Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Other reviews have called this a brutal, gritty coming-of-age novel, and it is that.
However I feel such a description might place this story in the wrong category. It is a coming-of-age story in the same way Bastard out of Carolina was; basically a story of someone growing up and into the cruelest knowledge that those around her are damaged and not nearly good enough to be ushering a young soul into adulthood.
Hailey Trosclair is a sixteen year old girl in New Orleans whose father is an unmotivated and unemployed alcoholic and whose mother is a depressive living in the past and clinging to resentments. These people live in only the dreariest sepia tones, and from them springs young Hailey, our first person protagonist who is suffocating for the lack of color. Brother Cyrus is a protective if misguided delinquent, and all adults - save the compassionate neighbor, Verma - fail both Hailey and Cyrus utterly. Her peers don't do much better, as friend Meridian and the inconstant Chase (aptly named) also betray her.
Hailey's coming-of-age is then coming into the knowledge that no one can really be counted upon, and leaving childhood is ugly, demonic work. Even the dirty angels of our world are less dangerous than the wolves in adult clothing.
Reading Dirty Little Angels was an almost effortless experience. Characterizations were rich enough to add rather than detract from the story. Hailey's narrative voice was engaging, even when she was at a loss due to her own splintering despair. The plot rang true, even throughout the more gruesome or depraved acts of some of the characters.
However, this review would not be complete if I did not mention Tusa's gift of imagery. So few novels really pull it off these days, so I was extremely grateful to be carried into this novel by the rich visualizations Tusa's words created.
I was sent this ebook for a review, and I thank for the author for the experience. I certainly hope Chris Tusa continues to write.
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