Thursday, March 5, 2009

Adiós to My Old Life

Adiós to My Old Life
Author: Caridad Ferrer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July, 2006

Alegría Montero is a seventeen year old Latin-American girl, the daughter of a widowed music professor who finds herself the next potential super pop star, courtesy of a reality show competition to discover the hottest Latin music talent. Oye Mi Canto is the name of the show, and when Ali auditions, she never really expects to get through to the actual contest. But Ali's talent is unmistakable, and before she knows what's happening, she's caught up in the world of makeup artists, stylists, choreographers, fame, fansites, and career-destroying jealousy. Amidst the whirlwind of sudden fame, Ali meets Jaime, a production assistant intern who is interested in more than just her musical talents.

Adiós to My Old Life is a Young Adult title, told from Ali's perspective. It is well written, and the behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it might be like to be a contestant on an American Idol-like TV show is very compelling. Ferrer was extremely wise to use an ethnic culture to draw a parallel to the hugely successful talent show. While it would have been hard for me to buy into Ali's journey had Ferrer placed the story in the real AI world, I certainly could believe Ali's involvement on a smaller-scaled Latin version of such a show.
Ali was a very likable protagonist. She was savvy enough not to be a Pollyanna, yet she retained enough niaveté that I really felt sorry for her as the consequences of being on the show began to become problematic. When Ali becomes victim to the show's other female contender, Fabiana, a fame-whore type who will stop at nothing to win the game, I felt so sorry for her. Yet Ali was quite capable of standing up for herself.

If I have any complaints about Ali it is that she is perhaps a bit too perfect as a character. Through the course of the story, Ali turns out to be the most talented singer, the most talented musician, the most adored by her fans, the most professional performer, the most self-confident (despite being the youngest contestant), the best friend to other contestants, etc. She handles all of the obstacles thrown at her with a maturity that most adults would envy. Even at the end, when a terrible revelation is made, Ali's reaction is much less extreme than I would have expected. I wish that Ali had shown a bit more self-doubt about her abilities. Then again, as she is presented, she had no reason to doubt herself because Ali was the most talented.

Too, Ali tended to lapse into teen-speak clichés that got tiresome after awhile. For example, she referred to songs as "charts" and the large mansion where the contestants lived as a "barn". Her guitar was her "ax". Rather than giving Ali a distinct voice, I just found use of such slang in such a repetitive way to be an affectation.

What did work was the way that Ferrer sprinkled Spanish words into the dialog and narrative. I speak no Spanish yet was able to glean the meaning of the words via the context, and the use of Spanish kept me firmly rooted in the culture of the story. Never for one minute did Ali sacrifice who she was.

I was a bit disappointed at the predictable send-up of the show's fashion coordinator being a gay man. Too, a subplot involving Ali's chaperone Elaine, a long time family friend who harbored hidden feelings for Ali's father, left me kind of cold. The end to this subplot was a foregone conclusion so the whole thing seemed a little pointless.

What wasn't as predictable was how the competition played out. Needless to say, Ferrer didn't let Ali come to a happy ending by the normal route, although I did find things wrapped up a little too neatly as far as Ali's future relationship with Jaime went.

I did enjoy this book. I would recommend it for older teens rather than younger ones as Ali and Jaime do become somewhat physically involved. But anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a reality TV superstar would appreciate Ali's story.

Rating: Held My Attention
Status of Series: This is a stand-alone title.

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