Thursday, February 17, 2011

Throwback Thursday: Honey Blonde Chica

Honey Blonde Chica by Michele Serros 2006
Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

Rating: 3/5

IQ "Maybe it would be good if Villanueva had a dress code, despite what Dee Dee thought. Something like California Casual meets High Drama, a lightweight, knit blend of steel armor. That would be perfect, Evie figured, because it was obvious that Raquel had already declared war." pg.103

Evie Gomez is a proud member of the Flojos (Spanish for flip flops, which all the Flojos wear 18/7). Flojo also means lazy and the Flojos do absolutely nothing except go to a party every now and then. But the Flojos are Evie's crew, she can't imagine not hanging out with her best friend, Raquel everyday. Until their old best friend, Dee Dee returns to California from Mexico where she lived after her mother died. Mexico City has turned shy, thin, brunette Dee Dee into curvaceous, loud and blonde Dela. Where is the Dee Dee the girls used to know? Raquel and Dee Dee butt heads right away but Evie is determined to save their friendship. Even if it means becoming more like Dela, but if she turns into someone like Dela she could risk losing Raquel. Is she a laidback Flojo or a sexy Sangro (short for sangrona which is basically a b****)? 'How's a chica to choose?' (last part from back cover).

Evie is not a particularly endearing main character. All the members of the Flojos are well off and Evie takes many things for granted. She has a housekeeper Lindsay that she treats semi-decently, she's not mean to her, but Evie doesn't try to help ease Lindsay's workload either. Evie can also be rather clueless, bringing up memories that may be painful for the other person or just not particularly enjoyable which makes for some awkward moments (and then you wonder how she can be so clueless). At the same time, these flaws made Evie an authentic main character and while I didn't close the book wanting to be her friend, I did like that the story portrayed is a more unusual one, life for wealthy Mexican-Americans. Evie has to deal with the usual friendship and guy drama, the only difference is that in this book Spanglish is thrown around and the food sounds a lot yummier. I do wish the writing had been more original, there are pop cultures references which are dated and the whole story is told in a matter-of-fact way that seems to be just plodding along. Not much happens, like many lighter contemporary YA novels all the problems could have been avoided if there was more communication and trust. But where's the fun in that? I do wish that the 'mean girl' had been more than a caricature, there has to be more to Alejandra than just being stuck up. All the secondary characters fell flat, Evie complains about her older sister, Sabrina, who is in college, but it's never really clear why Evie is so unwilling to talk to her.

I did appreciate that this book features a diverse cast and that the main clique at Evie's wealthy high school, the Sangros, are Mexican. The girls last names all end in -A, they are the ah-migas (Fabiola, Natalia, Xiomara and their leader, Alejandra) they are all from the DF (Distrito Federal which is Mexico City) and very proud of that fact. The Sangros are known for their blonde highlights and snobbish attitude. The Sangros look down on Mexican-Americans and that is a source of contention between Evie and the Sangros, even Evie's old friend Dee Dee seems to think that Mexicans born in Mexico are better than Mexicans born in America. It's an unique conflict and portrayed well. I also appreciated the Spanglish throughout the book. Sometimes Evie talks to the reader to explain what a word like sangrona means (i.e. slang and/or curse words) but for the most part, Evie and her friends sprinkle Spanish into their English and even combine the words (i.e. pinche beyachee). Honey-Blonde Chica is also about whether or not you should try and salvage a friendship after many years apart. Evie and Dee Dee seem so different and Raquel doesn't even want to talk to Dee Dee, but Evie remembers the days when they were the best of friends and she yearns to go back to those days. The author portrays it as such that I wasn't always sure if they could make up, they all do/say some pretty silly/even cruel things.

Honey Blonde Chica is a diverting read that doesn't take itself too seriously but could use more developed main characters. There's a cute factor but I was disappointed with the secondary covers, I thought the guy Evie had a crush on was just ok and the mean girl, Alejandra is ridiculously over-the-top. However, I did think that Evie's crush progression was realistic, she starts questioning every little thing he says/does and tries not to anxiously await his calls and texts. Been there, get that. I do love the idea of the Sangros though and I wonder if the book is accurate in showing some of the drama between Mexicans and Mexican Americans (Neither Evie nor Raquel speak fluent Spanish but all the Sangros do) or if the drama's been heightened. I also really liked how class isn't so much an issue in this book, all the main characters are wealthy which makes it harder to tolerate how spoiled they can be but it's also a great equalizer when it comes to friendship woes and not feeling Mexican enough. While Evie is proud to be Mexican American (her father made his wealthy running pan de dulce shops which will make you quite hungry), her story is a universal one because we all have to face friends drifting apart and figuring out whether or not we should fight to hold on to that friendship. What's more Evie doesn't just need to prove that she can be both laidback (Flojo) and represent her culture (como un Sangro), wear blonde highlights (Sangro) with designer flip flops (Flojo).

Disclosure: Yo compre