cover image The Fortune of Carmen Navarro

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro

Jen Bryant, Knopf, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-375-85759-1

The theme of obsession plays out vividly in this taut psychological drama inspired by Prosper Mérimée's 19th-century novella, Carmen, which was the basis for Bizet's celebrated opera. Broken into brief, almost recitative sequences, Bryant's (Kaleidoscope Eyes) smooth narrative is told in the distinctive voices of four teens. The principals are Carmen, a beautiful and fiercely independent teenage songwriter and singer, who is descended from gypsies; and Ryan, a sincere, impressionable military school cadet on track to follow his family tradition of attending West Point—until he meets Carmen at the deli where she works. Theatrically yet believably, Ryan's disciplined life spins out of control as he falls under the spell of Carmen's siren song. After several dates with Ryan (who provides inspiration for a successful song), Carmen decides she feels like "a fish taken from the river and thrown into a bowl" and severs their relationship—with catastrophic results for Ryan. The levelheaded best friends of both protagonists offer insight into their personalities and into the events that whirl with increasing tension and speed. Subtle symbolism and foreshadowing further enrich the layered storytelling. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)