Monday, December 22, 2014

Piece of my Heart by Lynn Madalenna Menna | Book Review

TITLE: Piece of my Heart
AUTHOR: Lynn Maddalena Menna
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Merit Press / 2013
SOURCE: I received this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. 


Still in high school, Marisol Reyes gets the chance of a lifetime to be a real singer, and she leaps at it. After all, this is the dream she held on to, all the days and nights she spent growing up on means streets of East Harlem. Marisol never gave in--no matter what her boyfriend or her best friend had to say. Who cares if only one in a hundred pretty, talented girls make it? She will be the one. In her rush to fame, Marisol tramples on the heart of her loyal best friend, and Julian, the boy she loves. But will it be worth it?

One night at a private gig in the Hamptons, the little Latino girl with the big voice from East Harlem gets a severe reality check. A famous rapper who claims to be interested in her talents turns out to be interested in something else, threatening not only Marisol's dreams but her body and soul. Will the realities of the gritty New York music scene put out the stars in Marisol's eyes forever?

Thoughts and Reactions
I'm normally very careful about how I phrase reviews and I try to find something positive in almost every book I read. Constructive criticism and honest opinions are one thing, but I'm always wary of veering off into a rant. Piece of my Heart makes me wary for this very reason. I don't necessarily want to rant about it, but there was so much I disliked about it that it evoked some very strong emotions from me while reading it and let's just say my notebook isn't fit for public eyes. 

Piece of my Heart focuses on Marisol Reyes, a nearly eighteen year old girl who wants to make it in the music industry. She's had a difficult life, losing her father at a young age, growing up in East Harlem without a lot of money behind her to help support her dream. What she lacks in opportunities she makes up for in drive and the book focuses on her career path and the choices she makes to get to the top. 

I originally requested this book on NetGalley because the premise was intriguing; who can resist a good rise to fame story? Plus, it's a book about a woman of cover living in New York and we need more diversity in books. However, the book itself left me flat. The characters were not well drawn and there was absolutely nothing to the relationships. Throughout the book we're told that Marisol is driven, career oriented, but also pure and a good girl. This alone sets up problematic female relationships. The world the author built was so black and white; there was no room to build believable, dynamic relationships let alone set up a promising story arc. 

Marisol as a main character was absolutely abhorrent. She's set up as this good person, who stands her ground and follows her own path; she knows her limits and will stand up for herself and pursue what she wants. These are great traits for a female character to have. However, most of the novel has her tearing down other woman. You can't be a woman in the world and not support Marisol, that makes you a hootchie mama at best. 

I am so tired of reading about these toxic female relationships. Slut shaming, fat shaming, are all present in this book and none of the female characters support each other. They are constantly tearing each other down and Marisol is a huge perpetrator of it. Not only that, but the narrative supports it; it's not a character choice. Marisol is the good girl, the virgin whereas those who have had sex end up in sex tapes and are talked about, called skanks, you name it. I have absolutely no time for that. If it's one character who does it, sure, maybe, but for all of them to do it; there are clearly judgements being passed not only by the character, but by the story itself. I think the best example is when the "mean girl" (and let's face it, they're all mean girls in this one) films a sex tape with her boyfriend and another woman it's the girl's ex who gets all the attention because poor him he must be so embarrassed. Must we shame women for their sexuality in this way; could there not be a reasonable discussion about these topics? Of course, there's the classic fight with your best friend oh well now she's your enemy, better comment on her looks. 

Not only do I have some serious issues with these characters, but it was poorly written. It read like pure exposition. The reader is constantly told things. We're told that Marisol is pure. We're told that she's in love with Julian. We're told that she's over her schoolgirl crush on Diego Salazar, popstar. We never actually see these things. Marisol rarely interacts with others for one. Plus, when she does she's all over the place as a character. The writing also gets incredibly repetitive as the same statement is repeated multiple times. Yes, we know that Marisol and Julian will never really be over because they are so in love; it's too bad they're both seeing other people at the moment. It can also be juvenile at times, using odd slang such as "you've got such a rockin' little bod." Perhaps that is how people talk, but it felt like a poorly written play. Dialogue that's just a little off in a way you can't quite put your finger on.  

I would not recommend this book and I hate to write such a negative review, but I received this book in exchange for an honest opinion. I'm just so tired of reading books that perpetuate negative female stereotypes in this fashion. There were other issues I had with it that I just don't have the energy to go into because when I start to type I get so angry thinking about the plot points that I've already mentioned. Not every female relationship has to be a positive one, but I cannot stand behind a book where women are constantly tearing each other down and perpetuating the myth of the virgin and the whore. 

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