My Book of Life by Angel

My Book of Life by Angel

5.0 2
by Martine Leavitt

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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

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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, in Martine Leavitt's My Book of Life by Angel.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This exquisite novel in verse tells the story of 16-year-old Angel, who has been working as a prostitute in Vancouver for nine months after her father throws her out. After Angel’s friend Serena disappears, Angel decides to give up her pimp Call’s “candy” (the drugs he feeds her) and try to return home. Angel’s withdrawal is severe (“I threw up in Call’s bathroom sink/ so hard I thought bits of stomach/ slid out of my mouth”) but it’s nothing compared to the pain she feels when Call brings home an 11-year-old girl, Melli, to follow in Angel’s footsteps. Angel is determined to keep Melli safe, even while other women continue to disappear. National Book Award finalist Leavitt (Keturah and Lord Death) makes good use of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which a john has Angel read aloud to him “while he does his thing,” but the triumph of this story is in Angel’s painfully real voice. Her matter-of-fact descriptions of her time with the johns are searing, and the casual brutality of her life will haunt readers. Ages 14–up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Sept.)¦
VOYA - Jamie Hansen
When sixteen-year-old Angel first meets Call, he buys her clothes, food, and drugs, but eventually he has a cash flow problem and needs Angel to help by becoming part of his business—one of his so-called renewable resources. Being a renewable resource means becoming one of the disposable and easily replaced women turning tricks on the corner of Hastings and Main in downtown Vancouver. Suddenly, generous Call is a vicious bully who has ensnared Angel in a seemingly endless cycle of prostitution, addiction, and violence. When Serena, her best friend on the street, disappears, Angel is understandably anxious; however, it is only when Call brings home a new girl, tiny eleven-year-old Melli, for Angel to train, that Angel decides she must act swiftly to save little Melli and, perhaps, even herself. The author allows Angel to tell her own heart-wrenching story in deceptively simple lyrical verse that pierces the reader's heart. Avoiding both heavy-handed moralizing and sleazy sensationalism, she uses fiction to give voices to the scores of real young girls who tragically went missing from Vancouver's Eastside between 1983 and 2002. Sharply delineated characters and flawless style make Angel's story truly unforgettable. This amazing and beautifully written little novel-in-verse should be required reading for mature teens, as well as adults working with children and young adults. Reviewer: Jamie Hansen
Children's Literature - Bonita Herold
Sixteen-year-old Angel tries to fill the hole her mom's death caused with shoes—no, make that shoe; she always shoplifts the one on display. When her father has to rescue her from the police station repeatedly, he is at his wit's end. But the theft continues until a handsome, well-dressed young man threatens to turn her in unless she agrees to go to dinner with him. Angel innocently agrees. That one lapse of judgment starts her downward spiral into the nightmarish world of drugs and prostitution. With the disappearance of her best friend, she tries to marshal her strength to leave Call. But can she do it? When Call does the unthinkable; she realizes she must. A National Book Award Finalist, the book, told in lyrical prose, unearths the relatively untouched topic of exploitation of young girls. Since Leavitt tells the story with compassion and sensitivity, the reader cannot help but be caught up in the horror that is Angel's life. While the subject matter is shockingly ugly, the truth behind it may well cause the book to become required reading in high school classes everywhere. Reviewer: Bonita Herold
Kirkus Reviews
The tragedy of discarded children is skillfully explored in this stunning novel in verse. Angel, 16, pretends she lives at the mall, helping herself to shoes on display. She falls prey to a pimp named Call, who watches her shoplift, buys her meals and gives her "candy" (crack). Knowing that "it's the ones from good homes / who follow orders best," Call persuades Angel to do him a favor with chilling ease. Turning tricks on a street corner in Vancouver, she meets Serena, who teaches her to fend for herself with "dates" and encourages her to write her life. When Serena goes missing, Angel vows to clean up her act. Dope sick, she slowly wakes up to Call's evil, weathering the torments of her captive life with courage. The deliberate use of spacing emphasizes the grim choice confronting Angel when Call brings home a new girl, 11-year-old Melli. Leavitt's mastery of form builds on the subtle interplay between plot and theme. "John the john" is a divorced professor who makes Angel read Book 9 from Milton's Paradise Lost, inadvertently teaching her the power that words, expression and creativity have to effect change. Passages from Milton frame the chapters, as Angel, in her own writing, grasps her future. Based on the factual disappearance of dozens of Vancouver women, this novel of innocence compromised is bleak, but not without hope or humor. An astonishing, wrenching achievement. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—A 16-year-old caught up in a life of drugs and prostitution finds the strength to protect a younger girl in this lyrical novel in verse. Angel describes how her pimp, Call, lured her from her family with promises and "candy," the drug her body craves even as she tries to resist it, and onto street corners in Vancouver, where she struggles to earn enough money to please him. Angel worries about a friend who has disappeared-there are rumors of a serial killer preying on prostitutes, though the police seem unconcerned. In simple but evocative language, Angel takes readers into her world and makes them understand how she fell into Call's clutches. But when he brings home an 11-year-old, Angel realizes that she must risk her life to fight back. Leavitt deftly tackles a difficult subject without a hint of melodrama or voyeurism. Angel's story could belong to any teen on the streets, though her voice is wonderfully unique. She sees the human side of everyone she meets, even the johns who choose her because she looks even younger than she is. Despite her circumstances, she never loses hope. Reluctant readers looking for a gritty story that is also a quick read will be swept up in this one, as will anyone who appreciates novels in verse. This is a powerful book that will leave readers wishing they could hear more of Angel's gripping story.—Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
990L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

