EgmontUSA, April 26, 2011
Summary from Goodreads:
Into the summer heat of New York’s Spanish Harlem strides Carmen, a chica who is as hot as the sizzling city streets. When she first meets José, she falls for him hard. He’s not like the gansta types she knows—tipo duros who are tough, who think they are players. But José has a quick temper, and he likes to get his own way. And nobody gets in Carmen’s way.
When Escamillo rolls into town, everyone takes notice of the Latino Jay-Z—a quadruple-threat singer/rapper/producer/businessman. But he only notices one person—Carmen. And Carmen has given up on José—he’s not going to get her out of her tough neighborhood, el barrio, and into the action. Escamillo will.
But José won’t let that happen.
Passion, love, and betrayal explode into tragedy in this modern retelling of an enduring love story.
Disclosure: I've never, to my knowledge, read the original Carmen or any retellings. My primary reason for wanting to read this novel was because it was written by Walter Dean Myers, and I'm a big fan of his work. I even tried (although not very hard) to research Carmen to see what it was all about, but gave up fairly quickly.
I have to say that I really, really enjoyed this retelling. It's written in play form, so there's a lot of white space on the page, and it's really quite short (great for reluctant readers). The choice of screenplay takes the emotion away from the narrator; we're given scenes and descriptions, but it's up to the characters to portray the emotions. There's an author note and a note on the music at the end, and the music is included as well, which makes the actual meat of the book that much shorter. I'm not kidding--there are two acts with two scenes each. Real quick reading here!
Myers did a good job of describing the characters in such a short timeframe. Everyone loves Carmen--she's apparently extraordinarily good-looking and is realistic about her life without being hardened. It's funny, because although Carmen is described as being hot, I never really got any other information about her. However, I could gather from the narration and the dialogue that, yes, indeed, there is something special about Carmen.
I think that readers can easily relate to the characters created in this version of the opera, and it might convince them to pick up other retellings. Or perhaps to watch a version to compare. (Hmmm...did I just give myself an idea for a Read a Movie program? Although I would love to see this particular version performed live!) It's a strong story with a tragic ending, and it accomplishes a lot without potentially offensive language or even a ton of violence. I'm definitely going to talk this book up at my next juvenile detention visit--my Walter Dean Myers fans will love it!
Borrowed book from the library.
Enjoy your reading!