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My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt
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My Book of Life by Angel

by Martine Leavitt

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Teen readers today can turn to stories like Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Children and Martine Leavitt's My Book of Life by Angel (2012): well-written, multi-layered, beautiful and challenging stories about the experiences of women and girls walking the street.

Martine Leavitt explains that the characters in her novel are invented, but "inside my made-up story is much that is true".

Some common experiences are outlined, but "[e]ach girl's story is different".

"Her man, the one who found her, lonesome,
said to his friends,
it's the ones from good homes
who follow orders best --
it's the ones from good famiies
who have the best social skills,
who have never learned how to fight -
they make the best money."

That's Serena, but it fits for Angel as well. The language is common and familiar and unsentimental, which brings the emotional resonance of the story to the fore.

And not that the more general topic isn't harrowing and disturbing (abusive relationships and child prostitution), but The Book of Life by Angel plays out on the eastside of Vancouver, before Robert Pickton was arrested and charged.

Following the story, there is a list of the missing women of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, collected in 2007, which reminds the reader that Angel's experiences might be made-up but these experiences are certainly real.

"He said, Angel, do you love me?
Just do this for me, for us-
soon we'll be taxpayers,
we'll have the neighbours over, we'll volunteer.
You with me, baby?"

Similar to Baby's experience in Heather O'Neill's novel, Angel finds an outlet in her writing. (She finds another kind of inspiration in the story, too, but to discuss that would reveal a significant spoiler.)

"I got my notebook
and figured out
when you want to write a poem
you don't know where it might go.
It's an act of faith to write a book of you,
to believe a poem
is something you could do."

This aspect of her experience is one of the major reasons why this book is easy to recommend; the devastation and destruction has a counterpart.

There is no tidy, satin-bowed resolution, but Angel possesses a strength and determination which makes her story resonate beyond the page.

It is both a difficult story to read and a difficult story to set aside: well done, indeed.

This review originally appeared on Buried.In.Print.
  buriedinprint | Jul 8, 2014 |
5Q,4P (my VOYA codes)
Haunting. Poetic. Tragic. Beautiful. Angel, a 16 year old girl who finds herself emotionally vulnerable after the death of her mother, gets herself into some trouble and walks into the conning arms of Call. He reels her in, feeds her "candy" and she prostitutes herself for him. After one of her street friends disappears from the streets of Vancouver, presumably murdered and no one seems to care, Angel vows to get clean and find a way home. In her weakest moments of withdrawal, Call brings home Melli, an 11 year old girl he wants Angel to teach "tricks" to. She refuses and finds strength and courage to try to keep Melli safe and save them both. Their relationship is quiet but powerful and ultimately, healing. Leavitt's novel-in-verse gives more power to this story than a traditional novel ever could.

Angels' story and the women she represents will stay with me for a very long time. ( )
  candr | May 11, 2014 |
First time reading a novel in verse: picked a good one. So well written. Lyrical. Relatable. How does a girl end up in Angel's shoes? A home where one parent's grief over the loss of a spouse makes the parent unavailable to parent. A girl who copes by shoplifting, one shoe at a time. A predator who sees the crime and uses it to lure her in, adding drugs, and finally convincing her to prostitute herself to help him out. She can't go home and she has to protect her younger brother, because the pimp knows where she lives and tells her he will hurt the brother unless she cooperates. This is her life, made bearable by "candy," until one day the pimp introduces an 11 year old girl, Melli, who was in a group home. Angel is supposed to show her the ropes. instead, Melli is a wake-up call for Angel, who is determined to save Melli from the same fate. Such a sad story, but so easy to read. ( )
  fromthecomfychair | Apr 7, 2014 |
This is a very beautiful story with a powerful message. I loved how innocent Angel stayed despite the fact that her innocence was stolen at such a young age. I think this makes her an extremely strong character because she does not let her bad situation get to her and no matter what she always has hope. I found that the end was the best part. It flew by, and the twists were so gripping. I also think that writing in poetry made the intense parts better. Overall this is a wonderful book that I think more people should read. ( )
  Milaxox | Feb 23, 2014 |
A true but hard look at what happens to some girls who are unhappy with life, find a "boyfriend" who hooks them on drugs and turns them in to child prostitutes.
Fans of Ellen Hopkins books may enjoy this book ( )
  TeamDewey | Feb 15, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374351236, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:17 -0400)

"16-year-old Angel struggles to free herself from the trap of prostitution in which she is caught."--

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