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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Dirty Little Angels

Dirty Little Angels - Chris Tusa I wanted to like this book, since I am predisposed to dark southern novels (and partly because the author asked me to review the book and he seems like a lovely chap), but unfortunately, although the premise was promising and the author shows talent, the book desperately needed editing. There are some nice turns of phrase (hair so greasy he looked like he combed it with an eel), particularly in some of the dialogue, but the instances of indirect presentation, ("I could hear Daddy's bones creak as I..." rather than "Daddy's bones creaked"; "I could feel my eyes filling with tears" rather than "My eyes filled with tears") poor word choices (a squirt of hand sanitizing gel is described as a "lump") and extra words (That afternoon, Mama and Daddy came to visit me during visiting hours.") only draw attention to the author's inexperience. Take this passage for example: "Her lips cracked open, and I guided the fork into her mouth. She swallowed all of what was on the fork, except for a small piece of roast beef that dribbled down her chin. 'How you feeling?' I asked, wiping her chin with the napkin. "Her lips rolled around in her mouth for a second while she chewed the roast beef. 'Those bastards took my leg,' she said, swallowing the bite of roast beef. She put the straw between her teeth and sucked the water into the tight brown fist of her mouth. Her lips rolled around in her mouth as she sucked on the straw." Where to begin? The inconsistency? If she's swallowed all of what was on the fork, what on earth is she chewing? The repetition? How many times must the word 'rolled' be used? And how many times in this book will 'fist' be sued as a metaphor? I can count three without referring to the text. Word choice? Liquid dribbles, meat doesn't. Lips might conceivably roll around, but not IN her mouth, unless she's swallowed them. With a good editor, I suspect these flaws, and the similar ones scattered throughout the novel, would have been caught, and perhaps that would have elevated my opinion. However, events which should have enormous emotional impact -- including murder, suicide attempts, mental illness and rape -- seem oddly flat, and I suspect the author simply doesn't have the experience yet to tackle these issues. Again, I suspect a good editor would have advised him to linger, to supply sense details, etc. The POV is a problem as well. First person narration is often the choice of emerging writers, and I suspect it's because they think it's easier to write and more accessible, but the truth is that it's hellishly difficult to pull off, partly because of the requirement for dramatic irony and flawless voice. I never felt Mr. Tusa fully understood the mindset of a teenage girl, and I wasn't sure whether the grammatical clumsiness was intended to be attributable to character voice, or was a result of authorial inexperience. So, my apologies to the author. But I hope he will take solace in the fact that I think he shows talent and I suspect his next book will be much better than this first effort. All writers need good editors -- we simply can't do brain surgery on ourselves -- and it is a pity Mr. Tusa doesn't seem to have worked with the editor his writing deserves.