Posted by Izzy G. on Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Author: B. A. Binns, C. Lee McKenzie
Release Date: November 28th, 2010
Published By: Westside Books
Goodreads Rating: 3.86 stars
Amazon Rating: 4.00 stars
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.
Review: I was excited to get this book in the mail because it sounded so good, but I found myself disappointed as I read it. I felt like my biggest problem with this book was that I had such a hard time connecting with the characters, especially Carlie. This was a book that I really wanted to enjoy, but I just couldn't. I didn't even like the minor characters too much - Keith just seemed kind of bratty to me, Juan was a little irritating, and K.T., as a character, just felt too contrived.
I still like the book's premise. It had a lot of potential, with the well-off, upper middle class girl having to go live in tiny, run-down apartment and go to a bad school. Another thing that did bother me, though, about this was that I had trouble believing that Carlie's family was so broke they had to go live in a place like that after her dad died. What happened to his life insurance? This wasn't mentioned, unless I missed it.
All in all, this isn't a book I would recommend, and I nearly put it down a few times. The characters just didn't do it for me, and there were unbelievable plot points. Still, please remember to take my review with a grain of salt because I know on Goodreads, there were a lot of positive reviews.