A great summer read, Jersey Angel will be perfect by the pool or at the shore. If you are looking for a plot driven book, this is not for you. JerseyA great summer read, Jersey Angel will be perfect by the pool or at the shore. If you are looking for a plot driven book, this is not for you. Jersey Angel is a slice of life story about a girl who is trying to come to terms with her future, her sexuality, her social status, and life in general. It could be argued that this is a “regionalist” book, as it does take place on the Jersey Shore, but having friends from the OC, and being a frequent traveler to Lake Havasu, AZ, any person who has ever been to a vacation town during those hot summer months should be able to relate, and those who haven’t will get a taste of what “kids” do during those hot summer months.
Angel narrates this book with a frank manner and an honest look at herself, but Beth Ann Bauman doesn't allow here to be overly introspective. Angel is coming to understand that she is going to be a community college girl, and that some of her friends will move on, and some will always be on the Shore. She is torn between these two lives. She feels a bit guilty that she doesn’t want more for her life than to be happy (and pretty). She is paired against two extreme female models in the book, her mother (whom she is on a path to become) and her best friend (who seems to be a bit innocent in the ways of the world, but we see her opening her eyes a bit in the end). When we meet Angel, she is in the process of developing her own sexuality, and attempts to discover what Love is all about and if it has anything to do with sex at all.
Not only does Bauman not dwell on introspection, she does not sentimentalize her Angel's character either. Angel makes mistakes, at one point almost an unbelievable one. Then I see my students (I teach high school English) walking around campus, having OBVIOUSLY made these same mistakes, I gave Angel (and by definition Bauman) the benefit of the doubt. There are definitely girls who are more sexually active than others, and Angel is one of those. I found it a refreshing read, and finished it in a day. I was fortunate to have an advance reader copy, and I think once this book becomes available to the general public this week, May 4, 2012, the Goodreads ratings on the book will skyrocket.
*Spoiler Alert?* This book does not wrap itself up in a neat little package. As with life, there are no easy answers (and people make mistakes, have guilt, etc.) and I could tell about 2/3 the way through that I was not going to get a very “satisfactory” resolution. The text is broken into three parts, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The Reader is left to determine what “Spring” will be like for Angel. Many readers prefer a first person narrator that tells the Reader what they are thinking, or tells the Reader what to think and how to feel. The clever thing about Jersey Angel, and a salute to Bauman’s craft, is that we the READERS are forced to reflect upon how we feel about Angel’s actions, and what she might do in the future. Many readers would say, “I would never to that.” But does that mean someone else wouldn’t? If we are pigeon-holed into reading books about characters that are exactly like us, why read at all? I can say this… I would have been excited (and terrified) to have met Angel in high school, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. ...more
Francisco X. Stork has a truly great book in Marcelo in the Real World. Stork challenges the reader to make moral decisions along with Marcelo, and alFrancisco X. Stork has a truly great book in Marcelo in the Real World. Stork challenges the reader to make moral decisions along with Marcelo, and all along, the reader is not convinced what Marcelo’s actions should be either. Characters in the text often underestimate Marcelo, and we as readers do as well, causing an interesting interplay with an unreliable narrator with autistic tendencies.
Stork is able to do some clever things with his this character that one often doesn’t see in realistic YA fiction, and I wish we would see more of it. Because of who Marcelo is, and how he processes information, the reader is forced to consider some big questions along with Marcelo. Why to people hurt each other? What is love? What is desire? What is forgiveness? What happens when we find out the world isn’t the way we thought it was? How do we handle disappointment? The list goes on. Stork discusses and throws away these ideas as if they were candy at a small town parade. They come so hard and fast we, like Marcelo, barely have time to process everything Stork is trying to portray. And yet what could seem preachy or moralizing really never occurs because the situations always develop quickly.
Stork never tells us what to think or feel and neither does Marcelo. We are left to observe the actions of Marcelo and the characters around him, and chose for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. I think this is a tendency with male authors (especially who write about male characters), to internalize and contemplate the actions of the characters, not write them all down on the page.
Did I mention this book is set in a law office? :) A veritable crucible for learning ethical behavior. Are some of the situations convenient and easy? Sure. But that is a small fault in this excellent book. ...more