Grade: 2.5 stars out of 5
The Fortune of Carmen Navarro is influenced by the musical, Carmen. Jen Byrant had a few things in mind even before writing the book of how she wanted it to turn out, slightly spoilish: “(1) Carmen would remain a fiercely independent young woman; (2) that a soldier (or a cadet at a military school) would fall in love with her; (3) that his desire for her would consume him and bring about his downfall; and (4) that their relationship would end in violence” (Byrant 228).
However despite the onslaught of drama and feministic influences The Fortune of Carmen Navarro was short of being spectacular. Told through 4 different perspectives there still remains a lack of awareness in the character’s mind or behavior. Rather than a trajectory of movement as their thoughts would ramble on and off, there just seemed to be one or two main ideas lodged in each character. The novel is of moderate length, but once you split the book between 4 different people, it makes it so much smaller. The Fortune of Carmen Navarro needed to be more fleshed out.
Carmen is “a fiercely independent young woman” that we’re told is exotic, is beautiful and that despite dropping out of high school to work at the local Quikmart, is smart. She is ambitious. Carmen wants her name out there and her band to be in the biggest spotlight of all. But I found her highly unapproachable and unlikable. Carmen was very much, in my opinion, a difficult girl to befriend in real life: selfish, stubborn, headstrong, and so used to getting her way. Boys come and goes. Friends are very few and those few are mostly male.
Maggie is Carmen’s best friend and as close as not blood related sisters can be. It is uncommon for the secondary character to have their own role in novels, but Maggie does. Maggie wants to be a veterinarian (or as Maggie and Carmen say, an animal doctor); she’s smart, but very “plain” or so we’re told over and over again. Maggie lacks self-confidence and being around Carmen for so long can do that. Your best friend can get every guy she wants and you’re just her little brainy side-kick. Carmen is magnetic, charismatic, and a sight to behold. But still.
Ryan the cadet is just another puppy that has fallen under Carmen’s beauty and her voice. Byrant focuses solely on his shift from piqued interest to adoration to love to obsession—all in relation to Carmen. The transitions are smooth and the obsessive thoughts are spot-on. But I have so much trouble understanding why. Why does Ryan love Carmen so much even after the cold shoulder?
Will, Ryan’s close friend, is forgettable. His chapters only further showcase how Ryan is falling under the Carmen spell slowly but surely. Everything else didn’t have a point in the context of the plot.
The tension riding up to the ending was palpable. The climax was anticlimactic. All the ending proved was how much I disliked Carmen and how befuddled I was by Ryan’s actions. Was The Fortune of Carmen Navarro a twisted coming-of-age story?
Published: 9 November 2010