Desert Angel

Desert Angel

3.6 6
by Charlie Price

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Fourteen-year-old Angel wakes up one morning at her desert trailer home to discover her mother has been murdered by a lowlife named Scotty, who has vanished. Angel has no water, no weapon, but she knows that Scotty, an expert tracker and hunter, will surface soon in order to eliminate her as a witness. She has to run, to disappear, if she is to survive and tell the


Fourteen-year-old Angel wakes up one morning at her desert trailer home to discover her mother has been murdered by a lowlife named Scotty, who has vanished. Angel has no water, no weapon, but she knows that Scotty, an expert tracker and hunter, will surface soon in order to eliminate her as a witness. She has to run, to disappear, if she is to survive and tell the world what happened. Her flight takes her through a harsh landscape to places she never expected to be, forcing her to trust others for the first time and strengthening her in ways she doesn't even anticipate . . . until it's time to take a stand.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Angel's life is a nightmare. Her mother drinks and does drugs and her mother's boyfriend, Scotty, sexually abuses her. One morning after a night of hiding from him in the desert, Angel returns home to find that he has killed her mother and has been waiting so he can murder her, too. Angel barely escapes, but since Scotty is an expert tracker, the hunt has only just begun. During her flight, she meets people who put themselves in danger to protect her, acts of kindness that the untrusting 14-year-old cannot understand. As these caring folks keep shielding her from Scotty, who always seems to know where she is, Angel struggles with the danger she's putting them in and she wonders if she would be better off on her own. She begins to realize that no matter how worthless she feels, she needs and deserves love and that she is important to others. The story is a fast-paced adventure with an interesting premise, but at times it's hard to believe that so many strangers would risk their lives to hide the teen in their homes. Fans of dramatic, high-adrenaline books with hard-knocked protagonists might enjoy the basic premise.—Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library, OR
From the Publisher

“* A taut thriller about Angel, a 14-year-old who is pursued by a man who has a deadly need to silence her. . . . The small, decaying towns, the Salton Sea and the desert heat provide a vivid backdrop for the unfolding drama. Angel is a tough heroine who needs help but knows if she accepts it, she is risking other lives, too. Relentless, heart-stopping suspense.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“* This will be a magnet for thriller aficionados.” —BCCB, starred review

“A fast-paced adventure.” —School Library Journal

“Never showy, this is hard, gritty realism, and Price's depiction of the twitchy psyche of an abused girl is dead-on. Serious thriller fans will be more than satisfied.” —Booklist

“If suspense is your bag, this is a book to read.” —VOYA

“Price delivers a visceral thriller. . . . Pacing is tight, aided by direct, clipped prose that underscores Scotty's brutality and Angel's fragile emotional state. Both the best and worst of humanity shine through in this gripping novel.” —Publishers Weekly

Children's Literature - Heather Robertson Mason
Angel knows if Scotty finds her, he will kill her. Angel's mother has always chosen dangerous men, men who could feed her drug habit no matter what the cost, and Scotty is just the latest of them. But when Angel wakes up one morning to find her mother murdered, she knows Scotty did it and he will do anything to cover it up. This begins an intense run for a safe place that Angel isn't sure even exists, and Scotty tracking her every move. Along the way she finds friends in places she never thought she could find them; friends willing to pay a high cost to preserve her safety. This book is a true action book. The tension never ebbs, there is no comic relief, and Angel is always on guard. This nonstop drama is what keeps readers hooked. Rare in a book populated by outsiders, Angel meets a lot of good people. At first, she does not trust anyone; then she does not want to put them in danger. She fluctuates often between running and staying. These conflicting emotions add to her realism and make her easy for young adult readers to relate to. Readers of both genders and all backgrounds will be drawn to her and to this story, but with the large amount of positive Hispanic characters, it is a book that fills that niche as well. This would be a great book for weaker high-school readers since the story had plenty of action, but is still enough of a challenge to improve reading skills. An excellent, can't-put-it-down action-adventure novel. Reviewer: Heather Robertson Mason
VOYA - Mirta Espinola
Desert Angel is a riveting and suspenseful tale of a teenage girl's abuse and near-death experience at the hand of a lunatic named Scotty. Angel's motivation for escape culminates when she locates her mother's shallow grave near their living quarters. In a plot to leave no traces of his person or the murder, however, Scotty leaves Angel for dead, burning in their trailer. Later, as Scotty returns to survey the scene, he realizes that Angel's remains are nowhere to be found, and the chase is on to find his desert angel. Unaware of Angel's outside help, Scotty is held up by a group of locals, making it difficult for him to catch up with Angel as quickly as he would like. Angel's physical journey is nothing compared to the emotional journey when she realizes she has found an environment where trust, friendship, love, and compassion exist—something she never thought she would discover. Price presents a short, intriguing story of suspense topped off with despair, heartache, mistrust, and murder. The tiny morsels of friendship built between certain characters and between the main character's self-identity and understanding of the world leave the audience devouring each page. Moreover, the lessons presented in this short story offer a sweet juxtaposition to the mayhem. The main character realizes that a new life can rise up out of an old life and that hope is present and can prevail. As of now there is no follow-up to Desert Angel, but if suspense is your bag, this is a book to read. Reviewer: Mirta Espinola

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
HL670L (what's this?)
File size:
413 KB
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt


