Angel's Choice - Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Gossip Girls. The A-List. The Clique.

You’ve seen the books. You’ve seen the covers. They all look like and are taken to be the Young Adult (YA) version of chick-lit even though, if you actually read the books, you find them to be more like satire; and if you talk to the teens who read them, you realize that the teens, unlike alarmist adults, are smart enough to take them as such.

Last year an unusual thing happened. A prominent YA editor, familiar with the books I’d published up to that point, contacted me asking if I’d consider writing a YA book for her. She wanted it to be like The Gossip Girls – certainly, she wanted the sales of The Gossip Girls – but not, meaning she was hoping for something with the same spunk but a little more substance.

Being the kind of author who is always surprised when anyone, particularly someone in publishing, knows who I am and knows my work, I was, quite naturally, flattered. And, since I’m always eager to learn a new writing trick and YA was not a field I’d delved into before, I jumped in, reading examples of the more prominent commercial series as well as more thoughtful volumes. I read a lot about shoes and vampires and angst.

And then I started writing.

The book – a-misfit-at-private-school seriocomic piece plus mystery – was going along fine when it was interrupted by a visit from The Idea Fairy. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, The Idea Fairy pays a visit to my brain a few times a year, depositing compelling plots there as well as commanding characters who simply will not shut up. In this instance, The Idea Fairy showed up with an idea for a more serious book than I had intended, destined to derail any plans I had of successfully penning the next best-selling Au Pairs or other frothy offering. The Idea Fairy wanted me to write the least funny book I would ever set out to write, a book with a dead-serious theme, and, since The Idea Fairy was kind enough to arrive with the plot nearly fully developed, I shut up and listened.

The book that came out of all of that is called Angel’s Choice, an earnest novel for older teens about the eponymous Angel Hansen, a smart girl on track for Yale who, on the eve of her senior year, does a very stupid thing. She goes to an end-of-summer party where she sees Danny Stanton, the boy she’s been in love with forever. She tells herself, as she has often told herself, that this is the night Danny will see her clearly and realize he is in love with her too. But when Danny goes off with someone else, Angel gets drunk and in turn goes off with another guy. She winds up having sex for the first time in her life, in an act she’s too drunk even to recall clearly later, an act that has a consequential result: she becomes pregnant. What will she do? Will she follow in the footsteps of her best friend, who had an abortion six months earlier when she got pregnant? Or will she do what no one, including her parents and guidance counselor, want her to do: have the baby, thereby complicating if not destroying the perfect life she was destined to lead? Everything that follows is Angel’s Choice.

It is, perhaps, foolish, or at least counterintuitive, to publish such a serious issues-oriented book in a publishing climate where publishers are constantly looking out for the next hot young teen chick fix. And yet that is exactly what I’m doing, supported by an editor – a different editor than the one who initially approached me about writing YA – who refers to the book as being “important,” an adjective I’d never, not in a million years, imagined anyone attaching to one of my books.

Will anyone be interested in my quiet, thoughtful novel? Who is to say? I do think that the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice camps will have something to say about it and can readily envision both camps holding it up as supporting their stances or reviling it as going against their beliefs, or even one of each, all depending on what side of the bed people get up on that day.

Reviewers and critics talk about listening to the silences in individual works. I think the same can be true of publishing in general and when I go into the YA sections of bookstores there is a cacophony of fashionable books that are to literature what Dynasty and Dallas were to more serious TV and film in the ‘80s. I have no objection to the plethora of party books, but I do think there’s enough room on the shelves for one book about a girl who wants to make an important choice, choosing not for the rest of the world, but merely for herself.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted, in addition to being the author of Angel’s Choice has written four Chick-Lit novels: The Thin Pink Line, Crossing the Line, A Little Change of Face, and How Nancy Drew Saved My Life, and the literary suspense novel Vertigo. She’s also editor of and contributor to This Is Chick-Lit. You can read more about her work at www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com.