By Catherine Atkins (no author website)
Available now from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Catherine Atkins writes heart-staggeringly good books. WHEN JEFF COMES HOME and ALT ED earned their place on my favorites shelf. Thus, I held THE FILE ON ANGELYN STARK to an extremely high standard. I don't think THE FILE ON ANGELYN STARK lives up to Atkin's two previous novels, but it's still an excellent (if tough) read.
Fifteen-year-old Angelyn Stark begins her day smoking in the bathroom with her best friends Jacey and Charity. No one messes with them. She's got a boyfriend, Steve Coslow, who keeps pressuring her for more. He always wants to have sex. She's got a mother who is never on her side. She's just met the new girl in school, who knows someone from her past she'd rather forget. She's also just been told by her World Cultures teacher, Mr. Rossi, that she's smart. That she could do better.
The first person narration doesn't occlude the things Angelyn doesn't think about. Even when she doesn't understand herself, the reader has a sense of her emotions. She's a complex, absorbing character. It's interesting to see how her interactions with others change throughout the novel as she grows more confident in her ability to judge character.
Atkins wisely doesn't make Angelyn a victim. She's affected by the sexual abuse she sufferer at the hands of her stepfather, as well as the emotional abuse by her mother, but it's not her defining quality. Nor is it her only problem. I really rooted for her, because she did have so much potential she'd been taught to ignore.
Parents may want to read THE FILE ON ANGELYN STARK with younger teens and have a frank discussion about sexual abuse, bullying, and street harassment. Fans of Laura Wiess's SUCH A PRETTY GIRL will also enjoy THE FILE ON ANGELYN STARK.