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Literature / Angela and Diabola

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Angela and Diabola is a 1997 children's novel by Lynne Reid Banks. It's about two twin girls: Angela, who is good, and Diabola, who is evil.

Contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Angela, who loves Diabola despite all her evil, always calls her "Dybo," as if to avoid evoking her full name's evil meaning. Meanwhile, Diabola gives her much less affectionate nicknames, like "Stinkpants" and "Pigface."
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Angela is angelically beautiful while Diabola is ugly.
  • Bribing the Homeless: The twins' parents are forced to pay a homeless couple to stand as Diabola's godparents at the twins' christening, because none of their relatives want to.
  • Care-Bear Stare: The appropriately-named Angela telepathically sends her twin sister Diabola warm thoughts while the obviously devilish one is being soaked by the rain outside, because she's just that selfless. This act of goodness enrages Diabola so much that she sends in return the wettest, most wicked thoughts she can muster up, which are enough to make Angela convulse in shivers. Later on, Angela uses this power on other people. Inverted with Diabola, who can hurt and attack people with her mind.
  • Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Angela is so perfect that her birth is effortless and painless to her mother. Diabola's birth, by contrast, is agonizing.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Diabola first enters school at the age of six, she draws a number of extremely disturbing pictures involving people dying horrible deaths. Her principal praises the pictures and labels Diabola an artistic genius, while completely failing to grasp her obvious violent and sociopathic tendencies.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: After the twins' father leaves out of guilt that he can't love Diabola and because he believes she was born as his punishment from God for his sins, he writes Angela a letter explaining that she and her mother are better off without him. In the end, however, he realizes he was wrong and comes back.
  • Disney Villain Death: Diabola's ultimate fate, falling from an apartment building's roof after trying but failing to throw Angela from it.
  • Enfant Terrible: Diabola is pure evil and terror from birth until her death at the age of six. Meanwhile, Angela is the ultimate innocent child, albeit Wise Beyond Their Years.
  • Even Evil Can Be Loved: Discussed and mostly averted. Diabola is a terror who was exhibiting Troubling Unchildhood Behavior literally from birth. While her parents do accept responsibility for taking care of her and try their hardest to raise her to be a better person, they cannot bring themselves to love her, which drives her father to a breakdown and his abandoning the family out of shame. Only someone as impossibly good as Angela could love a monster like Diabola, and even then, their mother tells her straight to her face that Angela only thinks she loves her because that's all she knows.
  • Evil Brunette Twin: Angela has Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold, with Innocent Blue Eyes, while Diabola's hair is "puce" (a dark auburn) and her eyes are green. (The book cover that shows Diabola with black hair is a case of Covers Always Lie.)
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • "Evil is sometimes a stronger force than good." When a pure evil being like Diabola is born, it takes three good people living in the same house, her parents and her angelic sister, to balance out the power of her evil. After Mr. Cuthbertson-Jones leaves, the balance is lost and her evil literally causes their house to collapse. Even at the end, when the twins become one person as they should have been all along, while her good side usually gets the better of her bad side, it doesn't always. "Just like the rest of us."
    • When good destroys evil, it can't be pure good anymore, because killing is inherently a "bad" act. This is revealed after Angela accidentally kills Diabola. From that moment on, she can never be perfect again.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Angela and Diabola. Their parents originally named them Jill and Jane, respectively, but when the vicar baptized them, he blurted out the first names that came to his mind at the sight of them. After Diabola dies and her evil is absorbed into Angela, making the latter an ordinary, flawed little girl, their parents change Angela's name back to Jill.
    • Mr. and Mrs. Cuthbertson-Jones's first names (not revealed until late in the book) are "Currer," which means "runner" (he abandons his wife and daughters) and the Welsh name "Mwytho," meaning "soft," reflecting her vulnerability. Ultimately, they learn not to live up to their names, as Mwytho learns to be strong and Currer comes back to his family. Meanwhile, the kindly vicar is named Benedict ("blessed").
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: Evil Twin Diabola terrifies her teacher by drawing an almost photorealistic picture of an execution. The school principal takes her in for special art classes, and Diabola freaks her out by drawing Diabola's family burning to death. The picture catches fire and burns down the school.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: In the end, Diabola dies while her parents survive. Played with, however, since Diabola's personality is absorbed into Angela, changing her from a saint into an ordinary, flawed human being, and making her a very literal example of My Sibling Will Live Through Me.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: Lampshaded but averted. While giving birth to the twins at the beginning, Mrs. Cuthbertson-Jones reflects that most expectant fathers in movies smoke heavily and pace the floor of the waiting room, her own husband is probably at a pub somewhere.
  • Personality Powers: Both Angela and Diabola show unusually strong powers of persuasion and intimidation respectively (and Diabola seems able to somehow just know what various forms of human atrocity look like) but it's only towards the latter half of the book that this becomes overtly supernatural. After the twins' opposite natures causes the family home to split in half, we begin to see the twins' powers mature as Angela tries to Care-Bear Stare Diabola through Twin Telepathy while Diabola starts Playing with Fire before torturing and even killing people just by wanting them to suffer. Angela, during the buildup to the climax, learns that she can heal pain, elicit spontaneous joy and even revives Diabola's victims right before the climax.
  • Ship Tease: The vicar Benedict is drawn to try to help Angela and Diabola's family in part by his attraction to their mother, who at one point, after her husband leaves, proposes marriage to him in hope that his goodness will balance out Diabola's evil. Despite the temptation, he refuses, knowing that the better choice is to find her husband and reunite them.
  • The Sociopath: Diabola all the evil in a person with no good qualities whatsoever to restrain her, and as such is both incapable of empathy, shame, or remorse. She's also shown to be highly impulsive and reckless, including using her powers to rock the building she's standing on and burning down the school on impulse once she starts Playing with Fire. Subverted, however, as the twins at close proximity can dampen each others' nature; part of her hatred of Angela is that she's able to elicit feelings of guilt and restraint.
  • Split at Birth: A couple who were supposed to have one baby end up with twins: one daughter who contains all the good of a human being, and one who contains all the evil of a human being. As children, among other things, they eventually develop superpowers; part of it seems to come from being two halves of the same person, like the Twin Telepathy, and another part of it seems to come from the sheer purity of their good and evil natures, like the ability to heal people or make them drop dead respectively. They're also respectively so charming and so intimidating that they have incredible powers of persuasion. At the end of the book, Angela kills Diabola, mostly by accident, and in doing so reunites the two halves. She's usually good but sometimes does bad things, like most people; she develops a mismatched eye that matches Diabola's; and she doesn't have either half-person's powers.
  • Two Siblings In One: Angela and Diabola's ultimate fate, when they're united as one in Angela's body after Diabola's death.
  • Taking You with Me: At the book's climax, Diabola falls off the top of a building and Angela tries to pull her to safety, but Diabola tries to pull her over the edge too, not caring if she also dies as long as she succeeds in killing her sister. Angela is so horrified that she impulsively lets go of Diabola, who plunges to her doom.