Thursday, August 30, 2012

ARC Review: My Book of Life by Angel by Martin Leavitt

My Book of Life by Angel
Author: Martine Leavitt
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (September 4, 2012)

Description: When sixteen-year-old Angel meets Call at the mall, he buys her meals and says he loves her, and he gives her some candy that makes her feel like she can fly. Pretty soon she's addicted to his candy, and she moves in with him. As a favor, he asks her to hook up with a couple of friends of his, and then a couple more. Now Angel is stuck working the streets at Hastings and Main, a notorious spot in Vancouver, Canada, where the girls turn tricks until they disappear without a trace, and the authorities don't care. But after her friend Serena disappears, and when Call brings home a girl who is even younger and more vulnerable than her to learn the trade, Angel knows that she and the new girl have got to find a way out.

My Thoughts: I don't think I have ever read a novel in verse before. I was amazed at the complexity of thought and emotion that could be packed into so few words and phrases. Angel has a very powerful voice. I felt so sorry for the child who dealt with grief by stealing and who ran away to the Mall to get away from her sorrow. And even more sorry when she fell for what Call was offering. 

It is easy to see how vulnerable children can get sucked into prostitution one little step at a time. Seeing that world through the eyes of a young woman who is still clinging to a little bit of hope and goodness but seldom finding the goodness was heartbreaking. 

When Call brings home a little girl of eleven named Melli, Angel tries to protect her. She takes her out with her to her stretch of street by the gate of ten thousand happiness and has Melli hide in the shadows while she works. She is watched over by another of the women when Angel goes on her "dates." The other woman is called the Widow and has lost her name because of the drugs and the abuse she has faced on the streets. Angel tries to find her name but none of them seem right to the Widow. Still she does do what she can for the two younger girls until she is attacked and beaten.

I was disgusted by all the "normal" people who could look right through this child and not do anything. I was angry at the father who threw her away when she acted out. I hated the car loads of young men who drove through the area where Angel was and threw words and garbage at her. I hated the men who bought her but never even saw her as someone real. And I especially hated Call. He was busy trying to get a petition going to legalize prostitution and busy seeing himself as a businessman. No matter what promises he made to Angel he still didn't see her as a person worthy of respect or, even, a person at all. He tried to hold her with drugs and threats but her spirit wouldn't be held.

This was a remarkable story about a remarkable young woman in a horrible situation. It is about the power of hope. It doesn't have a happy ending. As Angel says, "there has to be the possibility of sad endings, or there couldn't be such a thing as happy endings. Endings are happy because they could have been sad." But the ending is hopeful. 

I recommend this one to thoughtful readers. The lyrical language and gritty realism will not be easily forgotten.

Favorite Quote:
I wrote
my angel wouldn't be one of the long dead
who has forgotten being alive,
who is used to sitting on a throne
and being buddies with God.

My angel would be a fresh-dead one,
still longing for chocolate cake,
still wishing she could come back
and find out who won American Idol.

That's the one I want--
just a junior one,
who might not mind saving
a girl like me.
I received this ARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here.

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