Beth Ann Bauman: Jersey Angel

Jersey Angel takes a unusually candid look at teen promiscuity for a young adult novel. At the outset, narrator Angel Cassonetti is pretty much ruled by her id. She has a see/want/take attitude towards food (this might be a tough book for dieters) and boys. She sort of works, but selects her employment partly based on on-the-job tanning opportunities.

Angel’s story has a deceptively strong moral compass. She’s not necessarily punished for her choices by the standard teen sex bogeymen of pregnancy or STD’s, but she’s marginalized by some of her choices within her own peer group. This sort of language is me talking, not Angel — when her on-again, off-again goto-boytoy Joey says he wants to get off the ride, she’s not completely clear why — she relates the clues she’s given without consciously putting them together. When friends explicitly criticize her indiscriminate approach to selecting partners she reacts with a curious mixture of nonchalance and indignation. And when her gimmie-gimmie-gimmie eye falls on her best friends’ longtime steady, complications inevitably ensue, even if they’re not exactly what you might expect. Meanwhile, her younger sister Mimi, galpal Sherry, and her mother function as a sort of ghost of Christmas past/present/future: Mimi is all-too eager to assume Angel’s high-availability hottie mantel. Sherry is stumbling through an unplanned pregnancy with a frightening lack of preparedness. Angel’s mom is scarcely more mature than Angel herself — she’s chronically unemployable, clearly not satisfied if not exactly miserable, and able to provide for her kids mostly thanks to an accident of inheritance.

Angel acknowledges almost none of this consciously, but throughout the book she shows signs of a slowly dawning awareness that the path she’s on might be lacking in important ways. Bauman gets Angel’s voice just right. Angel is hardly bookish, nor given to introspection, but the language she uses is clear, structurally clean, and enlivened by a wealth of detail about the Jersey seaside environs. And even though Angel makes a wealth of choices that look at best questionable and at worst horrible from my vantage point she remains essentially likable and believable.

needs more demons? no.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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