Goodreads | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble
YA, Contemporary, 208 pages, Wendy Lamb Books
- Series: stand-alone
- Pub date: May 8th 2012
- Disclosure: Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!
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.The Long...
There's always been a lot of discussion about sex, violence, and profanity and their place in YA--most especially profanity of late (author Beth Ann Bauman was even interviewed for the School Library Journal article). I tend to lean on the grittier side of YA, anyway, so all this talk of darkness and dirty sex and f-bombs makes me shrug a little and move on with my day. Teens lead gritty lives. Deal with it.
Very occasionally, however, I run across a book that crosses some lines--for me, personally. Maybe for someone else, Jersey Angel wouldn't raise any eyebrows at all. That someone is bound to be a little more adventurous than me. (And I should point out that being more adventurous than a bookworm farm girl nerd isn't all that difficult, anyways.)
It's not that I didn't like Jersey Angel--the opposite, really--so much as it felt beyond me, like I was a freshman hanging out at the senior table. Ironic, because these characters are supposed to be exactly my age--and yet they are so very worldly. It's not just that this book has some of the most explicit sex I've ever read in a YA. It's the attitudes behind the sex, the swearing, everything--a sort of bleak desperate mindlessness--that got me. It's funny that a book about teenagers on the Jersey Shore should remind me so much of Mad Men, but it does. The characters self-destruct so thoroughly and effectively that you can't look away.
Still, Bauman has a knack for writing characters and dialogue that feel so real they might as well be on a Jersey Shore documentary (or reality TV show, I guess, though our protagonist Angel is a great deal more sympathetic than Snooki). Her story is smart, real, and oddly heartbreaking, even as it ends on a hopeful note. For someone who spends an awful lot of time complaining about YA books that don't ring true, it's a funny feeling to find one that rings so true I can't hardly stand to read it.
In a way, it feels like a book written more for college kids looking back on their high school years than for actual 17-year-olds. The recklessness, cruelty, and confusion of high school portrayed here just hits a little too close to home for me.
...and the Short:
Smart, real, and gritty, you can't look away as Bauman's characters slowly self-destruct--like it or not.
The Final Word: Liked it.