Potential readers or buyers of The File on Angelyn Stark, should know from the outset that this novel clearly - and with some graphic detail - depicts the sex life and confusion of one young woman. There is no judgment here because the reality is that many teens have sex, often with confused emotions, and the novel may well resonate with those that do. It should also appeal to readers because it doesn't provide any sappy or formulaic solutions. An easy, pat ending is an insult to readers who've stuck with a book from start to finish. Luckily, this novel doesn't go in that direction.
So who is Angelyn Stark, centerpiece of this novel? For starters, she is a teen who is full of anger, carrying around a huge secret, one she hides from her mother and nearly everyone she knows. She did tell a friend but wasn't believed so now Angelyn carries her burden alone...and it is quite a burden. It affects her nearly every day.
Unfortunately, the same secret is carried by many other teens in real life. In that regard, the novel accurately portrays the guilt, pain, and shame of those who have gone through similar experiences as Angelyn (and no, it isn't teen pregnancy). Angelyn also has a complicated relationship with her boyfriend, Steve, who doesn't understand why she is alternately warm and cold towards him. He takes her ambivalence personally and things get tense between the two. Then there are Angelyn's friends and a new girl who is about to be a major part of Angelyn's life. Mrs. Daly, a former neighbor, crops up as a reminder of Angelyn's past lies and troubles, but she appears in the novel for a relatively brief time. I'd like to have read more about her and wish she'd gotten more space in the book.
Finally - and to me, the most troubling character in this book - is Mr. Rossi, Angelyn's teacher. At first, he seems to be the only person who is truly there for her. Compassionate, kind, and even willing to cut Angelyn a break after giving her detention, he appears to be the one saving grace in her increasingly bleak life. He could be the role model who proves that there are adults who can be trusted to both listen and provide the clear boundaries and rules which an "adult in training" needs. I hoped he would be...and he is, to some degree.
But Mr. Rossi has his own troubles and how he handles them as well as dealing with Angelyn bothered me. I wish I could go into more detail about that. Mr. Rossi does care about Angelyn but the borders of their teacher/student relationship seemed way too muddy to me, especially after Mr. Rossi talks to school officials about Angelyn. I applauded him for making a much better decision after a series of mistakes. But I was still bothered by this character, many of his choices, and the way his personal life impacted his teaching and his ability to help Angelyn. I felt he revealed far too much about his marriage to her although readers may feel differently. Maybe this will make him seem more human, as complicated as any of us.
Again, readers will probably fall into two camps. There will be those who applaud the author for making Mr. Rossi less than a stereotypical hero. Instead, he has troubles which affect his relationship with Angelyn. Then there are those readers who will be discomfited by Mr. Rossi and even angered.
All in all, there is much about The File on Angelyn Stark which is compelling and the author creates a (mostly) believable portrait of one woman's struggles to persevere during a very rocky period in her life.