Angel's Grace by Tracey Baptiste 2005
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Incredible Quote "I realized that not all secrets are the kind that turns your whole world upside down. Some of them are sweet little things that are simply too delicious to let slip." pg. 165
Grace has unruly red hair and a birthmark on her shoulder that no one else in her family shares. Her little sister Sally resembles her father and while Grace shares some physical and emotional characteristics with her mother, there are some unique parts of her that she would like to figure out who in the family she resembles. Grace's mother tells her that an angel left the mark on her shoulder as a sign of constant protection. She sends Grace and Sally from Brooklyn to Trinidad in order for them to spend time with their grandmother. As Grace flips through old family photo albums with Ma (her grandmother) and Aunt Jackie she discovers a blurred photo of a man with the exact same birthmark she has. Aunt Jackie can't identify him and neither can anyone else (or they simply aren't willing to) which leaves Grace with many questions. Grace is determined to figure out who the man in the photo is and if he might be her father.
Alright so the premise of this book is a cliche so I shouldn't complain....but I'm going to go ahead. The story crawls along at a snail's pace which is especially unsatisfactory when the book is so short and about a cliche topic. When there are 165 pages of large print the story cannot afford to move s-l-o-w-l-y unless it spends pages and pages describing the new (well new-to-readers) location. This book does not do that which was really disappointing because I've never gone to Trinidad and I'm not so sure if I ever will. The author only talks about the sunsets, beaches and makes a few mentions of the market. But there are very few details aside from the above and I would have at least liked to get more detail on the markets. Even better if the details were presented in an interesting manner or described in lush terms. And I was also annoyed at how long it took the main character to reach the conclusion that she was not living with her biological father. To make matters worse she describes her biological father in less-than-endearing terms (nothing too serious but he didn't seem like the gentlest father either) *spoiler: highlight to read* and yet by the end he's acting like he could win the Father-of-the-Year award or something. The change was too abrupt. *End of spoiler*
As much as the plot was a cliche, I did like reading about how Grace went about searching for her father. Trying to find the man in the photo wasn't the most original concept but the backstory was intriguing. The author used one of my favorite techniques by sprinkling words in Creole English and not explaining what all of them meant. The story has an emotional appeal to it, one that didn't affect me but could affect other readers (in a good way). I think the book would have been stronger if it continued into the next summer. The character of Raj was interesting enough but the author barely scratched the surface of his potential.
Angel's Grace had no effect on me which was disappointing, in fact I would probably say it bored me. I didn't fall in love with the setting of Trinidad (which is both good and bad. Good because I was starting to worry that if an author set the book in a 'foreign'-to-me country I would automatically adore it but that is clearly not the case. Bad because I want to love Trinidad through books since I can't travel to see it!). The other cliche in addition to finding a biological parent was instantly befriending a local boy. Their friendship was odd especially because the author left out some of their conversations so I was left wondering how her new friend (Raj) knew certain things that had just happened. Grace was a much better sister than I because Sally drove me insane! All in all this book fell flat for me and wasn't particularly 'quirky' except for the location.
Disclosure: From the libraryyy :)
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