Two households, alive with Mariachi music,
In fair San Antonio, we lay our scene,
From ancient bitterness break new passion…
Hi lovers of libros, today I’m reviewing a book with the prettiest cover! West Side Love Story by Priscella Oliveras is inspired by Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet.
This Romeo and Juliet retelling is a super fun read. Undecided what R and J retelling to pick up? I will probably not help you narrow down your choices. However, West Side Love story has the main characters in rival Mariachi bands!
Mariana Capuleta and Angelo Montenegro come from rival families, but on New Year’s Eve, they share a midnight kiss. Their chemistry is instantaneous, but they part ways shortly after. Months later, Mariana and her Mariachi band, made up of her sisters, perform at a quinceanera, and at the end of the night, Angelo asks Mariana to dinner. She agrees despite knowing who each other is, and the two begin to text.
However, both of their Mariachi bands are competing against each other. Mariana hopes to win and use the prize money to help pay off her parent’s debts. But tensions only rise when both heads of the Capuletas and Montenegro’s are present in the competition hall.
So the host tasks Mariana and Angelo to keep their families under control and to make sure the focus of the competition remains on the charity they’re supporting. This only brings Mariana and Angelo closer, and soon they are texting daily.
But Mariana is busy with work and band practice. All in the hope to win the competition and fight the gentrification that’s slowly sprawling towards her side of San Antonio.
Angelo supports his uncle’s perspective and believes gentrification has some benefits. But the more he speaks with Mariana, the more he begins to reconsider, and then he gets a glimpse at a dark side lurking in his uncle.
I loved that the rivalry between the Capuletas and the Montenegros stemmed from a broken-up Mariachi group and a love triangle.
Truly Iconic. GIF
I haven’t stumbled on another mariachi romance. So this was an extra treat and instant read for me. I also loved that the author meshed the fight against gentrification with a Mariachi storyline. If you live in a predominantly BIPOC neighborhood, you may have noticed the effects of gentrification in your area. Mariachis still exist and continue to thrive, but I’ve personally noticed their absence. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out Netflix’s episode of Gentified “(Name of episode).
Mariana’s story’s arc is entwined with her battle to fight gentrification, and her mariachi group symbolizes that resistance. Julieta not only plays with her sisters, but her group only plays songs sung by Latina legends such as Selena and Gloria Trevi. Hugo, the head of Montenegro’s, contests Mariana’s group and believes their changes are blasphemous. Coincidentally he is also a fan of gentrification; and convinces his nephew Angelo that “change is good ” without considering the people who will be displaced. Or lend an ounce of empathy for other latinos as he tips off ICE.
Although Angelo feels an obligation to his uncle for taking him and his sister in after their parents passing. He knows he shouldn’t upset his uncle, but he cannot help but feel enamored of Mariana. He definitely risks it all to keep talking to her, much like Shakespeare’s Romeo. Angelo’s arc is more internal than Mariana’s, and he learns to set boundaries between himself and his uncle.
One of my favorite things about this retelling is that the Capuletas adopt and foster girls in the foster care system. The bonds between Mariana and her family are strong despite this. And when Angelo and his sister Brenda, begin spending more time with Mariana and her foster sister, they also become part of the family. I loved this commentary on family, and I thought it was interesting that the Capuleta daughters stay away from the Montenegros out of respect for their father. Their loyalty runs deep despite none of them having any direct involvement in the feud.
This novel does romanticize love at first sight for Angelo and Mariana, just as Shakespeare intended. While I am not the biggest fan of instant love stories, I do have my exceptions now and then. What I like about the love at first sight trope in this story is that the protagonists do not know each other’s identities. Angelo and Mariana share a New Year’s kiss and don’t see each other for many months after, and when Angelo realizes they come from rival families, he fails to stay away from Mariana. But Mariana is partially scared to attempt a relationship with her enemy. Because Mariana and Angelo have an angsty love at first sight story, I couldn’t help but love it.
Something I had not expected was the way that Hugo became the villain in this story. The feud between the families began with a fight over Mariana’s mother, and despite the years that have passed, Hugo has not forgiven either of them. Additionally, Hugo’s support of gentrification is ignorant, and there’s a point in this novel where he calls ICE to raid the Capuleta’s apartment complex. He sucks!
Overall, West Side Love Story is an adorable and thoughtful love story that examines the bonds of family, and by extension, the ability to form families. It’s a great summer read, and the love story is simply adorable. This story has a love scene, but it’s not too graphic and a fade-to-black moment.
Content Warnings: Sexism, Grief, ICE,
until next time book lovers let’s live in libros,
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