Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie

The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie
Publisher: WestSide Books
Publication Date: December 15, 2010
Source: ARC received from publisher as part of blog tour
Rating: 4 bookcases

The Short of It:
The Princess of Las Pulgas is a great "fish out of water" story about finding out that things aren't always so bad in your new surroundings.  With a great message and character development, it is the perfect book for someone who needs a reminder that things do get better.

The Long of It:
At one point or another almost everyone has felt like a fish out of water or an outsider. What would happen if everything you knew as "home" got taken away from you? How would you deal with it all?

After the death of her father, Carlie Edmund and her family have to give up their home, school and loves in Channing to move to Las Pulgas; a town much more urban than ritzy Channing. Carlie is so embarrassed by this that she doesn't tell anyone her new address - not her best friend or Sean, who might just be more than a friend.  Determined not to like Las Pulgas High, Carlie keeps to herself, apart from her new classmates.  But, soon she finds herself staring in the junior class play, Othello, and becoming accepting of her new school, while still trying to hold on to her life in Channing.  When Carlie's plans for Channing's Spring Fling dance get cancelled she starts to see the truth about her old friends and life.  Will she be able to find happiness in Las Pulgas?

I was very excited to read The Princess of Las Pulgas, because I really liked C. Lee McKenzie's debut novel, Sliding on the Edge, for its awesome grandmother-granddaughter relationship.  So I was expecting some great intergenerational relationships in this book as well.  Just like Shawna in Sliding on the Edge, Carlie has to start her life over at a new home and school.  In this case, the death of Carlie's father and the cost of his medical bills cause her family to move.  Carlie and her brother both fight the move and the resulting changes every step of the way - which is completely understandable, because change you don't want to happen is often difficult to deal with.  I found this part of the novel to be very realistic, although I was hoping that Carlie would at least let Sean in on where she was moving, to have at least one person from her old life know about her new life from the beginning. 

Carlie's journey from stuck up Channing transplant to more accepting to finding her place at Las Pulgas felt very real. She went into Las Pulgas not wanting to like it and hoping that it will be a short term visit. She focused on all the negative aspects instead of trying to find some of the positives, which included caring and supportive teachers and neighbors who understood what her family was experiencing. Ms. McKenzie also showed how Carlie's family was starting to come apart and how hard her mother was trying to keep them together. There was also an interesting part about Carlie losing her cat, Quicken, that to me read like a representation of Carlie's own struggles about her new life and her instinct to "run away" to Channing whenever she could.

I like how Ms. McKenzie showed the differences between Channing and Las Pulgas, while showing just how much alike the people in the two communities were. It was interesting seeing Carlie go back and forth between the two towns.  I found her best friend, Lena, to be very self-centered and only wanting to tell Carlie about what she was missing.  While Sean, who Carlie had a crush on, had his own agenda which wasn't clear at first.  I wanted Carlie to be more straight forward with Sean, to let him know how she felt and then maybe when she realized what was going on it wouldn't have hurt her quite so much.  But I was glad that they're friendship was sorted out.  I liked most of the teens from Las Pulgas almost immediately, despite Carlie's perspective, it was obvious that there was a lot she was missing because she didn't want to get to know them. Once she came around I was silently cheering for her. 

Even though I really liked The Princess of Las Pulgas, there were a couple of things that didn't sit so well with me.  One was the whole thing with Sean, but that was me wanting Carlie to be more open with him. The other was Carlie "hearing" her father's voice giving her advice. In the beginning, I expected some of that.  Losing a parent is difficult, at any age, and I would expect a character to remember or think of something that a parent might say to them in a difficult situation. But, I would hope that it would diminish over time, especially since the story takes place over ten months. I wanted Carlie to really break out of her habit of waiting for her father's advice and take the risk of making her own path. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Princess of Las Pulgas and won't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a great "fish out of water" or outsider story.

Want to win your own copy of The Princess of Las Pulgas?  Check out this post for all the information.


  1. Thanks for your well-written and thoughtful review! I'm glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did :)

  2. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for such a complete review of Princess. Glad you enjoyed it.


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