The fight started after midnight, Scotty drunk, Angel’s mother shrill on crystal. When it didn’t die down, Angel left the trailer to sleep nearby in a small draw where one of the drainage creases made a cradle. Screened from night winds, cut off from the yelling and threats, Angel could nestle in her robe and watch the stars. She no longer made wishes. Fourteen was too old for wishes. Sleeping outside was just one more thing that had to be done. When she awakened at dawn, the truck was gone and the trailer was empty. The inside wall by the door was bloody.
*   *   *
LATER ANGEL WISHED SHE’D CHANGED CLOTHES, shed her robe and put on jeans and a jacket. Wished she’d grabbed her daypack and taken the bread and a couple of water bottles. But no. She had to find her mother. Couldn’t think of anything else.
The pickup tracks went north, away from the westbound dirt ruts that connected their squatter camp to Dillon Road. Maybe she’d noticed that before she went into the trailer. Maybe that caused the rush. Angel knew there was nothing north except cactus and yucca and tall scree ridges that bordered the California desert.
She had walked twenty minutes or more when she stopped to slip off a shoe and shake out an annoying piece of gravel. In that quiet moment she heard the drone of Scotty’s truck bucking terrain in compound low and found his line of dust on the horizon. She stepped out of her sweatpants, used them to erase her footprints as she scrabbled several yards from the track to flatten behind a creosote bush.
She waited until he passed before looking up. Seemed like he was alone in the cab. She didn’t pay any attention to the brief flood of sadness. Sorrow can make its own desert and Angel’s tears dried a long time ago. If anything, she would occasionally notice a knot of anger burning somewhere in her chest. When the truck was out of sight, she stood, shook her pants out, put them on, and resumed walking.
Four months ago, Angel and her mom had been running from a guy named Jerry, another in a long string of abusive boyfriends picked with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile. They’d hitched out of L.A. heading for Arizona. Supposed to find a cousin in Phoenix. A ride they caught in Ontario let them off at a truck stop in Cabazon. Angel’s mom struck up a conversation at the lunch counter while they waited for their burgers. Scotty was an easy acquisition.
Clever Scotty. In the truck stop he told them he was a hunting guide. Wrong. Turned out to be a gun dealer who trapped eagles and tortoises for quick money. He drove them east into the badlands. Big old GMC pickup towing a twenty-foot American Freedom trailer, both painted camo. Past Desert Hot Springs he took some dirt ruts into the flats and stopped at the jagged ridges bordering Joshua Tree. From a distance their camp looked just like more sagebrush. The beatings didn’t begin until the third week of the new relationship. Scotty didn’t climb in bed with Angel until the fourth week.
*   *   *
FOLLOWING HIS PICKUP TRACKS AND, finally, the drag marks, Angel found her mother’s shallow grave before noon. She pawed through the loose dirt until she uncovered a wrist, pulled till she cleared the hand. Her mother’s fingernails were broken. Scotty had torn the rings off. Angel pictured her mother clawing at Scotty’s eyes. Scotty. Angel had no weapon to kill him. That would have to wait.
Her mother. Lila Lee Dailey. Gone to dust. Angel could feel the cry coming, bad, huge, and it scared her. What if she couldn’t stop? What if she broke apart? She pushed the sadness away. Got hold of it. Wadded it up. Made it tiny. Put it down deep. She could bring it back later if she wanted to. Right now there were other things.
Sitting beside the grave, Angel knew she couldn’t leave until she fixed it. Piled rocks on it high enough and wide enough to keep the coyotes out. She would roll in the dirt around the mound to mask any blood residue with her scent. She didn’t realize she might have learned that from Scotty. But first things first: a good place to hide if he came back.
She scanned the area. A climbing rock? A cave? Nope. A patch of scrub? Too obvious. She would have to dig. Fifty yards farther north, past a mesquite thicket, she scooped a shallow depression behind one of the yucca plants dotting the valley floor. If Scotty returned, he’d see the rock mound over the grave. He’d look for her. Might check nearby bushes, the obvious places, in case his arrival had surprised her, but he wouldn’t walk far. He wouldn’t guess she’d go to much trouble to hide. He accused her of being silly and lazy. He would figure she’d run. Head west to Dillon Road, to Thousand Palms, maybe on to Cathedral City. Well, she would. Later.
The search for heavy stones required care. Rattlers. Scorpions. An eroded ledge nearby offered some heavy sand clods at the top, several loaf-sized stones along the bottom. It took her a couple of hours to carry them and cover the grave. When she finished she was seriously thirsty. She thought for a moment but found no solution. She collected her robe from the graveside, and used its hem to brush footprints back to her burrow. Nothing else to do but lie down, pull the robe over her, and wait until dark.

Copyright © 2011 by Charlie Price

Meet the Author

CHARLIE PRICE lives in northern California. His previous novel, The Interrogation of Gabriel James, was hailed as "top-notch" by Kirkus Reviews, "surprising" by Booklist, and "gripping" by BCCB, and won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.

Charlie Price lives in northern California. He is an executive coach for business leaders and has also worked with at-risk teens in schools, hospitals, and communities. He is the author of several novels, including Desert Angel and The Interrogation of Gabriel James, winner of the Edgar Award.

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Desert Angel 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great plot, awesome characters, and just as a whole, its great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book should flow. This one does not flow. And is hard to keep track. It is all over the place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Angel lucky she found people who really care to help. The good honest people who just want help for no cost.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago