There is no easy or delicate way to present the subject of My Book of Life by Angel, by Martine Leavitt. Angel is a sixteen-year-old girl who has left her old life to be with Call, someone she thought would take care of her. Angel thinks that Call is her boyfriend, but in reality he is her pimp. When her best friend disappears and Call begins to make new demands of her, Angel forms a plan to get out – one way or another.
Angel describes lonely nights in Call’s apartment, horrifying evenings spent with customers, and the desolate times walking the streets in search of business. She often thinks of her old life, her little brother Jeremy, and holds on to a lingering hope that her father or someone from her old life will come and save her. Angel is not a pathetic character who soaks up attention and requires pity – she is merely honest about her choices and how her life came to be this way.
Leavitt speaks to us through Angel with a quiet sadness. While the story itself is not graphic in detail, it is depressing and painfully clear what kind of life Angel is leading. She believes Call and follows him into the world of adults and prostitution without looking back. She is thoughtful but hollow – it seems as though she feels nothing, and has given in and given up control over her own life.
It isn’t until Melli shows up that Angel again feels the spark of existence. Something is awakened inside of her when Call tries to force Melli into the same line of work as Angel. Melli is only 11 years old, and Angel is determined to protect her from the unending line of sleazy clients. In a way, you see Angel’s shielding of Melli as a reflection of herself – she thought Call was her protector, someone to give her a better life, and yet she ended up selling her body for money. She’s hoping to spare Melli the same fate, going so far as to earn enough money for both of them by sacrificing herself on the streets.
Angel’s responsibility for Melli triggers feelings in Angel. Feelings that she cannot ignore. She begins to think that maybe her life is not so hopeless after all, and that maybe Melli is her own second chance to make things right. Is there life beyond prostitution? Can Angel ever regain the person she used to be?
After reading this novel, I attended a book discussion where questions like these and others were brought up. The end of this story is a bit ambiguous, and everyone had their own opinion about what really happened. Some of us questioned not whether Angel was able to escape, but was her life in fact worth living? In a life that seems so hopeless and endless, what does Angel have to look forward to? There is value in every life, no matter how worthless it may appear to be. Just because Angel was not able to help herself and her own situation, it didn’t mean she didn’t care for others and was no longer capable of love. Although difficult to read, My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt still showcases the idea of courage and second chances.
About the Author
Megan Garrett is the librarian at the Sugar Creek Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. She also writes book reviews for the Independence Examiner newspaper.