From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–It was 40 years ago this October that the rock singer died from an overdose of alcohol and drugs at the age of 27. From interviews with her friends and letters that Joplin wrote home, Angel pieces together her subject's short life, contrasting her conservative upbringing in a small Texas town with the wild 1960s, vividly portrayed both in descriptions and in excellent-quality, full-color and black-and-white photos on almost every page. Joplin's husky, passionate singing voice was appreciated by other musicians and by her audiences. She loved to sing the blues with the misery and pain that dominated the lyrics. Bessie Smith and Odetta were her heroines. The author points out that despite the fame and fortune that she achieved, Joplin was basically insecure and in need of acceptance. This book is well researched with more than 100 notes referring to specific quotes from friends, family, and magazines. Teens will be intrigued by the life of this cult figure. Her memory has been kept alive by her recordings and an off-Broadway show, Love, Janis, based on letters she wrote to family and friends during her career, which continues to be staged throughout the country.Peggy Fleming, formerly at Churchville-Chili High School, Churchville, NY
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*Starred Review* In an introduction to this long-overdue portrait of “the first queen of rock,” Sam Andrew, Janis Joplin’s former bandmate and best friend, says, “There was electricity in the air when Janis was around. . . . She was vulnerable, powerful, super wide open, talented, and interesting in a kind of terrifying way.” Building from Andrew’s full-hearted and contradictory description, Angel presents a nuanced account of the groundbreaking musician’s life, beginning with her challenging adolescence in Port Arthur, Texas. After giving up on fitting in, she sang along to the blues on long drives with equally rebellious teen friends and learned that she had a powerful voice. Tracking back to Joplin’s childhood, Angel then moves on to the singer’s early years of studying and music-making before she finally grabbed attention with Andrews’ band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Angel writes with both a reporter’s forthright, detached tone and a fan’s full-hearted enthusiasm, and she includes numerous revealing quotes from friends and family members, all sourced in the appended notes and bibliography. Without sensationalizing, she also discusses Joplin’s sex-drugs-and-rock-’n’-roll lifestyle, which ended with the singer’s alcohol-and-heroin-induced death at the age of 27. A groovy page design, patterned in shades of purple and acid green; a lively annotated time line; and unforgettable archival images will pull even more attention to this captivating view of a musician rarely spotlighted in books for youth. Grades 9-12. --Gillian Engberg