Book Review

Adios to my Old Life by Caridad Ferrer

A-

Title: Adiós to my Old Life
Author: Caridad Ferrer
Publication Info: MTV Books/Pocket Books 2006
ISBN: 1416524738
Genre: Young Adult

I’m sure I’m going to get a reputation online as being some YA groupie who will give an A to any YA romance thrown at me. I’m going to lose any credibility I have but seriously, people keep sending me really good YA romance. I might have to review a Sweet Valley High just to snark on some YA. I do have plenty to choose from. Maybe the one with the earthquake that makes the refrigerator fall on this girl and kills her. Let me know which SVH you’d like me to aim the Bitchysnark at, and I’ll review it.

But alas, you shall have to contend with Sarah reading yet another YA romance that was so good she ended up rereading it at least two and a half times. I still reread sections even as I’m writing the review. The book draws me back in every time I pick it up. I thought about loaning it to a neighbor and couldn’t bear not to have it to write the review. It’s that good.

Alegria Montero tries out for a Spanish language reality show called Oye Mi Canto – “Hear my Voice.” By far one of the youngest to audition at age 17, but also one of the most talented, Ali impresses the hell out of the judges and lands one of the coveted spots on the television show. Trouble is, her very protective father has no idea she auditioned – her best friend Sosi forged his signature on the permission form. But to her surprise, she finds herself on television among some very talented – and some very vindictive – young artists, competing for an incredible opportunity to become a star. More importantly, Ali discovers what it is about performing that makes each moment on stage magical and beyond fulfilling, and learns how to grow up fast in a very, very public forum.

There’s no shortage of elements in this book that I enjoyed. Ali’s fluctuations between belief in herself and feelings of being completely overwhelmed by her experiences seem totally normal and not at all contrived, and the behavior of the people who surround her is equally believable. Ferrer has a deft and and noticeable talent in creating vivid characters. The inserted Spanish in the dialogue made sense – though as a disclaimer I do speak Spanish, but to a non-speaker it’s not that difficult to understand –  and it was colloquially accurate from my experience talking to Cuban Americans. The bits of Spanish and affectionate slang added to the authenticity of the characters, and demonstrated easily the regard and love they have for each other, and for Ali.

Now, I am a sucker for behind-the-scenes information of any kind. Going into the back end of the zoo to clean poo on tv? I’ll watch that. Reading about how roadies set up a stage in a day or two? I’d totally lose myself in that. So this book fed my behind-the-scenes appetite admirably. First, Ferrer wrote in terms a person familiar with popular music would use, giving the reader inside knowledge and language about popular music – songs are called “charts,” for example,  and Ali plays a priceless guitar called a Bernabe. I learned a good bit about music, acoustic instruments, and techniques that musicians use to remix popular songs with very different and innovative cultural flavors.

In addition, there’s a great deal of inside information about the backstage life of a reality tv show much like American Idol, from insight into the loss of the producer’s autonomy if a show becomes popular, to the way contestants can come together to support each other or tear each other down ruthlessly.

But even with the wealth of information about music, performing, and television competition, Adios to my Old Life is about a strong and admirable heroine realizing her dream and acquiring sudden fame, while learning to appreciate being so blessed with a gift in music that it’s both an ambition and a solace.

The only limits to my enjoyment were an unfortunate habit of infodumping in the beginning, with Ali narrating a huge amount of explanation as to the setup of the story. And I had a hard time believing that much of the time Ali was unaware of the growing fanbase she and the other contestants had acquired, though it totally fits with her character that she’d try to ignore it.

There is a romance, though it’s secondary to the heroine-centered coming of age story that makes the book so attractive. Her romance with Jaime, a production assistant, is a major element, though not the only element that creates Ali’s character, and her relationship with Jaime pops in and out of the story as Ali learns to navigate the requirements of the performance schedule of Oye mi Canto. But the resolution of her romance is definitely a requirement to the happy ending of the novel.

If you’re looking for straight-up YA romance, this isn’t necessarily it, but this is a happy, fantastically charming story of a heroine you can both like and admire. I can’t even say how pleased I am that Adios to my Old Life was nominated for a RITA™ for Best First Book, and for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance. I read romance for a number of reasons, but primarily because at the end, it makes me happy. This book certainly did so, and more.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    distracted says:

    Totally have to review one of the early SVHs… like the one where Elizabeth hits her head and totally turns into Jessica and makes out with Bruce, completely devastating Todd.  I think the title is “Dear Elizabeth” or something.

    Dear God, I’m 31.  Why does my brain remember this?  Please. Kill. Me.

