally published: Great Britain : Macmillan Children's Books, c2001.
Reading Level:
700 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.9 8.0 59712.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.1 14 Quiz: 32026 Guided reading level: U.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



THOMAS WISDOM HAS A GREAT LIFE.He's popular at school. He gets good grades. He lives in a nice home. His parents are caring, wise, and supportive. His life is perfect. Almost too perfect.When Thomas opens a secret file on his father's computer, he discovers that in his perfect world, nothing is what it seems -- not even himself. The truth -- if he is brave enough to face it -- can be found only in the place they call The Angel Factory.Terence Blacker's new novel is a mesmerizing story of good and evil, of trust and betrayal, of free will and control -- and of a boy who holds the destiny of humanity in his hands.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-8. Thomas Wisdom is leading a seemingly perfect life. Only his unruly friend Gip strikes a dissonant note. When Gip hacks into the Wisdoms' computer, he finds information that leads Thomas to incredible news about his family--they are aliens known as "angels," come to earth as part of an experiment designed to keep humans from destroying themselves. The Wisdoms, and others like them around the world, have adopted human children, such as Thomas, who they hope will continue the change from within. But the perfection the angels offer will also wipe out people's essential humanity. After numerous twists and turns, it is left to Thomas to decide humankind's fate. Eminently readable, this British import is full of surprise and only occasionally goes over the top (as in Thomas' confrontation with the head angel, the president of the U.S.). This has an ending that's much more pat than Lois Lowry's conclusion to The Giver, an obvious choice for pairing, but readers will find the book a page-turner, even if there's a bit less to ponder. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this riveting futuristic tale, Blacker (Homebird) masterfully constructs an intriguing world of remarkable possibilities and chilling consequences that bears an eerie resemblance to the here and now. With the help of best friend Gip, 12-year-old Thomas Wisdom, a model son, breaks into a secret computer file and discovers that his whole life is a lie. His all-too-perfect mother and father are not his real parents. Nor are they CIA agents, as Gip suspects. They are angels sent to earth on a mission to save the planet from destruction. In order to accomplish their goal, they need Thomas's cooperation in their Project to save humankind: he must put his faith in something bigger than himself and give up his free will. While following Thomas on his quest to learn about his past and the angels' plan for him, readers enter a maze filled with changing configurations, perplexing crossroads and allegorical obstacles. Each suspenseful chapter brings Thomas closer to the truth and presents new philosophical questions regarding the sacrifice of individuality for the good of society, and what constitutes good and evil ("Those who aren't with us are against us," says his angel mother). Thomas has the power to change the course of humanity, but becoming an angel may be too high a price. Although the climax and rather abrupt resolution are less convincing than the young hero's struggle to make the right choices, this complex novel raises some thought-provoking questions. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-Twelve-year-old Thomas Wisdom's seemingly perfect life with his peaceful British family begins to fall apart after he learns that he was adopted and that his parents and sister are really angels sent to Earth to prevent humanity from destroying itself. Their plan is to recruit adopted children and persuade them to cooperate with the Project by using brainwashing, threats, and even violence. When he discovers that even the President of the United States is an angel, Thomas doesn't know whom to trust. Then he is forced to make a decision-whether or not to go along with the Project. He rejects it in favor of free choice and his right to self-determination but pays the price by losing his best and only friend. He realizes that humankind, with all its randomness and unpredictability, is preferable to the life that the angels advocate. None of the characters, with the exception of Gip, Thomas's best friend, or their math teacher, is particularly interesting or likable. After Thomas rejects the Project, the angels in charge decide to abandon it without a fight. This doesn't ring true after what has come before and leaves the ending feeling flat and anticlimactic. The concept of freedom of choice that the book presents is interesting but not new, and this novel doesn't add much originality to the subject. Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993) is a more compelling and better-written book.-Sharon Rawlins, Piscataway Public Library, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 3: Spooky As we made our way to the house, I tried to explain to Gip that I wasn't exactly being serious. I had been in a bad mood all day because, although I knew my geography project would get an A, I felt the mark was not mine but my dad's. I said that it had all been a joke but, in Gip's upside-down world, anything serious is really a joke in disguise while what most people would see as a joke, he takes with deadly seriousness. I realized that I had made a big mistake confiding in him about my parents. Then I made an even bigger one. I let Gip into my house. As soon as we entered the hall, he asked to see my dad's computer. Still trying to play along with his little game, I showed him upstairs. Moments later, he stood in the center of my father's small, super-tidy office, looking absurdly out of place, like some giant bit of litter that had been blown in from the street. "My parents are kind of into neatness," I explained. He took in the scene, the rows of folders on shelves, the filing-cabinet, the immaculately tidy desk. "It's plain unnatural," he muttered, sitting down in front of the computer. "It's spooky." "Not everyone has to live like you," I said, suddenly resenting the way Gip mocked anyone whose life was not like his. He switched on the computer. "Code-word," he said quietly. "We need a code-word to get in." He tapped in my name, waited a few seconds then muttered, "Nope." "Dougal?" "Eh?" "It's the name of my terrier." Gip shook his head as he typed in the letters. "Your life, man," he muttered. Nothing. As if I weren't there, Gip opened the top drawer of my father's desk and took out an address