Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on September 4, 2012
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Poetry
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.
THIS BOOK WAS BEAUTIFUL. Powerful. Emotional. Poetic. Exquisite. Hard to read, but hard to put down. Heart-rending, heart-wrenching, heartbreaking. Guys, it was just lovely in the most tragic of ways. And everyone should read this book.
My Book of Life By Angel is about a girl named Angel, a girl tricked and deceived and lured and eventually trapped into prostitution. At sixteen years of age. But she tells her “dates” that she’s 13 and it’s her first time because people will pay more for that. Because the world is awful, you know? People can be cruel and horrible.
But then there are people like Angel. Someone who may have been a little naive, but still doesn’t deserve the life she was forced into. She’s called a whore. And, you know, that’s probably what most people think if they were to drive by a prostitute on the sidewalk. You don’t think, “Oh, I bet she’s a lovely person.” You avert your eyes and keep moving because you don’t want to involve yourself with those kind of people. Right? I think that’s what moved me about this book. This book helped me sympathize with people I don’t necessarily understand. Do I understand being tricked and then forced into prostitution? Do I understand seeing girls around me go missing and then seeing no one bat an eye because we “don’t really matter”? Do I understand the need for “candy” or drugs to escape the reality of my life? No, I don’t. Not at all. And I don’t pretend to understand what they go through every day. I’ve lived an easy life in comparison. But this book helped me to sympathize for them, to want to help them. It makes me sad for the world we live in where 16-year-olds and 10-year-olds are wanted and paid for by men four or five times their age. I can’t even think about it right now.
This book was just beautifully poetic. It was written in free verse and it’s just beautiful. And you’ll be able to read it really fast. But I’ve read free verse poems where the “free verse” aspect just doesn’t seem necessary. Like it’s just text with random hard line breaks that are supposed to emphasize things but don’t really. Am I even making sense? This one, though, is just beautiful and I love it. There are some pages that are filled completely and then a few that literally only have one word. But I could tell each word, each line break, each page break was purposefully and exquisitely done. Oh man, it was just wonderful in an awful way.
And not just the free-verse-ness of it, but the language was just beautiful. The sentences and word choice and everything. Listen to some of these quotes:
“I knew I could not bring that word home
even if I wanted to—
Jeremy and I weren’t even allowed to say stupid
my dad would never allow a word like me.”
“I said, I’m sorry, Melli.
I said, there has to be the possibility of sad endings
or there couldn’t be such a thing as happy endings.
Endings are happy because they have have been sad.
Maybe ours will be sad.”
Btw: this is the quote that made me cry:
“The angel was gone
and Melli was still holding her white doughnut
and with her big open-mouth smile
and sparkly sugar on her teeth
and she said, ‘Angel.’
She said my name out loud,
made it sound like the prettiest word in the English language
made my name sound like a poem to me.
I said, oh Melli, you poet.”
Leavitt just writes beautifully. I feel like I’ve used the word “beautifully” way too often in this review, but what other word is there? Usually my go-to word is wonderful, but “wonderful” doesn’t seem appropriate. Listen to these few stanzas:
“Next a man who told me he was eighty
and I said, you must be so proud.
Then a man who was a child psychologist,
and I said, you must enjoy your research.
Then a man who brought his baby girl asleep in the back seat
and I wouldn’t have done it except still not enough for two.”
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD. Who are these people that we’re living with. I want to cry for the injustices and scream for the voiceless. But what do I even say? Right now, I just want to shove this book in everyone’s hands and tell them: Go. Read. Learn. Do.
This book is a humbling experience. Angel, this girl who’s been living this awful life, always hopes for an angel to come to her. Her name is Angel and she’s waiting for her angel. And that’s beautiful (there goes that word again). She hopes and moves forward, day by day. Hope is a humbling thing.
Guys, I just finished this book about half an hour ago, and now I want to go back and re-read it already and then cry a bunch because it’s so beautiful and powerful. And it was also a rough day for me, but that’s fine now because who am I to claim a “rough day”?
And if you’re worried about this being a difficult read, I’m going to be honest. It is. It’s hard to read because it’s hard to see the world we live in in such a morbid light. But sometimes dark is necessary. Sad is necessary. Hard is necessary. Because it’s what makes us learn and grow. And, if it makes you feel any better, Leavitt doesn’t ever portray anything graphically. Sex and drugs are never explicitly described. I’m like 95% sure that there aren’t even any swear words. Leavitt took a really hard subject and portrayed it very classily (if “classy” is a word you can use to describe such a book).
I don’t really have anything left to say. My heart is broken for this girl and all my thoughts have been dumped on this page. But, really, I insist that you read this. Everyone. You, reading this right now. It will impact you, I promise.