It's the summer before senior year and the alluring Angel is ready to have fun. She's not like her best friend, Inggy, who has a steady boyfriend, good grades, and college plans. Angel isn't sure what she wants to do yet, but she has confidence and experience beyond her years. Still, her summer doesn't start out as planned. Her good friend Joey doesn't want to fool around anymore, he wants to be her boyfriend, while Angel doesn't want to be tied down. As Joey pulls away, and Inggy tours colleges, Angel finds herself spending more time with Inggy's boyfriend, Cork. With its cast of vivid and memorable characters, this tale from the Jersey shore is sure to make some waves.
◆ A copy was provided by Random House for review ◆
Jersey Angel is an interesting read. One that I can entirely see people either loving or loathing. The writing is different from what I'm used to in contemporary books. It kind of reminds of The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block in that the writing is somber and gloomy. They're not afraid to delve into the dark side and show how crappy life can be. And both portray explicit sex scenes.
Angel is far from an angelic character. She is a free-spirited character who just wants to have fun—which entails a lot of sex and not being tied down to any one partner. She does a lot of questionable things. She's strung along nice-boy Joey for years, breaking up to sleep with other boys only to keep coming back. She sleeps with her best friend's boyfriend. And she sleeps with skinny, awkward, but sweet Kipper because she feels sorry for him being a virgin. She embraces her sexuality and seems to have charge of her life, but she's so much more than that.
She's also someone who doesn't want to grow up because she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. She can't find it within herself to apply herself to her studies or think about her future after high school. And within, she's a girl who yearns to know what love is but has a hard time understanding it. Angel is such an extreme character that I can see readers' reactions to the book hinging entirely on whether or not they can connect with her. While she may not be entirely likable at the beginning, I recommend giving her a try. She doesn't make any big revelations over the course of her story, but the glimmers of change can be seen.
There are flaws to the story. Time skips forward a lot in the narration, making it hard to keep track of the seasons, and Angel spends much of the first third of the novel mooning over Joey before other plot threads are introduced. The story also doesn't spend much time glossing over character motivation. I'm still not sure how things got started between Angel and Cork. Angel doesn't give Cork a chance to explain himself at the end of the story, so I'm not sure if there's more to him than what we get to see. Many other things happen during the story without explanation. While it's a part of natural life, I do wish that we got to spend more time getting to know the characters because there's so much underlying complexity that isn't fully explored.
I also want to give special note to the use of family in the novel. While Angel's family isn't the greatest—she has a slutty mother and an absent father, as well as a somewhat estranged step-family through her father—they still play a role in the story, and I love how they aren't mentioned in the beginning only to fall off the map later on. I especially like the role that her little half-sister plays in the story. Mimi idolizes Angel and keeps talking about how she wants to be just like her. It made me think about how important it is for us to set a good example for the younger generation.
Overall, Jersey Angel is a unique read that I recommend giving a chance. While there are holes in the writing, there is a lot here to be learned. Just take note that there is a lot of explicit scenes in the story and that Angel may not be the most likable character.