I was going to publish my second review for The Second Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn Blogathon today. But since I finished the first book for 31 Spooks of October/Spookathon and Sbooktober yesterday, I decided to post my movie review tomorrow. If you read my article called “I’m partaking in 31 Spooks of October!”, you would know that the first book I chose to read was California Angel. When I published this particular post, I was half-way through the book. Now that I’ve completed the novel, I not only met the four challenges that were associated with California Angel, but I will also share my thoughts on it.
When I read the acknowledgements section that was featured in my copy of the book, the way Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, California Angel’s author, talked about the story made it sound like Touched by an Angel meets a typical Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie. Since those are programs that I like, I thought that I would thoroughly enjoy this book. Sadly, I was mistaken. California Angel ended up becoming the worst book I’ve ever read. Why, you ask? Well here are a list of reasons why I didn’t like this book:
- I found the majority of the female characters to be unlikeable. For this post, I’m going to be talking about just two of them. Toy Johnson is one of the worst protagonists I’ve ever read about in literature. She was self-centered, entitled, hypocritical, judgmental, close-minded, and ungrateful. What makes things worse is she used the ideas of selflessness, charity, and even faith as an excuse for her behavior. Let me share a passage from this book to give you an example of how selfish Toy really is. Just to preface, Toy is talking to her husband, Stephen, about how one of her dreams connects to an event that happened within the world of the story.
“No, you’re wrong. It’s something spectacular, something magnificent. Something about me is different from everyone else. I’m being dispatched on missions, like missions of mercy. What else could it be? All these dreams I’ve had. In every one there are children in some kind of grave danger. And I make a difference,” she said proudly, a fanatical fire burning in her eyes. “I feel great. It’s like my whole existence on earth has finally been validated, like I’ve been searching for this all my life”.
You see how often she refers to herself? That’s just one passage, Toy acts like this throughout the entire story. As you read, she is so set in her ways, that she doesn’t allow herself to take other people’s beliefs, views, and perspectives into consideration. A good example of this is her conflict with Stephen. This part of the story felt so one-sided, with Toy making Stephen look like an antagonist just because his way of approaching situations is different from her own. She also has a negative effect on those around her. One of them is Sarah Mendleson, who is the female friend of Raymond, an artist with Autism. Shortly after Sarah meets Toy, she decides to take advantage of Raymond, who, at that point in the book, is facing one of the lowest points in his life. She disguises herself as Toy, whose encounter with Raymond left a positive impact on him, even going so far as to dye her hair the same shade of red as Toy’s hair. Sarah does this to trick Raymond into thinking she’s Toy and to try to make him her future husband. The sad part is how Sarah’s plan seems to work, as she becomes his girlfriend by the end of the book. Speaking of Raymond, all of the male characters in California Angel are either villainized because of their profession or are used just to, simply, make the female characters look good. Raymond is just one example. He was my favorite character and I found his story to be interesting. However, Raymond’s story ended up getting taken over by Sarah. After a while, his purpose turns into becoming Sarah’s love interest and standing up for Toy.
- About 90% of this story revolves around Toy. Because of how unlikeable she was, it was difficult for me to get through this book.
- I found the chapters in this novel to be longer than they should have been. In a typical thriller/mystery book, the pace is faster. This is done in an attempt to keep the audience on the edge of their seat and engaged in the story. But because the chapters in California Angel were too long, this makes it difficult to enjoy the book.
- In the synopsis listed on the back of the book, it says that Toy, within the story, is accused of being a kidnapper and murderer. However, this part of the novel doesn’t happen until the last five chapters. The book had suspenseful moments sprinkled throughout the story. However, it was not a thrilling narrative from start from finish like I had expected.
- There are several inconsistencies and flaws in logic that can be found in California Angel. In this book, Toy believes that the only way she can help children is in her dreams, which happen to translate into actual events within her world. However, Toy is a teacher and has provided financial assistance to one of the families that belong to her school community. Therefore, her actions and choices contradict her argument. When Toy receives letters from all over the world, her mother, Ethel, tells her that the letters were written by “little children” and “older people”. But two pages later, she references the letters again, saying, “all of them from lovely little children”. So, were children the primary authors of these letters then?
- The way that Autism is talked about in California Angel sometimes feels outdated. In at least two parts of the book, Raymond refers to his Autism as an “illness”. After Toy’s encounter with Raymond, that happens in a prologue, it says that “Raymond had simply snapped out of it” and he recovered from Autism. I’m not as educated on this particular subject as other people are. But, based on what I do know, I know that this is not how Autism works. Autism is a neurological disorder that one must live with. Sure, there are ways to manage and even overcome the symptoms associated with this medical condition. However, it’s not something that simply goes away.
- While reading this book, it felt like Nancy used her story to try to capitalize on Touched by an Angel and the remake of Miracle on 34th Street (which were both released in 1994, a year before California Angel was published) without showing a complete understanding or attempting to show a complete understanding of why people like those stories in the first place. In this novel, there was a courtroom scene that felt like a repeat of the aforementioned Christmas film. Even some of the events leading up to this scene felt reminiscent of that moment from the movie. But the difference between California Angel and Miracle on 34th Street is that Santa, for the entirety of the story, was portrayed as a likable character. This made it easy for the audience to root for him.
Overall score: 0 out of 5
Have fun at the library!