My Book of Life by Angel

By Martine Leavitt

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2012 Martine Leavitt
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-35124-3


    Bid her well beware ...

    When Serena went missing
    I looked in all the places she might go
    and she wasn't anywhere,
    just like a lot of the other girls weren't anywhere.

    I thought oh no
    when Serena didn't show up at her corner one night
    and not the next night or the next,
    and then she didn't show up to church Wednesday.
    She always went to church Wednesday
    and told her man Asia it was for free hot dogs
    but it was really for church—
    she told me that secret.

    Once a man came
    who smelled so bad everybody pulled away,
    but Serena said, welcome, you are with friends,
    have a hot dog.

    She said she picked me to love
    because of my name Angel and because of my face,
    but then she loved me just because.
    She said that.

    She said her heart's desire was to see an angel.
    She said, if I could see an angel
    that would mean I'm still God's little girl.

    She said,
    Angel, if you get scared sometime
    on a bad date,
    do this—

    She stared big-eyed at nothing over my head
    and said
    angel, angel ...

    I laughed, said, you see an angel?

    She said, no not yet,
    but just saying it or thinking about one
    has powers.

    Really, Serena? I said.
    ha ha really?
    you think there is such a thing as angels?

    She said soft, maybe.

    But she meant yes really.

    The first time Call told me
    to get out there
    and me scared and not knowing anything
    and Call watching from the café across the street
    saying no more candy for free—
    that first time Serena said, I'll tell you what I know.

    She said, your eyes be always on the man
    you don't have eyes for anyone but him
    you don't have business with anybody but him—
    that's the only way he can stand it,
    if you aren't alive except when he needs you to be.
    Serena taught me about drinks and dinner,
    told me how to make it go fast, how to fake it.

    She said, and don't you forget
    your name suits you.

    When she wasn't at church Wednesday
    I said, Asia, where is she?
    He said, she's run out on me.

    I thought, but did not say,
    she gave me her running-away money
    to hide under my mattress
    and it is still there.

    Last church Wednesday
    Serena said to me,
    Angel, you write about Nena
    who had a pretty house
    and pretty parents
    and was a ten minute walk from Micky D's.

    One day she didn't go home for supper
    and then she didn't go home for curfew
    and then she didn't go home.
    Nena went for a burger
    and ended up at Hastings and Main.

    Her man, the one who found her, lonesome,
    said to his friends,
    it's the ones from good homes
    who follow orders best—
    it's the ones from good families
    who have the best social skills,
    who never learned how to fight—
    they make the best money.

    Serena said to me,
    tell the story of Connie
    who said, I'm leaving the life behind,
    who said, I'm going to testify against the man
    who brought me here and dogged me awful.
    She said, I'm going to protect other girls
    and get that boy in jail.

    On courtroom day, there he was,
    wearing a pink tie,
    and in every seat of the courtroom
    were his buddies,
    saying with eyes
    if he goes down
    so do you.

    Write how Connie failed to prove to the judge
    that she was in imminent and present danger
    so her man walked away
    and Connie got found dead
    strangled by a pink tie.

    Serena said,
    John the john has made you read that poem,
    has taught you fancy words and fancy grammar—
    Angel, you tell about Blood Alley
    and Pigeon Park—
    the cardboard tents
    and the water rats
    and the delousing showers,
    the SROs and the cockroaches,
    the people drinking out of puddles
    and all the girls going missing ...

    Tell all that, Angel.

    I said no.

    She said yes.

    I said no.

    She said yes.

    I said no that is dumb.

    Then Serena didn't show at church Wednesday,
    and I got a book to write in.