book. He opened it at the first page. "What's the Seraph Organization?" he asked. "Something to do with my parents' work. They're the food company that employs them." Gip's fingers flew over the keys. Nothing. He returned to the address book, studying one page after another. I glanced at my watch. "Gip, they'll be back soon. I'll be so dead if they find you here." He ignored me. "Who are SO?" he asked suddenly. "Search me." "More to the point. Why does their telephone number have only five digits?" He tapped the numbers into the computer. Suddenly the screen came alive. "Welcome," said a friendly cybernetic voice. "Welcome to you," said Gip. We were in. Gip is one of those people who never feels more at home than when he's in front of a computer. Within seconds, he had called up my father's files. They read: HOME BILLS SERAPH TAX "Gip, this is wrong," I said. "There's nothing here." He opened "SERAPH." It was full of letters from my dad about schedules, visits, advertising, deadlines -- as dull and innocent as any business file could be. Before I could stop him, he opened "HOME." It was stuff about insurance and rates. "So much for the CIA theory," I said. But Gip had double-clicked on "TAX." The screen suddenly filled with numbers -- five pages of batched numbers, like a telephone directory without the names. "Good thinking, guy," he muttered. "Nothing could look more boring and innocent than the old tax file. But you didn't fool old Gip." He closed the file. "OK," he said. "We print these out and then we leave." "It's just some kind of tax thing," I said and I realized how absurd it all sounded. The truth was that, if my dad really did have some kind of secret life, I was suddenly not sure that I wanted to know about it. "Knowledge is power," said Gip, pushing the "Print" key. "Now," he said, as the printer whined into life. "Where's this lavatory of yours?" I told him and waited by the printer until it had finished spewing out pages full of numbers. When I had switched off the computer, I made my way downstairs to my room. There are times when I forget just how weird my friend Gip is. After about five minutes, it occurred to me that he was spending more time than was entirely usual in my lavatory. I knocked on the door and asked if he was all right. He said something but his voice sounded odd and echoey so that I couldn't catch the words. Then I noticed the door was not fully shut. I pushed it and nervously peered in. Gip was on his knees in front of the lavatory. He looked like a headless man. "What you doing, Gip?" I didn't know whether to leave him or to help. His voice echoed weirdly from the depths of the lavatory bowl. "Uuggghh." "Are you feeling sick?" "I'm uunngghh," he said impatiently. Slowly, he emerged from the bowl. He stood up and shook his head. At the same time, both of us noticed that the ends of his hair were wet. Gip squeezed a few strands and wiped the palms of his hands down the sides of his jeans. "Spies use lavatories to conceal information. I thought maybe there was some kind of secret hiding-place. That was why your parents are always slipping off to the bog -- they're filing a report." He lifted the lid off the cistern. "I was joking," I said desperately. "They were just going to the toilet like anyone else. Let's -- " "Yes." It was a low groan of triumph. Slowly he extricated his hand. He was holding a small, flat, black rubber plug. "Well done, Gip," I said. "You just mashed up our plumbing." "At the back of the cistern, there's a small metal plate." He put his hand, still wet, on my shoulder and, with the other, pointed downwards into the water. There was, it was true, an oddly colored plaque behind the ball cock. "It's called a bolt, Gip," I said. "It's what plumbers use." "Yeah, right. And they use copper and cover it up with rubber. I don't think so." He opened the window that was just above the lavatory and, standing on the bowl, peered downwards. When he came back into the room, he was smiling. "Transmitter," he said. "The bolt has a connection outside." He returned the plug to where he had found it and put the lid back. This time he dried his hands by running them through his hair. "You were right," he said. "Your parents are CIA. They're communicating to headquarters using the old lavatory trick. I was right. There's definitely something spooky going on here." I sighed. At that moment, it seemed pointless to remind him that I had never ever claimed that my mum or dad were in the CIA, that all I had said, casually, was that I felt a bit out of place in my perfect family. It had been a joke and it had backfired and I wanted Gip to leave my house before he got any other crazy ideas about my family. "They'll be back soon," I said. "You'd better go." He picked up the sheaf of papers we had printed from my father's computer and waved them significantly in front of my face. "With the evidence, right?" "Yeah, of course. With the evidence." He glanced at me and winked -- I may not be good at hiding my thoughts but luckily neither is Gip too good at reading them. He limped his way to the front door. "It's good you brought ole Gippy in on this," he said. "We'll crack it together, right?" "Sure," I said, eager to get shot of him. I glanced up and down the road. The coast was still clear but, at any moment now, my mum and dad would be rounding the corner from the station. "All you got to do is check the precise times when your folks go to the john," he was saying. "Then, casual-like, try to listen outside the door, catch any noises in there that are kind of unusual, and leave the rest to me," he said. "Right. I'll remember to do that." I watched as he walked off with that swift scuttle, his right leg jerking outwards as if he were kicking out at some invisible thing with every stride. Then, suddenly I saw them. Walking towards him were Mum, Dad and, between them, my sister Amy with Dougal scuttling along ahead of them. Briefly, I had this creepy sense that I was looking at two types of human -- walking away from me, the frail, the strange, the sick and, walking towards me, the strong, the healthy, the normal. My family turned into the short path leading to our front door. Dougal jumped up to greet me. "Hi, Thomas," said my father. "What are you doing here?" "I thought somebody rang the bell. Then I saw you." My mum kissed me. "Amy's here to discuss the holiday," she said. My sister kissed me too. "Hi, bruv," she said. "Hi," I said. I was glad that they were home. I glanced up the road to see Gip turning the bend, and began to relax. We went inside for tea. Copyright © 2001 by Terence Blacker Excerpted from The Angel Factory by Terence Blacker All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.