Carmen Navarro rings up customers at the Quikmart, bored to tears. It’s a job, and she needs it. But Carmen’s true love is music: she dropped out of high school to sing with the Gypsy Lovers and land a recording contract, someday.
Just a few miles away, Ryan Sweeney hunches over his books, a studious cadet with his eye on West Point. There’s not a single girl at the Valley Forge Military Academy, and that’s fine by him.
But when Ryan, on a day pass from campus, spots Carmen, with her shining black hair and snake tattoo, his pulse quickens. Carmen, who normally rolls her eyes at the stiff Academy soldados, can tell this one is different. She slips him a note: “Come hear my band.” A romance begins, unlikely, passionate . . . and quickly imbalanced. In an enthralling narrative of obsessive love, the novel builds to a stunning close.
Inspired by the novella and opera Carmen, Jen Bryant creates a strong-minded and alluring heroine in this contemporary tale of tragic love.
The theme of obsession plays out vividly in this taut psychological drama inspired by Prosper M rim e's 19th-century novella, Carmen, which was the basis for Bizet's celebrated opera. Broken into brief, almost recitative sequences, Bryant's (Kaleidoscope Eyes) smooth narrative is told in the distinctive voices of four teens. The principals are Carmen, a beautiful and fiercely independent teenage songwriter and singer, who is descended from gypsies; and Ryan, a sincere, impressionable military school cadet on track to follow his family tradition of attending West Point until he meets Carmen at the deli where she works. Theatrically yet believably, Ryan's disciplined life spins out of control as he falls under the spell of Carmen's siren song. After several dates with Ryan (who provides inspiration for a successful song), Carmen decides she feels like "a fish taken from the river and thrown into a bowl" and severs their relationship with catastrophic results for Ryan. The levelheaded best friends of both protagonists offer insight into their personalities and into the events that whirl with increasing tension and speed. Subtle symbolism and foreshadowing further enrich the layered storytelling. Ages 12 up.