cover image Carmen


Walter Dean Myers, Egmont USA, $16.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-60684-115-0

Given how often Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has been reinvented, it's surprising that Bizet's famous opera has received little attention in the YA sphere (The Fortune of Carmen Navarro being a recent exception). Myers updates the classic story of doomed love with flair (and humor), moving the action from 19th-century Spain to present-day Spanish Harlem. The cast stays pretty much intact—sensuous, willful Carmen seduces a cop, instead of a corporal, before rejecting him for the flashier Escamillo, here a rap star/film producer. Written in script format like Myers's Riot and Monster, the story is broken up into two acts. The contemporary details will help it resonate with teens—instead of a smuggling ring, Carmen and her girlfriends are drafted to help pull off a massive credit card fraud. Bizet's opera broke new ground because it treated the emotions of its working-class characters with respect; Myers does the same. Though students unfamiliar with the opera may need some filling in, this concentrated dose of high drama is full of sharp repartee and would make a lively classroom read-aloud. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)