Saturday, February 23, 2008

La Perdida by Jessica Abel

La Perdida has been hovering around in my to-read pile for a loooong time and I finally read it this week. (I’m a little embarrassed it has taken me so long, I almost didn’t want to post about it so no one would know.) While I was reading, I was thinking “Man, this is good! I think I’ll title my post about it Wanderlust, Vol. 3 to go along with French Milk and Japan Ai.” Hrm. I was wrong. Well, only about the second part. It was good. Really, really good.

Twenty-something Carla is disillusioned with American politics and lifestyle and heads for Mexico City to “get in touch with her roots.” She plans to visit an ex-boyfriend, though she knows pretty much all along that she will stay longer than just a vacation. She spends the first part of the book visiting Frida Kahlo’s house, Teotihuacán, and other touristy places. (This is the part that made me think Arghthisissocool,IwanttogotoMexiconoww... , and I read later that a lot of it was based on Jessica Abel’s time in Mexico.) Carla wants to see the “real” Mexico, too, though, and is frustrated that the ex-boyfriend doesn’t seem to do anything but hang around with other American expats. She falls in with a group of Mexican Communists who show her a more authentic experience, but the reader knows from fairly early on that this isn’t going to turn out well. Memo, the leader of the new group, seems sleazy all the way through, and Carla’s insisting that he’s really a good guy, just misunderstood, only makes him seem sleazy and manipulative.

Things go along pretty well for a while, though; Carla gets a job teaching at an English school and starts dating one of the guys in the group. They hang out, go to parties, and Carla doesn’t seem too concerned that the boyfriend pays his rent (or rather, fails to pay his rent) by selling pot. Some big red flags go up for the reader, though, when the local drug lord starts asking questions about Carla’s ex-boyfriend - who knows he’s there, where he works, and just how much that trust fund kid is worth. The ex-boyfriend disappears and it’s clear to everyone but Carla exactly what happened. What’s not clear, though, is how in the world she’ll get out of this.

La Perdida was a 2006 Cybils finalist, but our library has it in adult, which seems like a wise move. Very, very good, though.


joanna said...

I love your note about feeling embarrassed about posting an older title. You give me courage! (as I finish reading Kampung Boy)

Jenise said...

FYI Jessica Abel will read from LA PERDIDA at Book People on May 29th at 7pm!

Bring your friends!

joanna said...

Wow! I will be there. Laura, come down!