What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this follow-up to last year’s Edgar Award winner, The Interrogation of Gabriel James, is a taut, well-written page-turner that benefits from the author’s experience working with troubled youth. Angel’s whole life has been something parents hope their own kids never experience: a drug-addicted mom with more optimism than sense, whose succession of abusive men culminates in Scotty, a cunning meth-head who abuses Angel sexually (though we’re spared the details), murders her mother, and is bent on killing her, as well. In order to save her own life, the 14-year-old, sporadically homeschooled Angel, in the middle of the desert and dependent on the kindness of strangers, must call on resources she didn’t know she had — and become a person she didn’t know she was.
Educational value (3 out of 5)
Positive messages (5 out of 5)
Positive role models (5 out of 5)
Violence (4 out of 5)
Sex (3 out of 5)
Language (1 out of 5)
Drinking, drugs, & smoking (1 out of 5)
What’s the story?
Fourteen-year-old Angel flees violent meth-head, sexual abuser, and skilled hunter-tracker Scotty after he murders her drug-addled mother and comes after her because she knows he did it. With few resources of her own after a rootless existence with her mom, and in the middle of the California desert, she must rely on the kindness of chance-met strangers to survive. A hardscrabble community of Mexican Americans, some of whose immigration status is uncertain, puts itself in danger to help her, confronting her with moral issues she’s never considered about the impact of her own troubles on others as her thoughts veer between survival and revenge.
Is it any good?
Price won an Edgar Award for 2010’s The Interrogation of Gabriel James, and this book keeps up the standard for its well-crafted, fast-moving plot and engaging characters. It’s a window into a world whose darkness most readers won’t personally experience, but they’ll find much to admire in Angel’s tenacity and resourcefulness, and much to think about in the lessons she learns along the way.
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Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the predicament of kids who have to be self-sufficient much too early, as Angel did, with a substance-abusing mom and a few stints in the foster-care system even before the events of this book. Do you know any kids whose lives have forced them to grow up much too fast? How can you make things easier for them?
You probably won’t have to run for your life from a vicious killer in the middle of the desert, but if you found yourself stranded in the wilderness, what’s your survival plan? How would you get help or find your way out?
If, like Angel, you found yourself seeking help at a home where the residents spoke Spanish, could you carry on a conversation?
Angel learns a lot from the younger kids in the Head Start program. As a teen, have you had any interesting conversations with 4-year-olds lately?