Jersey AngelJersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great summer read, Jersey Angel will be perfect for by the pool or at the shore.  If you are looking for a plot driven book, this is not for you. Jersey Angel is a slice of life story about a girl who is trying to come to terms with her future, her sexuality, her social status, and life in general.  It could be argued that this is a “regionalist” book, as it does take place on the Jersey Shore, but having friends from the OC, and a frequent traveler to Lake Havasu, AZ, any person who has ever been to a vacation town during those hot summer months should be able to relate, and those who haven’t will get a taste of what “kids” do during those hot summer months.

Angel narrates this book with a frank and honest look at herself, but is not overly introspective. She is coming to understand that she is going to be a community college girl, and that some of her friends will move on, and some will always be on the Shore. She is torn between these two lives. She feels a bit guilty that she doesn’t want more for her life than to be happy (and pretty).  She is paired against few extreme female models in the book, her mother (whom she is on a path to become) and her best friend (who seems to be a bit innocent in the ways of the world, but we see her opening her eyes a bit in the end).  When we meet Angel, she is in the process of developing her own sexuality, and attempts to discover what Love is all about and if it has anything to do with sex at all.

Bauman does not sentimentalize her character nor does she dwell much on introspection. Angel makes mistakes, at one point almost an unbelievable one. Then I see my students (I teach high school English) walking around campus, having OBVIOUSLY made these same mistakes, I gave Angel (and by definition Bauman) the benefit of the doubt.  There are definitely girls who are more sexually active than others, and Angel is one of those. I found it a refreshing read, and finished it in a day.  I was fortunate to have an advance reader copy, and I think once this book becomes available to the general public this week, May 4, 2012, the Goodreads ratings on the book will skyrocket.

*Spoiler Alert?* This book does not wrap itself up in a neat little package. As with life, there are no easy answers (and people make mistakes, have guilt, etc.) and I could tell about 2/3 the way through that I was not going to get a very “satisfactory” resolution. The text is broken into three parts, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The Reader is left to determine what “Spring” will be like for Angel. Many readers prefer a first person narrator that tells the Reader what they are thinking, or tells the Reader what to think and how to feel.  The clever thing about Jersey Angel, and a salute to Bauman’s craft, is that we the READERS are forced to reflect upon how we feel about Angel’s actions, and what she might do in the future. Many readers would say, “I would never to that.” But does that mean someone else wouldn’t? If we are pigeon-holed into reading books about characters that are exactly like us, why read at all? I can say this… I would have been excited (and terrified) to have met Angel in high school, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.

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