Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Baumann
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (Part of Random House)
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Target Audience: Young adult (mature audiences)
Format read: eBook ARC from Netgalley.
Summary: In her senior year of high school, Angel is enjoying the single life (even though she can’t seem to get her ex-boyfriend, Joey, out of her head) while her best friend is visiting only the most prestigious colleges. Trying to figure out her next step, she gets caught up in an “off limits” relationship that holds the risk of ruining what she values the most.
Like most people might, I was interested in this book because of the title. But not because I can’t miss an episode of the Jersey Shore. (Trust me, it makes me feel ill to even know it exists.) Born and raised in New Jersey, I’m used to all the jokes. And that was before MTV ever “created” that god-forsaken show in the very town my parents and I would spend two weeks on vacation every single summer. So when the publisher note said this book explored “the real people behind the Jersey stereotypes” I was hopeful.
But Angel, the main character, and this cast of characters were unlike anyone I had ever encountered before. First, Angel’s mom owns three houses at the shore that they rent out every summer, which means most months of the year Angel (remember she is 18) lives in her own house. HER OWN HOUSE. She needed a smoking patch at the age of 13, and she can barely pass a crowd without being able to point out at least one guy she has hooked up with in some capacity.
I can tolerate a character who is “empowered by her sexuality” (as the publisher’s note points out) but when it comes to Angel, I’m not totally convinced she is feeling that way. It seems like sex is a hobby. She doesn’t get much parenting from her mother (who has her own problems) and she doesn’t seem very focused on anything else – except her sudden pangs to hang out with her on again/off again boyfriend, Joey.
The thing about Angel is that she is likable. She is surprisingly maternal. She loves her best friend and her siblings. She does want something out of her life (even if her goals are somewhat mediocre). But the book spends more time getting into the dirty details of her sexual escapades then the innermost thoughts of this girl, and that was what I wanted. Even when she embarks on risky encounters with a certain someone, I was disappointed in the lack of consequence in the end. The book didn’t need a big blow up; it could have easily been an inner breakdown, a rationalization of how her actions could affect her life forever. What kind of person was she if she wasn’t loyal? If she didn’t have any morals? I’m not sure this character learned much of anything.
There were also supporting characters, namely Sherry, who were underutilized and I thought would have brought much to the book if they were involved in a bigger role. Add in a rushed ending and I’m left with a lot of questions. Truthfully, I think the plot of this book had potential but the structure and the lack of development when it came to plot and the characters made it fall short for me. For the record, I wouldn’t have minded all the hot steamy moments if there was more substance to the story to begin with.
Note: I did end up buying a used copy of Baumann’s debut YA novel, Rosie and Skate, after reading Jersey Angel.