Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)
Publication Date: November 9, 2010
Rating: 3 Bookcases
An official summary can be found on the author's website.
What would you do for love?
Carmen and Maggie are best friends, just like sisters in fact, and they both work at Quickmart, a convenience store in town. Will and Ryan are students at Valley Forge Military Academy; on a day pass from campus, they meet Carmen. Ryan, the shyer of the two cadets, is quickly smitten and soon he and Carmen are dating. Everyone agrees that the quiet, straight-laced guy on his way to West Point and the high school dropout, musician, gypsy girl make an odd pair. Carmen and Ryan's initial attraction quickly turns to passion, but at what cost?
The Fortune of Carmen Navarro was very different from what I was expecting. From the summary on the back of the ARC, I was expecting a wrong side of the tracks girl meets wealthy, cute but geeky soldier love story with maybe an unexpected ending. Instead, it turned a lot of YA cliches upside down and backwards. Inspired by the novella written by Prosper Merimee and the opera by Bizet, Bryant brings the story of Carmen to 2007 Pennsylvania. Told in 7 parts and from the perspectives of the two pairs of best friends (Carmen and Maggie and Ryan and Will) it chronicles the intense romance between Carmen and Ryan. Through Maggie and Will the reader gets all the background information - how Carmen came to live with her grandparents and why she's working at Quickmart, how Ryan got Will to attend Valley Forge Military Academy and how they became best friends as kids. The chapters are short and keep the action moving through out the entire book.
Maggie and Will's perspectives also show the affect the relationship has on both Carmen and Ryan and on how it changes Will and Ryan's friendship. Plus, the reader gets to see a lot of what happens from different perspectives, since most of the key moments are retold by more than one character. I'm usually not a fan of books told from so many perspectives, but it works really well for this story. I think that this is mainly because Ryan is so focused on Carmen that you don't learn that much about him from his chapters. So, it really takes the other characters to fill in all the blanks and connect all the dots. In fact, I actually liked Maggie and Will's chapters more than Ryan and Carmen's. The two of them just felt more relatable. And part of me thinks that if they really got a chance to meet and know each other, they would make an awesome couple.
Carmen and Ryan's relationship happens fast - it would have been even quicker if not for the fact that Ryan can only get off campus on the weekends - and soon it's obvious that Ryan cares more for Carmen than she does for him. The relationship pretty much takes over Ryan's life, while Carmen is hoping that it won't distract her from making music with her band, Gypsy Lovers. This is the opposite of many YA books where it's the girl who makes the romance the focus of her life. Again, I really like that the roles were reversed, that Carmen was super focused on her goals and wouldn't let anything get in the way of her dreams.
There were so many individual parts that I loved about this story - Maggie and Carmen's friendship, Will's commitment to Ryan, Maggie as a character - but, they just didn't fit together in a way that made me absolutely love the story. It felt like some pieces didn't fit in the bigger picture. Other times scenes that were told from multiple points of view felt fractured, like one piece was mentioned by one person, another perspective focused on a different piece of what happened and so on. I had to go back and reread a few scenes several times really understand what happened. I was ready to give up, but the book is such a quick read that I found myself close to the end and had to find out how Ms Bryant ended Carmen and Ryan's story. Here's the funny thing, Part 7 was my favorite part of the whole book! It takes place 3 months after the end of Part 6 and works as an epliogue in a way. It let the reader know just enough about what came next, but didn't give everything away.
So, in the end, I have mixed feelings about The Fortune of Carmen Navarro. But, I can see what other readers might love about it. A definite recommendation to those who love retellings or the opera version of Carmen.
FTC Disclosure: This review was based on an ARC borrowed from my library system's Teen Services Coordinator.