    I stopped to listen to the street preacher
    who talked about God's top ten
    and how everything you do is recorded in a book of life
    and angels will read from it someday.
    Is this what you want your story to be? he said,
    Is this what you want everyone to hear?

    I imagined that,
    to hear everything about me
    read out loud by an angel
    like I used to read to my little brother Jeremy.

    I held my notebook
    and wished I could write my story over
    and in this new story I gave up Call's candy forever
    and I called my dad and he came and got me
    and him and me and Jeremy
    drove away from Call forever,
    and when we got there,
    there would be Serena.

    So I tried to make it come true.
    I called Dad from the pay phone near the library
    and it was sorry this number is no longer in service
    so I wrote him a letter and even mailed it,
    Serena my friend is missing
    I am cleaning up my act like you said
    and I vow my deepest vow
    that I won't take Call's candy forever.

    I wrote on the front of my book
    My Book of Life by Angel
    Which Is My Real Name,
    and This Is My Real Story
    for Maybe an Angel to Read.

    I wrote in my book,
    Serena, when you come back
    I will tell you about my vow
    and my letter to Dad
    and I am sorry I laughed at your idea of angels,
    I want an angel too.

    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.

    Subtle he needs must be, who could seduce angels ...

    In the Vancouver Downtown Eastside,
    where Call lives and now me too,
    all the doors and windows are barred at night—
    the street is the jail
    and there's no escape.

    Where Call lives
    people know how to sleep sitting up
    and how to eat without teeth
    and how to carry their whole world
    on their backs.

    Where Call lives
    most of the churches are shelters,
    with beds for the bedless
    and soup for the soupless.

    Call has a good haircut and good shoes—
    shoes with laces double-knotted and hard soles
    and stiff heels
    and pockets in his shirts—
    he could walk into an office
    and nobody would blink.

    But here they blink.
    Here, he is gentry.
    He says, I am the beginning of gentrification
    at Hastings and Main.

    Call wants to be the boss of something.
    He can't do it in the real world
    so he will be the king of Eastside.
    He is always disappointed with Eastside.
    It lets him down every day.

    I met Call because of shoes,
    because I stole shoes.
    Just the one on display,
    the one everyone touches, picks up,
    tries to stuff their foot into,
    the one people say, oooh that is so sweet,
    why would anybody want that?

    Serena said once,
    Angel, shoes are going to be the death of you.

    My mom died of holes.
    People who get cancer can feel lumps,
    but my mom felt spaces, holes—
    she couldn't explain it better.

    The doctor said she had osteoporosis,
    but Mom said she had holes in her bones.
    She said her memory was bad
    because of the holes in her brain
    and she would laugh.

    Then she died of a hole in her heart
    she had since she was born
    but nobody knew.

    Serena said,
    that put a hole in you, Angel,
    which you tried to fill up with Call.

    After Mom died, Dad hated our house.
    He kept hearing Mom on the stairs
    and in the kitchen
    and turning over in bed—
    he knew her ghost was playing hide and seek with him
    and never letting him win.

    Dad said, we're moving,
    and Jeremy said, where?
    and Dad said anywhere,
    but he never did
    because sometimes in the closet
    he could smell her.

    After Mom died
    I started to run away from home,
    but just to the mall.
    I liked the shoe stores best at the mall.
    High-heeled shoes meant walking pretty,
    meant looking good in a getaway way,
    meant strutting your stuff, being tough.
    At the mall
    I made myself up as I went.
    I pretended in lipstick.

    Then I got caught
    and Dad had to come pick me up
    at the police station.

    I tried not to anymore,
    but then there was that periwinkle pump
    with the yellow strap
    and he had to come pick me up again.
    And again.
    Dad didn't know what to do with me,
    stealing shoe and getting caught.
    He kept saying, I don't know what to do with you—

    but Call did.

    Every day after school
    I pretended to run away to the mall.
    I pretended the bookstore was my home
    and the leather reading chairs were my chairs
    and the bookstore clerk was my aunt who loved to see me read.

    I pretended the cinnamon bun smell
    was Mom making them for me
    and the clothing stores were my walk-in closets
    and the ice cream place was my freezer
    and the bathroom was my bathroom
    and I lived at the mall.

    Once in a while I would go to my pretend closet
    and take just one shoe,
    pick it like a fruit off a tree.

    One day I picked up a pink peekaboo
    and slipped it in my backpack, and just then—


Excerpted from My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt. Copyright © 2012 Martine Leavitt. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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My Book of Life by Angel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is super good. Not like a normal book at all. Itsgiod. I shows you how crazy drugs csn make you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No you didnt.... stop with the cussing to