Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: Princess of Las Pulgas

Synopsis: After her father's slow death from cancer, Carlie thought things couldn't get worse. But now, she is forced to confront the fact that her family in dire financial straits. To stay afloat, her mom has had to sell their cherished oceanfront home and move Carlie and her younger brother Keith to the other side of the tracks to dreaded Las Pulgas, or "the fleas" in Spanish. They must now attend a tough urban high school instead of their former elite school, and on Carlie's first day of school, she runs afoul of edgy K.T., the Latina tattoo girl who's always ready for a fight, even on crutches. Carlie fends off the attention of Latino and African American teen boys, and one, a handsome seventeen-year-old named Juan, nicknames her Princess when he detects her aloof attitude towards her new classmates. What they don't know is that Carlie isn't really aloof; she's just in mourning for her father and almost everything else that mattered to her. Mr. Smith, the revered English teacher who engages all his students, suggests she'll like her new classmates if she just gives them a chance; he cajoles her into taking over the role of Desdemona in the junior class production of Othello, opposite Juan, after K.T. gets sidelined. Keith, who becomes angrier and more sullen by the day, spray paints insults all over the gym as he acts out his anger over the family's situation and reduced circumstances. Even their cat Quicken goes missing, sending Carlie and Keith on a search into the orchard next to their seedy garden apartment complex. They're met by a cowboy toting a rifle who ejects them at gunpoint from his property. But when Carlie finds him amiably having coffee with their mom the next day -- when he's returned her cat -- she begins to realize that nothing is what it seems in Las Pulgas.

My Review: Well, after that synopsis I really don’t know why I’m writing this review.  That basically summed up the whole novel.  I really, really enjoyed this book.  I don’t know what it is about obscure novels that makes me think they aren’t going to be good, (well actually I blame that mentality on Her, Me and You) but they always turn out to surprise me and I end up loving them.  Princess of Las Pulgas is much the same.  While it is just traditional good teen drama, there’s always something refreshing reading about everyday life.  Sometimes I just need to break away from the supernatural and get back to reality.  Carlie is going through what many people will never have to experience.  She loses her father, her home, her school, her friends, and eventually even her cat.  Everything that was dear to her is suddenly taken away.  Carlie comes from a wealthier neighborhood and looks down on Las Pulgas.  “The Fleas” is the opposite of the very lifestyle Carlie once had.  Her mom is forced to get a job at the supermarket to support their family, and Carlie is utterly ashamed.  She’s so horrified by her new home that she won’t let anyone from her old life see it.  While at first she is a bit snobbish towards her new surroundings, that is not the driving factor for her attitude.  She’s suffering from a huge case of loss.  It’s easy enough to judge someone in a novel for their actions, but would you really be any different?  While I’m not one to pout and moan, the outbursts of attitude and anger I can definitely relate to.  No one is above those kinds of actions.  We’re human, and sometimes we just need to vent.  
Carlie was very relatable and I grew to really connect with her character.  While at times I did want to smack her for the way she acted, she really was a great person.  Some of her friends however, I did not like so much.  Lena is just a plain witch with a capital B! She’s can only talk about herself and when she does give Carlie the time of day it’s only to put her down.  I was really happy that Carlie just didn’t let Lena treat her like that.  She knew exactly what Lena was implying with her remarks and eventually Carlie had enough.  Because of Carlie’s new surroundings and her new view on life, she sees Lena for who she truly is, a despicable excuse of a friend.  While Carlie loses Lena she gains a true friend in Sean.  While the first time they met was a bit interesting (she mistook him for a burglar) they’re friendship grows.  He treats her politely and always knows how to cheer her up.  He’s thoughtful, gorgeous, and gay.  Don’t ya just hate how that always happens?  I swear the hottest guys on this planet are gay.  Sometimes being a girl is depressing.  Despite the female populous’ mourning over such cases, Carlie accepts Sean for who he is and truly values his friendship.    
While Carlie’s views on people are in upheaval, she comes to find that the kids at Las Pulgas aren’t as bad as she originally thought.  Carlie and the female thug K.T. have more in common than Carlie could ever expect.  Even Juan Pacheco, who nicknamed Carlie Princess, is starting to grow on Carlie.  His slanted smile is enough for any girl’s knees to go weak.  Plus well his name is Juan.  Maybe it’s because I’ve had four years of Spanish, but that name just screams sexy.  Like Alejandro… *waggles eyebrows*
This is a great story for any teen and very relatable to everyday life.  Life can be rough, but it’s always a good reminder to look on the brighter side of things. I greatly enjoyed this book, and I’m sure many readers will as well.  Carlie truly grows in this novel, and in the end discovers that she truly fits in with the fleas. 



Blueicegal ♥ said...

This actually sounds like my kind of read and on the thought-provoking side, thanks for the lovely review kay kay :)

belleviewnewspaper said...

thank you for the review!!