She is the envy of every teenage girl in Mexico City. Her mother is a glamorous telenovela actress. Her father is the go-to voice-over talent for blockbuster films. Hers is a world of private planes, chauffeurs, paparazzi and gossip columnists. Meet Camilla del Valle Cammi to those who know her best.
When Cammi s mom gets cast in an American television show and the family moves to LA, things change, and quickly. Her mom s first role is playing a not-so-glamorous maid in a sitcom. Her dad tries to find work but dreams about returning to Mexico. And at the posh, private Polestar Academy, Cammi s new friends assume she s a scholarship kid, the daughter of a domestic.
At first Cammi thinks playing along with the stereotypes will be her way of teaching her new friends a lesson. But the more she lies, the more she wonders: Is she only fooling herself?
I think my main problem with this novel was that it wasn’t a story – it was a long essay. The book is written in the perspective of Camilla, a Mexican girl who has recently immigrated to the US, and the storytelling style, while in the first person, is frequently in the past tense, and goes off into tangents. It felt more devoted to dumping as much information on Mexican culture in one novel as possible, rather than a story about a girl who needed to check her privilege.
Camilla lies about her parents in an effort to see how racist her classmates can be, because she was surprised to find that it is so. Which makes me question how she could have been surprised when she herself says that she watches a lot of American media. I could tell you how racist people I assume are in the US towards Indians just by the portrayal of Indian-American characters! Ignoring the fact that she doesn’t even try to correct them and let racist stereotypes be perpetrated, most of this goes unchallenged by her own brother, who is more concerned with her lying than the fact that she is doing the former. In fact, with the exception of Milly, no one else tries to correct her on that front, and her racist so-called friends had only been so because they wanted to have a ‘diverse’ friend in their group.
I am so out of eyerolls at this moment, because the book before this had put me in a bad mood. The book, while trying to be culturally inclusive, is wrapped in the bland package of ‘trying too hard’ and mediocre descriptive writing. My only consolation over it all was that it was only a blessed 200 pages; I couldn’t have been happier to see the last chapter – well, until I realized it was a preachy thank-you speech of sorts. While the cultural diversity in the book comes through, there was one point in the book when Camilla joked that she was possibly schizophrenic; excuse me, being a liar who leads a double life doesn’t make you schizophrenic and it is insensitive to paint a mental illness in such a manner. Camilla’s mother’s anxiety was mostly abandoned after that plot point was made, and it served mostly as a plot initiator than a plot arc.
Overall, the book is blandly written and boring, and even the lush details on Mexican culture can’t make up for that fact.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Random House Children’s, via Netgalley.