Tuesday, August 9, 2011
By James Whorton, Jr.
New York, Free Press, 2011
203 pages Fiction
Just what we need for August—a quirky, funny spy caper novel. James Whorton, Jr. has delivered this in a book named for its 14-year-old heroine, Angela Sloan. The novel takes place in 1972, a quirky time in American history, for sure.
Schoolgirl Angela realizes something is up when her father, a retired CIA agent, tells her that they have to go on the lam following the Watergate burglaries. Ray has been educating Angela about espionage, code names, and covers, and ultimately he leaves her on her own with a Plymouth Scamp, a fake ID, and a stack of $100 bills. Angela wises up fast and becomes less of a ninth grader and more of a spy as the summer wears on. Through no fault of her own she ends up with a Chinese Communist girl named Betty in her car and together they negotiate diner food, fleebag motels, road maps, and CIA agents. Betty is as much of a unique character as Angela is, and together they make a great pair, in the style of Thelma and Louise, only younger.
As the road trip wears on, the plot wears out a little bit, but not before some of the questions about Ray and Angela and Betty get answered. Betty and Angela meet up with a CIA agent and a band of hippies all of whom help to bring the book to a teetering halt. Whorton throws in an acid trip as well as an aborted bombing of CIA headquarters for good measure in case we have forgotten the era.
The best part of Angela Sloan is the deadpan style in which Whorton writes. There is a total suspension of disbelief because the heroine seems so credible. Although there are few laugh-out-loud moments, I had a constant smile on my face. I couldn’t help but love Angela and her go-for-it attitude. Would that I had had so much spunk when I was 14!
The book jacket says, this “is a priceless coming-of-age story about stealing diner food and salvaging lost identities.” Last month, I read the brilliant coming-of-age novel, Once Upon a River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell. All the way through the book Angela Sloan, I wished that Whorton had the marvelous writing style of Bonnie Jo Campbell and that Campbell’s heroine, Margo, had Angela’s ability to “just get out of there!” What a pair Angela and Margo would have made.
James Whorton Jr. is the author of two other books, Frankland and Approximately Heaven. He is a professor in the State University of New York system.
James Whorton Jr. website: http://www.jameswhortonjr.com/
The book has just been released. I was sent a copy by the publisher and am participating in a blog tour today. Although I usually quote reviewers in my blog, the book is so new that reviews are few and far between.
Here is my review for Once Upon a River: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.com/2011/07/once-upon-river.html