Wednesday, December 29, 2010

ARC Review: The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie


After her father's slow death from cancer, Carlie thought things couldn't get worse. But now, she is forced to confront the fact that her family in dire financial straits. To stay afloat, her mom has had to sell their cherished oceanfront home and move Carlie and her younger brother Keith to the other side of the tracks to dreaded Las Pulgas, or "the fleas" in Spanish. 

They must now attend a tough urban high school instead of their former elite school, and on Carlie's first day of school, she runs afoul of edgy K.T., the Latina tattoo girl who's always ready for a fight, even on crutches. Carlie fends off the attention of Latino and African American teen boys, and one, a handsome seventeen-year-old named Juan, nicknames her Princess when he detects her aloof attitude towards her new classmates. What they don't know is that Carlie isn't really aloof; she's just in mourning for her father and almost everything else that mattered to her. 

Mr. Smith, the revered English teacher who engages all his students, suggests she'll like her new classmates if she just gives them a chance; he cajoles her into taking over the role of Desdemona in the junior class production of Othello, opposite Juan, after K.T. gets sidelined. Keith, who becomes angrier and more sullen by the day, spray paints insults all over the gym as he acts out his anger over the family's situation and reduced circumstances. 

Even their cat Quicken goes missing, sending Carlie and Keith on a search into the orchard next to their seedy garden apartment complex. They're met by a cowboy toting a rifle who ejects them at gunpoint from his property. But when Carlie finds him amiably having coffee with their mom the next day -- when he's returned her cat -- she begins to realize that nothing is what it seems in Las Pulgas.

  • Pub. Date: November 28th 2010
  • Publisher: Westside Books
The Elliott Review:

This book is a heartfelt look at a girl going through the grieving process after losing her father and basically everything and everyone she knows and loves. In moving to the rough neighborhood of Las Pulgas, Carlie must learn to deal with people that are different from her in the way they cope with life, and she has to learn to cope in her own way. One of the strengths of this book was that it was real. Everything felt natural and exactly the way it would happen in real life.

The diversity of the people that Carlie meets was what drew me to the book and was also my favorite aspect of the book. I felt that the characters were diverse without being stereotypical for their race or gender or sexual orientation. Having taught in a rougher part of town in the past, I wondered if the characters would have a realistic feel, and they did not disappoint.

My favorite supporting characters were the two boys that Carlie has a "thing" for a different times throughout the book - Sean and Juan. Sean is that hot but nice character that you've gotta love, and he ends up being fairly surprising. Juan is just ... dreamy. I like the way he challenges Carlie's preconceived notions about Las Pulgas.

I liked the way the ending showed all of the problems in Carlie's life coming full circle. This is a satisfying read with some great life lessons for teens.

Source: Around the World ARC Tours



  1. Wow. I have never heard of this. Interesting cover.

  2. thanks, jessie, for your thoughtful review!

  3. I've heard great things about this book. Can't wait to read it.