Martine Leavitt's, author of Keturah and Lord Death (one of Joanna's top 5 YA titles you may never have read) has written another phenomenal book.
It is not one that I would have picked up on my own. It's the story of a 16 year old prostitute named Angel, which, frankly, sounds like a downer to read about. It is because of books like these that I am so glad that I've served on various reading committees and why I think it is essential that librarians try to participate in them and on Mock Printz award discussions. Why? Well, because it pushes you to read things you wouldn't pick up on your own. It stretches you as a reader and that is a good thing. You suffer professionally (as in your reader's advisory skills) if you don't push yourself to read things that you dread. Which brings us back to the book. I dread reading about crappy-true-to-life things like teenagers and children forced into prostitution.
This book is written in verse, although I wouldn't really call it poetry. Rather it read to me more like spare-to-the-bone prose. And it works really well for this story, much in the same way it worked for Sold by Patricia McCormick. More words might have diluted the horror. This way it is more haunting.
Angel is addicted to "candy" introduced to her by her "boyfriend" who is really a pimp. She gets hooked and then forced to sell herself for drugs. She does this until one day her friend goes missing. Her friend who people say must have just left the life. Except she never said goodbye. Except she left her running away money with Angel. Except other women have also disappeared. That's the day Angel decides to try to stop taking drugs and to write her story down.
This book felt so real to me. Angel felt so real. There were things I had a problem with - like her father who kicks her out and says, "come back when you're cleaned up" (or something to that effect). Angel has only been gone about 9 months, but he moves? Would you move if your child ran away? This is not a bad father, this is a father dealing with grief and the death of his wife. I have a hard time believing he wouldn't regret kicking his daughter out. I have a hard time believing he wouldn't stay in the same place so that his missing daughter could find him. I have a hard time believing he isn't mounting a campaign to find her. Maybe I'm naive, but to me that was a weak point in the story.
I loved Widow, the older prostitute who was not a cliche even though she had a heart of gold. I felt horror for Merri, and disgust for the men who paid for Angel's services.
An excellent book.