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The Perfect Teresa

The Perfect Teresa

Take a moment and remember what happened to you in high school. For some people, this was a den of depression, oppression and pain. As teenagers, we’re severely lacking in skill and experience, yet we need to navigate a world that expects us to act like grown ups. Many a poor decision has been made in high school that can go on to affect our lives for decades afterwards. In The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva we have an example of just that. Our protagonist is a jaded 43-year old woman working in corporate America. She surely hasn’t had it easy and while not everything can be blamed on her high school experience, what she clings to from that time is definitely ruling her life. Teresa can’t move forward and she’s trapped in this sad, drunken life where happiness eludes her. It’s not until she crashes hard into rock bottom that she is given a chance for a do-over, thanks to a talking coyote.

Our protagonist isn’t all quite there. It’s clear that she’s broken and she’d rather blame everyone else than accept any sort of responsibility for it. This tale is told in the first person and is showcased in such a way that it feels like the reader is Teresa herself. We’re privy to her thoughts, her neurosis and her desperate attempt at avoiding herself. She’s miserable and her life sucks. There is no denying that. Silva does an excellent job with the imagery and how the story jumps around Teresa’s mind. It’s hard to do that and keep the story on track. Silva is clearly talented in this realm.

Even the time skip is well done. It’s hard to shift from present day to the past and keep in mind how things have changed: technology, manner of speech, what is and isn’t popular with teenagers. Silva either did some great research or potentially tapped into their own past in order to recreate what it was like in the late ‘80’s for teenagers. This isn’t easily done, and the book is better for it.

Using deities from various mythologies can be a bit messy, but Silva focuses on what would suit our protagonist. She is of Latin-American descent and the use of Quetzalcoatl and our friendly talking-coyote Piltzintecuhtli, or Pill for short, makes sense. For an Aztec deity, Pill dislikes the use of profanity and seems to have an attachment to Teresa. It is well known that the gods will favour a mortal here and there for their own amusement. Is Pill the same?

Combining a slice-of-life with a timeslip can bring about a unique experience. Instead of the washed-up twenty-something that usually happens in stories like this we have a woman who has really lived her life and come to regret it. The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva is a story about self-search, self-love and acceptance. What Teresa accomplishes through her foray through time is a lesson to be learned by all. This is a must read for anyone looking for excitement, adventure and even just that gentle reminder that things will be okay.

Pages: 421 | ASIN: B06XG2GT22

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Echo

285113704 StarsEcho by Marguerite Valentine is a coming-of-age tale that dabbles with mental instability and the crazy world of teenagers. It starts off slow as we learn about the main character, Echo, and her turbulent relationship with her mother. Echo is an adult when she starts telling her story, and goes back in time to when she was nine years old. She grew up in a single parent household and it’s obvious that there are strained feelings with her mother. The story is told in the first person as Echo tells us of her summers in Wales and meeting a boy, Ifan, who seems much like an apparition. The story weaves and turns as Echo grows up and learns more about who she is and how the idea of sex can have such power. Without giving too much away so as not to spoil the read let’s just say that Echo goes on a very long journey of self-discovery that both begins and ends at the farm in Wales.

The tale is broken into six parts and takes place mainly at the farm in Wales and then in London, England. The split between nature and the bustling city serves as a good divide for Echo’s life: the farm holds her youth, her innocence and her naiveté. The city holds her adult life, her disillusions with society and her pain.

The story jumps about and the grammatical issues can sometimes detract from the actual tale. As we learn more about Echo it becomes easier to attribute the choppy parts and the strange emotions the main character seems to go through to the fact that Echo is a teenager dealing with the complexity of growing up.

The central themes of self-discovery and dealing with abandonment are very prevalent in this story. Echo knows only her mother, whom she dislikes, and subsequently gets rejected or hurt by every male presence in her life. These are very real and heavy themes, but the way Valentine has Echo react to their heaviness is very realistic. Echo has been at a disadvantage from the beginning. While she has food to eat and roof over her head she is never treated quite like a child should be allowed to be. This becomes very important later in the story as we watch Echo make some questionable choices. It’s impossible for Echo to react in a ‘normal’ way because she was never taught how.

Aside from some continuity errors, Echo was definitely a more realistic coming-of-age story that suits our current world. There are no rose-colored glasses as Valentine gives us the very raw experience of Echo and her journey to adulthood.

Pages: 278 | ASIN: B0196YHSNC

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