Angel’s summer before senior year is guaranteed to be fun. Although her future is uncertain, Angel knows how to have a good time. As she navigates changing relationships and avoids planning for college, Angel has a summer that is absolutely unforgettable.
Except for the fact that that isn’t true. Everything about Beth Ann Bauman’s Jersey-shore-set novel feels half-baked: the characters are flat and lifeless, the story meanders to nowhere, and everything feels…off-kilter in some way. There’s a surrealist feel to the novel, but it doesn’t feel intentional in any way. There’s buzz around the novel, but most of that has to do with how much sex Angel has.
For a novel supposedly all about sex and sexuality, there’s not much substantive evidence here. Yes, Angel spends much of the summer and the fall having a bunch of sex, but it’s pretty boring sex. There’s not much to it, and it’s unclear if the reader is supposed to infer that Angel uses sex as a coping mechanism or a reinforcement of her own power. There isn’t any character development to support either one of those theories, though. Angel is completely undeveloped–there’s no personality to begin with, so readers shouldn’t expect to see character growth throughout the novel. And they won’t.
Everyone from Joey, Angel’s on-again/off-again boyfriend to Corky, her best friend Inggy’s boyfriend, to Angel’s vain, flighty mother lack defining characteristics, traits, or personalities in general. Because none of these characters are remarkable in any way, it makes it exceedingly hard to care about what happens to any of them. This is a shame, because it means that readers won’t feel much of anything for one of Angel’s friends when she goes through a very traumatic experience near the novel’s end. Nothing feels authentic in this story.
Making matters worse is the fact that there’s no real plot. There’s certainly no conflict or climax to the story–it sort of wanders through its rather brief 200 pages and then just sort of ends. Angel doesn’t appear to learn any sort of lesson, and the other characters just go on existing. It’s all very underwhelming, and more than a little boring.
The best guess is that this novel will be marketed to teens by playing up the sexual content. Teens looking for that–and only that–might end up enjoying this one, but this reviewer can’t help but feel there are better options (with better sex scenes) out there.
Jersey Angel is out now.
Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman. Wendy Lamb Books: 2012. Electronic galley accepted for review via NetGalley.