Thursday, February 24, 2011

Throwback Thursday: Sister Chicas

Sister Chicas by Lisa Alvarado, Ann Hagman Cardinal and Jane Alberdeston Coralin 2006

New American Library/Penguin Group

Rating: 2.5/5

IQ "And then the miraculous happened. It was like the seas parted or the sky opened up and cats and dogs rained down on my head. The vise that was my mouth suddenly words like bottle rockets exploded between my teeth and flew out of my mouth. There was nothing I could do to stop them" Taina pg. 13

Taina, Graciela and Elena (Leni) are sister chicas. Taina's turning fifteen and her mother is throwing her a quinceanera, something she's been dreading. Especially because the one guy (Yusef) she wants by her side is someone Mami wouldn't approve of, at all. Graciela's (Grachi) parents have sacrificed so much to give her the best they could so she naturally needs to pay them back. She will do so by becoming a teacher and making them proud. But then her college professor offers an amazing opportunity to pursue a writing career. Leni is a rebel who isn't big on celebrating her half Puerto Rican heritage after the death of her father. The Sister Chicas are trying to encourage her to learn more about her heritage and be proud of it, but Leni isn't so sure she'd be accepted and the memories/new knowledge might be too painful. Of course there is guy drama. Grachi has to sort through new feelings about an old friend and Leni's childhood friend has turned into a handsome aspiring rock star. When did all this happen?

These authors love metaphors. I like metaphors too, but I think there was one on every other page. Some of them just made no sense. For example, "the room's air suddenly the texture of a daisy touched by a little girl's fingers." (pg. 67). What does that even mean??? They also love emphasizing that these girls are SISTER CHICAS BUT NOT RELATED (in case you didn't get that from the title or the synopsis or the first chapter). Don't let me forget about the flashbacks. Just no. I understand having a few flashbacks here and there to better develop a character, but like metaphors, the flashbacks are overused. They are long and not always important. I think the authors should have tried to show more creative ways of making the same point of the flashback without the chapter long flashbacks. Plus the transitions from past to present were confusing. There were also too many inconsequential details that started to get on my nerves, little statements like "it might be getting dark, but I'm not blind!" (pg. 50) and "force a smile through my black lipstick." (pg. 44) I know that's not really a big deal, but the book was dragging on as it was so I wasn't in the mood for these minor details. Finally, I didn't understand why Taina was so reluctant to have a quinceanera. Or at least, I understood why someone wouldn't want one but she never artfully articulated why SHE did not want one. She just went on and on about Yusef, who we are told is wonderful and they are in love (he's seventeen and going to attend college in Chicago, how perfect. *sorry snappiness*). And why didn't Taina have any friends her own age? Same with Grachi? Leni was a loner but those other two were supposed to be really nice and cheerful...bizarre.

I did appreciate such a strong friendship, and I though the big fight between the girls was genuine. Most importantly each girl made her point clear about why she was upset and the friendship wasn't immediately saved. I really liked Grachi's storyline, feeling so guilty over wanting to pursue her passion even though it wasn't exactly what she thought her parents wanted (or deserved). Maybe I just happened to read her story at the right time in my life, but she was stressed over all her commitments (attending UIC, tutoring, working part-time at a bookstore) and I'm starting to get stressed over various summer program applications/class registrations. None of the girls are particularly noteworthy, but I found Grachi's voice to be the strongest. She has this quote that I could definitely relate to "other Graciela said yes to Phaedra Mondragon. The least she could've done was stick around long enough to help with this. I guess she must've stayed on the train and kept going. There's only me left, and this me is having a hard time with all of this." (pg. 84)The whole two split personalities/two different sides of a person and then watching that side of you/your personality fade to leave you to pick up the pieces? Classic. My favorite part was all the details of Chicago. The setting is present, but it's not big enough to be a character in and of itself. However it's there and I appreciated it. From mentions of the el to the girls attending Whitney Young High School, walking to Logan Square (which is where my Papi grew up is one of my favorite neighborhoods) and waiting for the bus, it made me happy :) I also thought the girls' hangout was described in excellent detail and I wish I had a local cafe like El Rinconcito (there is an actual restaurant in Logan Square called El Rinconcito Cubano), it sounds heavenly. The girls gather there every Thursday to catch up, the sip cafes con leche and chat with the charming owner, Don Ramiro. I'm not sure if all the places mentioned should use the real names though...

Sister Chicas is a genial tale of the close friendship between three girls. While the origin of their friendship is not described in much detail (and I still find it hard to believe that a fifteen year old would be friends with a freshman in college whom she had never met before high school), it is a strong one that faces authentic ups and downs. Each girl has a distinctive personality, one that every girl, Latina or not, can see a little of herself in them. Leni does have some funny moments, although I'm not so sure all the humor will be understand by people who don't know much about Latin culture such as "[I] made it through the round of obligatory dances with my arranged caballero date, Mario, who, by the way, is not a bad dancer. Could have fooled me! Underneath that slicked-back 1950s hair and railroad track of braces beats the rhythm of Tito Puente!" (pg. 228).That made me personally laugh out loud, but I'm not sure it would amuse everyone. Less usage of metaphors, smoother transitions from past to present and less details would make the story flow better. A good chica/chick lit read with the lovely backdrop of diverse Chicago.

Disclosure: Received from Mardel. Thank you so much!

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