Friday, September 17, 2010


Coming in November:

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro, by local Pennsylvania author Jen Bryant (Knopf, ages 12 and up).

And isn't that a cool cover?

As a bookseller, I'm always eager to support local authors (see my post about Dianne K. Salerni's book). The amazing Jen Bryant has written fifteen books for children, including the award-winning River of Words: the story of William Carlos Williams, and The Trial (about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping), Pieces of Georgia (which takes place in Chester County, PA and the Brandywine River Museum), Ringside 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial, and Kaleidoscope Eyes.

All of those novels were written in verse. The Fortune of Carmen Navarro, however, is a straight-forward prose narrative. This feels different from anything Jen has written before. And I love it.

Like Linger, by Maggie Stiefvater, the story is told by four different teen characters in alternating chapters. It's a compelling read, loosely based on Bizet's opera Carmen, with a modern twist. But even if you know nothing about the opera or the original novella that inspired it, you'll still be moved by this book.

Carmen is a high school dropout, working at the Quikmart with her best friend Maggie, and hoping to make it big with her band, The Gypsy Lovers. Then one day two cadets from nearby Valley Forge Military Academy, Will and Ryan, walk into the Quikmart, and everything changes. Ryan falls instantly in love with Carmen, who is happy to flirt with the cute soldado. They go on dates to places like Valley Forge park and the King of Prussia Mall (which you'll recognize if you're from anywhere close to the Philadelphia suburban area). She writes a new song inspired by him, a song that gives the band their first chance at a recording contract.

Ryan's feelings for Carmen soon become obsessive, even unhealthy. Previously a model student and cadet captain, he stops caring about school, friends, and family. His grades slip. He wants to spend all his time with Carmen. But Carmen is too independent to be the girl Ryan wants her to be.

A timeless story of obsessive love.

What's your favorite obsessive love story?

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