  2. 2
    CC says:

    I love “Adios” I’ve purchased three copies so far- I’ve given two of them away to young women who needed a gentle little get your sh## together and have more respect for yourself kick in the pants- And I love how she wins without winning-

  3. 3
    Holly says:

    you know, I never really read SVH although I do admit to watching the t.v show a bit. That was a long time ago. Was Jessica always portrayed as a bitch?

  4. 4
    Maureen says:

    Go on reviewing fabboo YAs, Sarah! And don’t apologize for it! I do the same at my blog, although to be strictly fair that’s all I do. :p

    I enjoyed Adios to My Old Life too, although I thought the e-vil bitch was kind of one-dimensional. But other than that, I loved Ali and Jaime and all the stuff going on.

    Maureen

  5. 5
    Meggrs says:

    OMG, distracted, that’s exactly what I was going to say! Ack. I’m 31 too, and that’s immediately what sprang to mind when Sarah mentioned SVH.

    The tension—will Elizabeth “accidentally” lose her virginity to scummy Bruce while thinking that she’s actually her own slutty twin sister? So. Freaking. Cheesetastically. Good.

    I used to ride my bike to the bookstore so I could sit inside and read them—I couldn’t afford to buy them, and I’d already gone through the library’s entire, incomplete stock.

    Holly—if I remember correctly (and I don’t always) Jessica was usually portrayed as a raging bitch, but mostly so that on the rare occasions when she did something slightly less-than-selfish for Elizabeth once in a blue moon, everyone could note that deep down, she was a softie.

    Whatev. Bitch city, bring it on!

    C’mon, Sarah—whaddya say?

  6. 6
    Josie says:

    Distracted – I feel your pain… And I think it was actually called ‘Dear Sister’. *hides face in shame*

    I also vaguely remember the one where Elizabeth is kidnapped from the hospital where she was volunteering… I think that was titled Kidnapped or something equally thought provoking.

    God I think I need help.

    Sarah, you better give us a review now!

  7. 7
    Claudia says:

    I never read SVH books,  but was a total Girls of Canby Hall fiend. That series fulfilled my escapist boarding school fantasies and featured a black girl as a main character.

    Troll bookclub was my Amazon until I was old enough to shop at bookstores on my own. Memories…  :D

  8. 8
    Diana Hunter says:

    A shoutout to Caridad on a great review! You go, woman!

    I will admit to being a YA reader as well. I’m older than the SVH books (I was stuck on the Sue Barton books to the point where nursing was my number one career choice. That changed the first time I watched a movie of surgery), but today’s YA is NOT your mother’s YA. Sharp, witty, and sometimes in-your-face, just like most real teenagers, the genre has developed respectability.

    Now if we can only get that respect in the genre we call ‘romance’…

    Thanks for the review!

    Diana

  9. 9
    distracted says:

    Yes, it *was* “Dear Sister”.  See, Elizabeth was riding on Todd’s bike when there was an accident….  Seriously, I need a life.

  10. 10
    SB Sarah says:

    Not only that, but Bruce Patman puts his hand on Elizabeth’s breast in that one – the first and only time I’ve seen the word “breast” in a Sweet Valley High novel.

    No wonder I moved on to romance. SVH is the literary equivalent of blueballs.

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    I loved to read SVH books. I thought the were great at the time. I wonder what I would think of them now?

    I do remember one where Jessica pretends to be Elizabeth so she could steal her boyfriend- or maybe that was all of them!

    Didn’t they go to France in one of them? And the cute boy was really mean but then turned out to be good. I remember he rode a scooter…Or am I thinking of something else? And yes, I must get a life too.

  12. 12
    Eva Gale says:

    Dd has read Adios three times. This for a girl who I have to MAKE read at the point of tears. So, yes, it’s an A in our house too.

  13. 13
    distracted says:

    I still see them at used bookstores and pick them up once in a while.  I loved them growing up—sad, really.  But at least I’m not alone! 

    This website has lots of info:

    http://www.series-books.com/svh/sweetvalley1-10.html

  14. 14
    RandomRanter says:

    I loved Adios, it was such a great story and it made me cry a little.  And hey, A Wrinkle in Time is YA – there’s nothing wrong with enjoying such stories when one is *ahem* a bit older than the main character.

  15. 15
    June says:

    Oh Diana, I TOO was a major Sue Barton fan.  And nursing was a career choice for about ten minutes until I realized sick people threw up. 

    My favorite YAs were the Rosamund DuJardin books.  “Double Date” anyone?

  16. 16
    Selah March says:

    Yesssssssssssssssssssssssss!

