My Book of Life by Angel
  • My Book of Life by Angel
  • 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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Overview

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
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
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)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250040039
Publisher:
Square Fish
Publication date:
02/18/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
355,785
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

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,
saying
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.

 
Text copyright © 2012 by Martine Leavitt

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