Title: The Fortune of Carmen Navarro
Author: Jen Bryant
Published: November 2010 by Knopf Books
My Rating: 3 stars
Tags: YA | Realistic | Romance
Includes: Brief profanity, Sexuality
First Lines: We have the whole afternoon off - no drills, no guard duty, no practice, no parades. Free.
Carmen works as a cashier at the Quikmart with her best friend Maggie, who's earning cash to pay her way to college. Nothing is more important to Carmen than her music and band, The Gypsy Lovers, who may be getting a recording label soon. At the Valley Forge Military Academy across town are best friends Ryan, the serious and studious one, and Will, the jokester. One day when the two guys are buying sub sandwiches at the Quikmart, Ryan spots Carmen - and is instantly in love. The next few days, she's all he can think about it, and he knows they're meant for one another. But for Carmen, he's just another cute boy to have fun with, nothing more. A romance sparks between the two, but it quickly becomes very unbalanced.
Carmen was a different kind of protagonist than you would normally find in a romantic young adult novel. She was very independent and knew what she wanted, not a love-struck, giggly and flirty girl that we usually read about. I was instantly drawn to her character however I wanted more! I felt like she was still a little out of reach even after the story ended. Also, the novel is written in four characters' perspectives. A lot of times I felt like Maggie and Carmen, the two best friends who are practically sisters, were almost the same person. They had identical personalities and talked exactly the same. The only thing different was their passions: music and school/studying. And then there was the two cadets, Will and Ryan. They, two, seemed to mix into one person. I wasn't quite sure where Ryan and Maggie came into the big picture: they were just minor characters and never really contributed to the storyline but instead acted as fillers for space I thought.
I did think that the main storyline was creative and grabbed my attention. It started out a little slow, but eventually the unbalanced love was perfectly portrayed. All Ryan seemed to think about was Carmen's voice, Carmen's hair, holding Carmen, kissing Carmen, etc. Whereas Carmen couldn't care less about Ryan, more focused on her music. I liked how the feminine took charge this time and wasn't the one chained down by a love interest. It was a nice change for once.
From page 157 (Ryan's POV)
Now, as I lie here, I can feel my palms sweat, my heart pound, my throat close up. It's as if without Carmen (at the mere thought of being without Carmen), I become panicky and half crazed. I hate how I feel. But I can't help it.
The story was very black and white, down to the point. There was a half-expected-half-surprise climax to the book (though I assume those that are fans of the play Carmen, which the book was inspired by, would have seen it coming). Unfortunately, I think it was a let down. I was expecting a huge, dramatic scene and was bracing myself to get ready to run to the tissue box, but actually it ended as quickly as it began. I think if the climax had been better, the story would have been much better, too. It didn't seem that fair that the author changed it around. But each character had their own ending and I thought it fit them perfectly.
Overall, this was just a so-so book that didn't live up to its potential. All of the minor flaws added up, and the novel as a whole just wasn't for me. The lyrical writing was enjoyable though, I just think that it needed more plot substance and better character development.
Cover Thoughts: I think it's really pretty and I like how it represents a brief scene in the book. Not a huge fan of the text, but overall I really like the cover.