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My Book of Life by Angel Hardcover – September 4, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From 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 Libraryα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sixteen-year-old Angel’s life on the street begins when Call, the man she thinks is her boyfriend, gets her hooked on “candy,” and before she knows it, she is forced to sell herself to support him—and her habit. But when Call brings home an 11-year-old girl, Melli, and demands that Angel train her for the street, Angel realizes that things must change. However, change may require a miracle. This novel is itself something of a miracle: a spot-on, compassionate—and passionate—account of a heartbreakingly horrible life. Perhaps there are angels looking after Angel, though; her efforts to save Melli and herself are heroic and, ultimately, inspired. In this novel in verse, Leavitt has created in Angel’s voice a perfect mix of innocence and experience, a blend that is underscored by seamlessly introducing passages from Milton’s Paradise Lost into her narrative. Death, too, is present in Angel’s life as women she knows begin vanishing from the street—victims, perhaps, of a serial killer. The story is loosely based on the epidemic of murders that began in Vancouver in 1983 and continued through 2002. But Angel’s story is uniquely her own, and Leavitt has done a brilliant job of imagining and recording it. Grades 9-12. --Michael Cart

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374351236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374351236
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,081,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CM on October 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I read this book, and then re-read it over and over again. Each time I felt the character speaking to me with a voice I'll never forget. Written in verse, Angel pulls us into her disturbing existence that we ache to see, though the language gives us hope that she is not broken by it. We trust that though her life is unfair and horrific, she has found truth and the essence of all that is beautiful. Martine Leavitt has given the world the story of a girl who grabs hold of the innocence in each of us, and breaks us page by page with the honest, dark, beautiful, and haunting reality of Angel's life. However, since I've read it, I realized that it is not just Angel's life. I hear her voice and see her bending spirit in the homeless, troubled, oppressed women that hide in the shadows of our society. In writing this, Martine Leavitt has taken them out of the shadows and into the light.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. N. Tipper on September 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Martine Leavitt's MY BOOK OF LIFE BY ANGEL is the luminous and heartbreaking story of Angel, a young girl lured into prostitution who hungers to find her way out. Angel's journey is painful to follow, but readers who do will be rewarded by gorgeous writing, deep characterization and a compelling and twisty, turny plot. If I had to choose one word to describe Martine' book, that one would be "brilliant."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Liviania VINE VOICE on September 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoy novels-in-verse. The good ones are propulsive. The poetry invites you to linger over the way things are said, yet pushes you along to flow of the words. I find it very easy to slip into the rhythm of the story in a way that rarely happens with prose fiction.

National Book Award Finalist Martine Leavitt tackles tough topics in MY BOOK OF LIFE BY ANGEL, much like YA-novel-in-verse-heavy-hitter Ellen Hopkins. The narrator Angel is sixteen, working as a prostitute in Vancouver. She ran away to live with her boyfriend Call, who unbeknownst to her was a pimp. He got her addicted to drugs and convinced her that she wouldn't ever be welcome in her home again. It's a series of events that's happened to far too many girls.

But two events happen that give Angel the strength to go cold turkey. The first is the disappearance of Serena, a more experienced hooker who watched out for her. The second is the appearance of Melli, a mute eleven year old who Call wants to turn out. Angel is not so inured to her life that she's okay with that. She works double shifts and keeps turning down the drugs in order to protect her young charge. But as long as Melli is with Call she'll never be safe.

There is a noticeable shift in Angel's narration as she becomes more coherent and able to think more clearly about multiple things at once. The poetry always felt like a logical way for Angel to express herself. One of the things that makes the most impact on her during her time with Call is PARADISE LOST, Milton's epic poem, which a john makes her read aloud.

MY BOOK OF LIFE BY ANGEL is for mature readers only. It deals with prostitution of underage girls, drug abuse, and murders that go ignored.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Caliboots on October 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Incredible writing and storytelling. Spare, haunting, and cinematic -- and difficult to put down. I'm not sure what to compare it to -- maybe House on Mango Street? You won't forget this one so quickly.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Normally, I tend to shy away from novels like My Book of Life by Angel. Stories that feature a narrator who is the victim of abuse or exploitation are tough for me to read, partly because of how painful the subject matter can be and partly because, after a while, all of these books start to sound alike. So many YA stories about prostitution, drugs, and abuse seem to be concocted using the same recipe: two cups of melodramatic language and a heaping tablespoon of lost teens who find themselves trapped on the wrong side of the tracks with no idea how they got there.

Because of this, I was wary when I picked up My Book of Life By Angel. I was afraid it would be the same old tired tale, but I soon learned that was far from the case.

The brilliant thing about this particular novel is that the author is the master of the “show, don’t tell” approach. You understand that Angel’s life as a 16-year-old prostitute is horrific without her ever having to come out and say, “I wish I didn’t have to live like this,” or “Life on the street is hard.” In fact, all of Angel’s observations about her lifestyle are matter-of-fact. She mentions throwing up chunks of internal organs as casually as if she is remarking on the weather, and she dispassionately discusses the creepy fetishes of her “dates” without judgment. No language is wasted on rants about unhappiness or regrets. Angel’s life is what it is, and though she wishes it were different, she accepts that no amount of self-pity will do her any good.

Just because Angel is nonchalant about her lifestyle doesn’t mean she is jaded or hardened, though. If anything, the opposite is true. Despite her situation she retains hope, humanity, and even innocence.
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Format: Hardcover
My Book of Life by Angel was one of those books that I challenged myself to read. You know the type, you see it sitting there being all of these things that are interesting but not at all what you look for in a book. The type that every once in a while you make yourself pick up, just to prove that you haven't let yourself be neatly filed and categorized as a reader. My Book of Life by Angel is a very recently placed Historical Fiction, set in the 1980s in Vancouver, BC. It focuses on heavy issues such as drug addiction, forced prostitution, and child prostitution, all at a time when a city and its police force have more or less turned a blind eye to the many women who were going missing. Additionally, it is a novel written in verse, a style that has been a deal breaker word for me for some time.

My Book of Life By Angel was not an easy or comfortable read by any means, but it was well worth pushing myself to pick up. The use of verse for this story is stylistically counter-intuitive. Instinctively, I would state that it is a bad choice to choose such a format for such heavy subject matter, but my reaction while reading was quite the opposite. If Angel's story had been written in prose rather than verse, there is a good chance that I would not have been able to stomach it. As is, Angel's story is told through words that are beautifully rendered and reflect perfectly the fractured mindset of a drug addled girl slowly surfacing to real life.

Angel is the perfect character to open this world to us. She is not free of blame, it is clear that she made a myriad of bad decisions that led her to her current state, but as she becomes more and more determined to break free of the life she has let herself be bound to it becomes so easy to root for her.
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