Saturday, March 17, 2012

My book review: Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman

Jersey Angel
Random House Children's Books
Pub Date:
May 08, 2012
Beth Ann Bauman 
Wendy Lamb Books
FICTION - JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Love & Romance
FICTION - JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Social Issues
FICTION - JUVENILE: Gender-Specific: Girls & Women 
·      The review will first be posted the week of March 18, 2012.
·       Short summary from

An irresistible story about the real people behind the stereotypes of the Jersey Shore. About friendship and how it matters. About what it means to desire, to love, and to betray.
     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.
BETH ANN BAUMAN is the author of Beautiful Girls, a short story collection for adults, Rosie and Skate, and is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Growing up, she spent summers on the Jersey Shore. She lives in New York City.

I loved this approximately 208 page book, until I reached page 208. It ended abruptly, almost like the author had to quickly finish up because dinner was almost ready, and she still had to set the table. I was reading a real story with genuine characters, and suddenly I was in a Disney movie where everything turned out okay and a rainbow appeared on the screen.
Let me backtrack. I do like this book, do expect that I will probably be getting it for my high schoollibrary, and do recommend it for older teens (probably 10th grade & up). Bauman created believable characters that I felt showed a reality that many young adult novels don't show: the female as the pursuer. Angel is a multifaceted character with a sex drive. She's a popular, pretty girl who isn't necessarily college material, but who realizes it and isn't pretentious - in spite of the fact that she hangs with rich friends who are going to college. However, she's also a "horndog" who is indiscriminate about the guys with whom she tries to satisfy her amorous nature. This includes her BFF's boyfriend and the guy who everyone thinks is still a virgin (and he is) and who will be one for a long time (not any more, thanks to Angel.)
Angel's friends each have their own personalities, and these come through well in Bauman's writing. Their morals, their relationships, and their actions all seem to reflect people who could really exist, and teen readers like that. The adult characters, in sticking within the genre's expectations, show the adults as flawed - divorced, distracted, and apologetic. Luckily, Bauman also creates teen characters who are imperfect, so there's plenty of room for readers to self-reflect upon their own reactions to the conflicts as the story unfolds.
"An irresistible story about the real people behind the stereotypes of the Jersey Shore. About friendship and how it matters. About what it means to desire, to love, and to betray."
I take issue, however, with the publisher's description of the book - using 'Jersey Shore' to attract readers is one thing (not necessarily a good thing, but that's a different discussion), but calling fictional characters "real" and then portraying the characters as horny and drunk doesn't offer any reality check (pardon the pun) to the stereotypes of the 'Jersey Shore.' The publisher goes on to say, "friendship and how it matters" and "to betray." If that's the case, then Jersey Angeldemonstrates that friendships often matter less than sex does.
Therefore, do not expect this book to eschew family values; you'll be disappointed. What will notdisappoint you, though, is the representation of "what it means to desire, to love, and to betray." I was compelled by this story from the beginning. Even decades after my own high school experience, the characters' actions resonated with me as true, possible, and likely. Teens will  appreciate seeing "real" teens reflected in what they read. I just hope they aren't disappointed that everything works out in the end; it often doesn't in the real world.

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