Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fortune of Carmen Navarro Review

Book talk: It all starts with a trip to the Quikmart for sandwiches.  Will sees the beautiful girl with the snake tattoo behind the counter and starts to flirt with her in his easy way.  But it's Ryan who she gives a rose to as they leave.  From that moment on Ryan can hardly think of anything else.  Will is usually the one to bend the rules, but soon straight-laced Cadet Captain Ryan is the one sneaking into clubs to see Carmen play and showing up for inspection with bags under his eyes.  Carmen likes this shy boy, but she refuses to be owned by anyone.  Carmen's grandmother taught her how to read her fortune in the cards so she can see her fate: romance, fortune, and treachery.

Rocks my socks: The story is told from four different view points, not only Carmen and Ryan but their best friends Will and Maggie as well.  Viewing these characters through the eyes of their best friends provides a perspective that grounds the novel and adds new layers to the characters.  They also provide more points of entry for the reader.  While most girls won't be able to identify readily with Carmen, many will be able to empathize with Maggie, for example.  There are quotes from the original novella interspersed throughout the story and one sums up why I enjoyed this novel best: "A man turns into a villain without realizing what is happening to him."  By having the perspective of not only Ryan but Will as well it is easy to understand him and feel sympathy for him.  Too many authors (and actors for that matter) fall into the trap of thinking that villains see themselves as such.  But most villains view themselves as the hero.  This is an important lesson to learn and goes far in helping to understand the world and the people in it.

Rocks in my socks: While Carmen and Ryan are complex characters Maggie and Will are a bit under-developed.  They seem mostly there just to act as foils and the story they're telling isn't really their own.  I can see why it was done this way, but they were my favorite characters so I wish there was a bit more meat to their parts of the story.

Every book its reader: I imagine fans of the opera would enjoy this retelling, although I'd warn purists away because it does make some major changes.  Knowledge of the opera and novella aren't necessary though, in fact I've never seen the opera or read the novella (although I bumped a filmed version of the opera to the top of my Netflix cue after finishing the book.)  I'd give it to anyone looking for a tragic romance or a study on the creation of  a villain. Grades 6 and up.

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant

Buy it at your local independent book store or check it out from you local library

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