Desert Angel

Desert Angel

Author: Charlie Price

Publication: 2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 233

Overall Rating:  bth_45_zps06f87659[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Angel’s mom has had a string of abusive relationships.  But Scotty was the worst of all.  The two of them fought all the time, and when Angel’s mom locked her door at night, Scotty came for Angel.  Then, one night, the fight went too far.  Angel hid outside, and when she came back in the morning all she found was blood.  She followed the tracks from Scotty’s pickup to a shallow grave and discovered her mother’s body.

Now Scotty is after her.  Angel finds refuge in a shadow community of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.  But Scotty, the skilled hunter and trapper, is still on her tail.  And he’ll stop at nothing to silence her forever.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Given the subjects he’s dealing with – domestic violence, rape, a murderer hunting down a 14 year old girl – Price could have chosen to soft pedal things, to try and play down some of the more violent and disturbing aspects of his story.  He could have watered it down to make sure no one got upset.  Luckily for us, Price isn’t that kind of person.  He presents Angel’s life in all its unvarnished brutality, and gives a searing tale of fear and the strength it takes to stand tall in the face of evil.

The location is perfect.  The rundown community of Salton City, California, with all its abandoned homes and busted dreams provides a wonderfully gritty background for the story of a young girl on the run from her mother’s killer.  And Price does a commendable job of weaving in the cultural mixing bowl of Mexicans, Native Americans, and Anglos that make up that part of the country.

What I Liked the Least: There were a few too many instances where Angel, the family who’s taken her in, or the local police, are clearly on the lookout for Scotty and his friends – keeping an eye out for strange cars, taking note of all the cars in the neighborhood so they can more easily identify one that’s out of place, etc. – and then five pages later they entirely miss the strange car that’s sitting in their neighborhood, observing Angel.  That could have worked once – just to illustrate how hard it would really be to find someone who was trying to watch you in a whole neighborhood full of cars – but doing it over and over started to feel like a hammer to the head.

How Good was the Action? There aren’t a lot of action sequences in this book – one or two at the beginning and another at the end.  But they are extremely well done.  The action is brief and brutal, and feels completely realistic given the scenario of a young girl with no training but plenty of grit fighting off a trained hunter and psychopath.

How Engaging was the Story?  Even though the action sequences here are few and far between, the tension rarely lets up.  There are few, if any, moments of calm reflection or happiness in this book.  Every scene is fraught with tension and fear as Angel alternately runs and hides, fears that Scotty might be on her tail, or goes on the offensive and tries to track him down.  Even when she finds refuge with Rita and her family in Salton City, Angel lives in constant fear that Scotty or his friends will show up and kill not just her, but all the people who are trying to shelter her.  It makes for a book that is all but impossible to put down.

Overall Assessment: Desert Angel is a taught, exciting, pull no punches thriller that isn’t afraid to tackle sensitive subjects head on.  It’s not an easy read, but it is worth it.

Profanity: Yes, and a fair bit of it, too.

Sex: There’s no graphic sex, but there are certainly allusions to rape.

Violence: Yes.  Beyond the obvious violence of Angel finding a bloody trailer and tracking down her mother’s corpse, there are other violent confrontations between Scotty and Angel – not a lot, and none of them last very long, but they are brutal in their sheer emotional intensity

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