Weeks ago, my friend Britt (of Confessions of a Book Habitue, and please pretend there’s an accent on that last ‘e’) and I decided that–for kicks–we’d read something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue; I chose Parrot in the Oven: mi vida for my something old, because I’m pretty sure I bought it while I was still in college. (I graduated from BYU in 2000–how is that 17 years ago?!) Which means that I’ve moved it five times or so, possibly more.
It may be only a mass market edition, but still.
I will, however, NOT be moving it again. I’m bailing on it. In fact, if it had been longer, I’m not entirely sure I would have finished it. I’m in a list-making mood, for some reason, so here is my review in pros and cons:
- It was an interesting book–and it read quickly.
- It didn’t have a terrible ending.
- It will probably speak to Latino teens in less-than-ideal situations–at least to some degree. Certainly it will appeal to teenage boys far more than it did to me.
- It was basically well-written. Some reviewers took exception to the episodic nature of the book, but it worked.
- Martinez’s metaphors (isn’t that just fun to say?) get heavy handed.
- At least half of the Spanish words and phrases that I googled were words I didn’t care to know (although I suppose that explains why they didn’t sound even remotely familiar in the first place).
- While I had compassion for a few of the characters, I didn’t find most of them to be particularly likable.
- The main character’s little sister exhibits, within the same chapter, traits of an infant, a toddler, and a kindergartener. If you don’t know anything about small children, don’t write about one OR do your homework; a child who must be watched constantly so that she doesn’t fall off of the couch should not, in the same scene, tie her own shoe. My hubby pointed out that this is also poor editing, but seriously?
- I don’t particularly enjoy reading about characters in bad situations who make self-defeating choices. I know it happens, but I don’t find reading about it to be entertaining.
There you have it. In my opinion, there’s a reason that, while it won the National Book Award in 1996, I purchased a bargain copy–a remainder–sometime before the fall of 2000. Parrot in the Oven apparently came out at the perfect time, but it has flaws, and those flaws diminish its staying power. The good news, of course, is that I’ve read it, and now it can leave my house! On to something new!