    *pumps fist in air*

    Smart Bitches review FOR THE WIN! Now onward to the Ritas, and then it’s world domination, baby…

  17. 17
    Chris says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only ADIOS fan.  It came in my RITA judging box, which was a big win for me, since I was planning to buy it.

    LOVED that book.  And I so have my fingers crossed for a RITA.  Great book!!

  18. 18
    SB Sarah says:

    Re: SVH – I would like to announce that according to Wikipedia, I share a birthday with the Wakefield twins.

    Which makes perfect sense since I am tall, blond, and a perfect size six. NOT.

  19. 19
    Maya says:

    SBSara – I beg you – (and you’ll just have to trust me that that is very unusual behaviour) PUHLEEEEEEEZE review ‘Alice, I Think’ by Susan Juby if you adore quality YA!
    I’m actually not a habitual YA reader – I think this title was wrongly shelved or something at my library when I picked it up – but it is howlingly funny, excellently well-written, and totally original. Many of the outstanding features of Ali’s story as you have reviewed it are echoed, only as would happen in the life of a home-schooled daughter of vegetarian hippie-throwback parents in a very small town in the British Columbian interior (i.e. moose play a role in the stumbling, developing romance subplot).  How Alice develops her own vibe, rebels (gently) against her parents, and comes to terms with how different she is from the rest of the crowd in her town, is a poignant and unforgettable story (am I squeeing enough yet?). Arguably the best bit happens in the second book of the trilogy, ‘Miss Smithers’, when Alice enters the local beauty pageant purely as a kneejerk reaction to her ultra feminist mother’s horror at the idea.

    Having said all that – I’m off to my bookstore to tear my way through Ali’s story. Thanks for the tip.

  20. 20
    Kate says:

    Did anyone ever read Sweet Valley University? It followed Jessica and Elizabeth to college (Jessica must have cheated on her SATs) where Elizabeth breaks up with Todd, joins the newspaper, and falls in love with her tortured Editor-In-Chief, Jessica secretly marries (and later divorces) a much older man (with an alcohol problem, no less), Bruce and Lila fall in love (following the death of Lila’s husband, an Italian aristocrat), and Elizabeth’s BFF Enid changes her name to Alex and becomes the campus slut. The series was short lived, but Ms. Pascula (or whoever wrote them) sure managed to pack a lot into the ones that were written.

  21. 21
    nina armstrong says:

    oh yes Sue Barton-I loved those too. Did anyone else read the Kim Parker books? She was a secretary for an insurance company but yearned to be an investigator like her father and brothers?

  22. 22
    Bonnie C says:

    Hoo-weee! Talk about a nose dive down memory lane! Somehwere in my parents garage is my coveted collection of SVH – I’m thinking I got up into the 20s before moving on to Rosemary Rogers – a natural transistion, no?

    Had to nose around the internet because it was driving me bats that although I couldn’t remember the titles, I was thinking the “Liz Gets Amnesia and Gets to be the Bad Twin For Once” was #6. Turns out Dear Sister is #7. But hey, I was close. This site actually has wonderfully bad .jpgs fo the original cover art: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/p/francine-pascal/

    I love YA, please continue to bring attention to the genre! And definitely do a SVH snark when you get a spare minute.

  23. 23
    Julie Leto says:

    Last year in Atlanta, Caridad gave me a copy of ADIOS, signed to my niece.  I read it first and not only loved it completely, but bought at least two, maybe three copies for other girls who I thought would enjoy it.

    I think the thing about the book that grasped me most was the way she described the actual act of Ali playing music.  The sensuality of it was so compelling.  The words in this book were put together not only to tell a great story, but also in a way that made you stop and re-read a sentence or a passage because of the beauty of it.

    Awesome book.  Awesome review.  Hope to see you in the bar on Saturday!

  24. 24
    kpsr. says:

    oh, man, if you’re going to review a SV book, may I recommend that it be one of the books in the “Saga”?
    the first book, the Wakefields of Sweet Valley, was pretty spectacular, but I’m pretty sure book 2 of the “saga” books, the Wakefield Legacy, was my favorite.

    you get multiple generations of fun and twins. and crazy recaps of major historical events! what’s not to love? why oh why did i read those? and more importantly, why do i remember them? (on a similar not, why do i remember most of the words to a good 2/3 of the cartoons of my childhood? why?)

  25. 25
    Kristin says:

    Does anyone else remember the SVH Evil Twin books?  Something about a brunette who looked exactly like the twins and wanted to dye her hair blonde, kill Elizabeth, and take over her perfect life.  And I think in the second one it turned out that the Evil Twin had a twin sister she didn’t know about?

Comments are closed.

↑ Back to Top