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My Book of Life by Angel Hardcover


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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: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #439,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Incredible writing and storytelling.
Caliboots
If I had to choose one word to describe Martine' book, that one would be "brilliant."
K. N. Tipper
The language is beautiful and the story moves very quickly.
A. Prentice

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 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 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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1 of 1 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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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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By Hannah on December 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I love this book—one, because it is beautifully written. Let’s be honest, at first, everyone is a little hesitant about poetry—no matter who you are. But the way Leavitt writes is amazing. We’re inside a teenager’s mind, but it’s still breathtaking. Like this sentence for example: “I found out Call’s candy flies you down / tips you inside out / dumps you upside down / flies you through empty space / to the black hole in the middle of you / and you can’t stop / can’t stop / unless you want to vomit up whole planets…” Leavitt throws us an easy pitch when we realize that reading prose poetry can be manageable, but lovely at the same time. Just lovely.
The main character was also one of my favorite parts. Angel is believable. Leavitt could have easily crashed and burned—how does one manage writing about prostitution, a teenage girl, a double threat, and loss—all in prose poetry? I don’t know, but she does it. One thing that I’ve been seeing a lot, in teenage fiction especially, is the whiney, obnoxious, run-with-reckless-abandon-over-duchey-boys female protagonist. Leavitt could have easily followed this pattern with Angel, but she didn’t. Angel is just what every girl wants to be—minus the prostitute part—she’s brave, she loves her family, she cares about other people, she’s smart, and although she messes up, she still keeps trying even though it hurts. It hurts a lot.
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Format: Hardcover
The Voice of the Voiceless

My Book of Life By Angel by Martine Leavitt stands out as a sublime voice for the faceless community of sex workers, in Canada and around the world. Written entirely in poetic form, the beauty of the language stands in stark contrast with the harshness of the subject matter. Perhaps the most pleasing part of the book is the evolution of the language, of the poem. Angel, the principal character and the assumed “author” learns more and more as she shakes off the effects of drugs and begins to observe the reality around her. She comes to important conclusions that empower her, “But he didn’t know about my book of life and how later I would brush the words off,/break them into letters like bread/and put them in a poem.” As her language becomes stronger, so does her character, which perhaps is the message of the entire book. Leavitt makes it clear that words have a power; yet the women depicted in the book are voiceless and therefore powerless. The theme, then, is simple: give these women a voice, and they will have the power to free themselves from the evil world around them. Angel, beautiful, innocent, Angel, is simply the representation of all voiceless women, be they sex workers or some other mistreated, forgotten minority. As for why we should give these groups a voice, the answer becomes clear with the angel God sends to Angel: we should give these women a voice and a power and a freedom because God loves them just the same. Truly, it is a beautiful book filled with beautiful language and a beautiful message, all worth experiencing.
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