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Review: "My Book Of Life by Angel," by Martine Leavitt

In my continuing pursuit of the wave of YA books I asked the librarian at Oxford High School for several recommended books which he did not have available but was ordering. He offered me several other options and this was the first. First, the book is written in prose, but in a poetic format. Not rhyming, but staged on the page in single line bursts. Some pages, perhaps a little overly dramatic contain only a single line or just a few words. Intriguing, and sparse, to a degree, I read this is an hour or so one afternoon. Although effective, I sometimes wonder if this type of strategy/format also appeals to the young adult attention span, therefore more attractive. Although redeeming in the end, this is a brutal, harrowing tale of teenage prostitution and addiction. In some ways brilliant, in others simple, it managed to take this reader and push my nose directly into the personal, yet horrific, underbelly of that life and the intrinsic sadness that permeates every page. Hope within hopelessness, it takes the most terrible scenes and manages to connect them to the reader without graphic details or four letter language. Our heroine is broken, damaged, abandoned and abused, yet through a combination of innocence, separation and dulled senses tries to maintain a personal code and survival throughout the story. Survival, that's it. People somehow survive. Many don't but this 16 year old does. The fantasy of Angel and her seeing angels, somehow manages to carry her through. I do think that this book, if known to the greater public in this town, might cause a bit of controversy among many of the townspeople. It just feels that the topics and their measured handling would raise the hackles on some of the more conservative members of the town. Nice that it's in the library. Difficult to read, but a topic that alerts the reader to the need for books like this, that continue to raise the discussable topics that need to be addressed. How can we help be a civilized nation if this kind of condition still exists. I'm not naive enough to assume that these troubles are easily mended, but we owe all our neighbors and citizens escape plans from tragedy.

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