It's Not About the Accent (2007)

It's Not About the Accent by Caridad Ferrer
By Caridad Ferrer

(I'm back from Spring Fling, the Chicago North conference. Updates tomorrow.)

Sick and tired of her life in small-town Ohio--completely boring with a side of dull--college-bound Caroline Darcy is determined to start fresh...as a new person. And that means following in the footsteps of her late Nana Ellie--her witty and vibrant Cuban great-grandmother with a glamorous, well-traveled past. Donning a seriously caliente new wardrobe and a vivacious persona to match, she becomes Carolina, a half-Cuban aspiring actress ready for adventure.

Once at school, everything goes according to plan. Putting her primo acting skills to use, she flirts up Erik, a smooth-talking frat guy with gorgeous baby blues--who can't get enough of her "exotic" charm. The only person who doesn't seem impressed by her Latina facade is Peter, a quiet, sweet Cuban guy from Miami. But when "Carolina" gets in over her head and finds herself in a dangerous situation, it's Peter who comes to her rescue--and leads her on a real adventure to discover the truth about Nana Ellie and her family. It turns out that being boring old Caroline is way more exciting than she ever could have imagined.
I'll say upfront that I consider Barb Ferrrer a friend. I met her briefly at Nationals last year, before she transformed into a Maggie Gyllenhaal-dress-wearing RITA winner. Now we share the same Awesome Agent and are currently supporting each other as we struggle to fulfill Awesome Agent's grand plan for us. (She has plans within plans.) I love her like dark chocolate with raspberry filling.

But until my recent trip to Chicago, I hadn't read any of her books. These situations used to make me a little bit nervous. What if I hate it? What if the best thing I can say is that it's not quite to my taste? Luckily, I have a lot more author friends now, and telling them what I genuinely think of their work is not so hard as I once thought it must be.

That said, I adored this book. I haven't read YA since I was, well, a young adult myself, so I'm curious what an 18-year-old would think about how accurately she captured the spirit of today. All I know from my perspective is that I kept seeing parts of my high school and college self in Caroline--her restlessness, her need for change, and how she always had her eyes on the future. I remember that. I remember feeling like I would never grow up fast enough. Ferrer captures the sense of youthful urgency in a way that felt, to me, incredibly authentic.

And I completely fell in love with Peter. Apparently I'm not the only one.

It would be nice, however, if one day I read about frat boy who isn't slimy. Granted, Erik is not all bad and he makes great strides throughout the book. But I just didn't trust him. Is it because of experience or because of stereotypes? I'm not sure. But I didn't believe for a second that he was her happily ever after (as much as you can have an "ever after" in YA).

I'm not giving too much away here by saying that my favorite part was the lack of a Big Misunderstanding. Usually, by romance conventions, anyone who goes about taking on a persona that is not her own is eventually found out, the result of which is a gigantic blow-up of histrionic proportions. Not so here. The deeper issues offer stronger potential for growth between the characters, issues that have little to do with Caroline's charade. I found the change refreshing and very welcome, because Caroline and Peter's realism deserved better than plot clich├ęs.

Last thought: I would like to apologize to my waitress at the hotel restaurant for making her worry. One part in particular made me cry while I was eating my portobello bisque. She actually came over to the table to make sure I was okay. I'm fine, I said. Just a really good book.

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