Adios to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer
IQ "I mean, really there's naive and then there's completely clueless." Ali pg. 57
In Adios to My Old Life we follow the musical, bumpy journey of seventeen year old Alegria Montero (I can't do accents on my computer but there should be an accent over the o in Adios and over the i in Alegeria, fyi). Ali is an excellent musician; she sings and plays the guitar and one day she hopes to be able to play her music to the largest audiences possible. she's tired of performing at small quinceaneras and other family parties. So she decides to audition for Oye Mi Canto (Hear My Song), which is basically the Latin American version of American Idol (except it sounds better and a lot more fun for the audience, maybe not the singers). Ali doesn't expect to make it and even if she does, her overprotective father will never let her go on the show. But Ali makes the show AND her father agrees to let her perform, but he's not happy about it. Ali has to figure out the complex world of showbiz; wardrobe, makeup, interviews, fans, jealous competitors and guys.
Ali would be my best friend. She's funny, down to earth and a talented musician! She never lets the fame get to her head, but at the same time she could be frustratingly naive. I liked that she was oblivious as to how popular she was, but at the same time, I felt that some events shouldn't have been totally unexpected. At first, I think it is very realistic that Ali would be surprised and overwhelmed by her popularity, but after her friends bring it to her attention, it should have stopped being a surprise to her (while still overwhelming, after all it must be so annoying and scary to always have people in your face and your private business). Yet, Ali was continually shocked by things that shouldn't have been a surprise. Other times I liked her naivete, she expected nothing and she was quite reserved, except on stage. I loved reading about how she felt so different, absolutely transformed, when she was performing. The other characters were all great as well, Ali had a wonderful support system. Ali's father is raising her on his own (her mother died when she was six) and he's overprotective, but he instilled in her, the love of music along with her talent. Their relationship is authentic, full of arguments and heart swelling moments. Most of the competitors weren't just plain awful, they were sweet and cared about each other (especially since Ali was 'the baby' of the group). The only thing that really bothered me about this novel was how hateful one character acted, and no reason was ever really given for it. I didn't understand why she didn't go after everyone equally, or at least those with talent greater than Ali's. The romance is a bit predictable and cheesy (especially the end, which was also incredibly frustrating) but very cute and a joy to read. They start out as friends and then become more.
I loved the idea behind Oye Mi Canto, to find the next big Latin superstar. Information about the competition was well done and the pros and cons of show business were displayed. I also really liked reading about the competitor's various performances, my favorite was "La Tortura" (the song by Shakira and Alejandro Sanz. If you don't know it, go listen to it).The musical scenes were described quite well, and really help make the story. One of the most interesting parts of the novel is in reading about the differences in Latin American television versus American television. For example, since Ali was a minor, the show decided she needed a chaperone and would have to stay at her own home, because Latin American audiences would not want to see a young girl living in a house with a bunch of strangers. Also, Oye Mi Canto takes place in a club, so the audience can dance. It's very different from reality competition shows where it's standing room only. Music lovers, especially Latinos, will enjoy the music references made, ranging from Shakira to Raul Malo. However, there are also references to non-Latino artists (after all good music is good music), such as Sting, Oscar Peterson and Jason Mraz.
Adios to My Old Life is one of my favorite books because I was able to really connect with the story and it made me even more proud of my heritage (from our musical history, to the humor, to the dancing and just EVERYTHING). I liked reading a book that celebrates Latino (especially Cuban) culture, but at the same time it pays homage to the music greats, artists who have helped shape the sound of America regardless of ethnic background. It contains witty conversations and observations, believable and engaging characters, the vibrant setting of Miami and a great soundtrack. The storyline is almost completely predictable (except the ending) and it wraps everything up neatly (though not necessarily happily). One of the most heartwarming moments of this book was seeing the relationship between Ali and her father grow.
PS I have to add that I can not wait for When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer. It's a retelling of Carmen (the opera), set in the modern time in the midst of the competitive world of the drum corps. Read more about it here (this link was the best summary I could find, scroll down a bit. If you know of a better summary, let me know!)