This a page turning coming of age story with a dark Southern Gothic tone and an intriguing twist.
Mini Synopsis: A realistic tale centered in a pre Katrina New Orleans, the main character Haley is a 16 years old girl whose family is having financial difficulties among other sad things. Mom has had a recent miscarriage and is bedbound. Pop is out of work, is spending his time and what little money they do have at the local bar/pool hall, and is involved with a local stripper/waitress.
With all these elements we can see the main character is caught in a situation which is less than ideal. It is a slippery slope as she tries to emotionally balance the events occurring around her and manage her own maturation and the realizations which adolescence provokes.
The story includes a variety of motley characters, and when Haley gets sucked into some gang like activities, the events conspiring against her culminate into an original, intriguing, slightly paranormal, and heart wrenching ending which is connected to the title – Dirty Little Angels.
My Thoughts: I devoured this short novel, it was a definite page turner! Chris Tusa captures the confusion of a teenager spiraling out of control, writing of her confusion, contemplations, and angst. In doing so he uses a simple language appropriate for the background of the characters. Here is an example which is in part both funny and dark. Haley and her brother Cyrus are being questioned by a local detective:
When we got there, the officer brought Cyrus and me into a white room with glass walls. A few minutes later, another man came in and sat down. He was an older fat man with a stubbly chin and a bald, liver spotted skull. He had tiny baby teeth that looked like someone had plugged little white Chiclets into his gums, and you could smell Old Spice seeping from his pores. His hips where someone else’s hips welded onto his skeleton, and his chest looked like Brandon Piggert’s chest the summer he’d grown little midget boobs after shooting up a batch of steroids.
This novel asks the questions: How does one become involved in situations we know are not quite right? Where does one fit in within a world that values unreal perfection? And although not a religious book, it examines the concept of whether saving ourselves is right even if it conflicts with our religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or those of others.
The ending, which is connected to the concept of the title, is the clincher, where the title is not at all what it seems. The connection is dark, a bit other worldly, has a touch of insanity, and is something I keep thinking about. I give this great little book 3.5 stars. I am really looking forward to more of this author’s work.
For more information on the book, the author, as well as purchasing links, please see Layers of Thought’s preview for Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa.
Happy Friday everyone! Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.