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4.0 4
by Walter Dean Myers

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Into the summer heat of New York’s Spanish Harlem strides Carmen, a chica who is as hot as the sizzling city streets. When she first meets José, she falls for him hard. He’s not like the gansta types she knows—tipo duros who are tough, who think they are players. But José has a quick temper, and he likes to get his own way


Into the summer heat of New York’s Spanish Harlem strides Carmen, a chica who is as hot as the sizzling city streets. When she first meets José, she falls for him hard. He’s not like the gansta types she knows—tipo duros who are tough, who think they are players. But José has a quick temper, and he likes to get his own way. And nobody gets in Carmen’s way. 

When Escamillo rolls into town, everyone takes notice of the Latino Jay-Z—a quadruple-threat singer/rapper/producer/businessman. But he only notices one person—Carmen. And Carmen has given up on José—he’s not going to get her out of her tough neighborhood, el barrio, and into the action. Escamillo will.

But José won’t let that happen.

Passion, love, and betrayal explode into tragedy in this modern retelling of an enduring love story. 

"...this concentrated dose of high drama is full of sharp repartee and would make a lively classroom read-aloud." - Publisher's Weekly

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Given how often Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has been reinvented, it's surprising that Bizet's famous opera has received little attention in the YA sphere (The Fortune of Carmen Navarro being a recent exception). Myers updates the classic story of doomed love with flair (and humor), moving the action from 19th-century Spain to present-day Spanish Harlem. The cast stays pretty much intact—sensuous, willful Carmen seduces a cop, instead of a corporal, before rejecting him for the flashier Escamillo, here a rap star/film producer. Written in script format like Myers's Riot and Monster, the story is broken up into two acts. The contemporary details will help it resonate with teens—instead of a smuggling ring, Carmen and her girlfriends are drafted to help pull off a massive credit card fraud. Bizet's opera broke new ground because it treated the emotions of its working-class characters with respect; Myers does the same. Though students unfamiliar with the opera may need some filling in, this concentrated dose of high drama is full of sharp repartee and would make a lively classroom read-aloud. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
A poor girl, living in the ghetto, tries to escape its grinding poverty. But by making poor choices in both life and in love, her fate is sealed. This familiar plot, which has formed the basis for countless books and movies, as well as the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet, is given a modern adaptation in this play/novel. Although the characters and plot are updated, the story stays close to Bizet's classic. Carmen becomes a worker in a wig factory, Jose becomes a police officer, and Escamillo becomes a rapper and filmmaker. The setting is Spanish Harlem. Myers interprets Carmen as a young, tough woman fighting against the odds and failing. The book is written as a play in two acts. The scores of some of the original music by Bizet are included, while two songs are given new arrangements by a modern composer, Kwame Brandt-Pierce. In addition to the music, the author includes a personal note explaining why he chose to write another adaptation of Carmen. While it is clear that the author is talented and passionate about his subject, it is less clear what kind of audience will be attracted to this book. Because it is written in play format, there is little or no description. The dialog, which must carry the story, unfortunately includes too much obsolete slang and stilted language, and far too many cliches. Then there are the characters themselves. In this adaptation, Carmen and most of the other characters do not come across as particularly sympathetic. It is, perhaps, unavoidable that this new version of Carmen seems to be a less powerful, and more pessimistic version of West Side Story. Reviewer: Leona Illig
ALAN Review - Laura Hermann
In this modern retelling of the classic opera, Carmen is a sassy and bewitching teenage factory worker in Spanish Harlem who falls in love with Jose, a violent, possessive police officer. When Carmen realizes that Jose is not who she thought he was, she leaves him for Escamillo, a wealthy hip-hop mogul who she thinks will get her out of the barrio. But Jose is not willing to let her go easily, and his passion ends in bloodshed. Walter Dean Myers presents his modern retelling in script form, complete with interspersed lyrics and Latino remixes of Bizet's music in the endnotes. Although teens who are not fans of the original opera may struggle to engage with the form and the sparse storyline, this book presents a great opportunity for reading aloud, cross-curricular work, or a study of modern appropriations of classics. Reviewer: Laura Hermann
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In this adaptation of Bizet's legendary opera, Myers transports Carmen from Seville to Spanish Harlem. A street-wise factory worker, she seduces José, a cop, and quickly leads him astray. Entranced by her beauty and unable to control his temper, he quickly makes a few rash moves that land him off the force and into a life on the fringe. Yet just as José loses himself to be with her, Carmen shifts her attention to Escamillo, a rap artist/entrepreneur recently returned to the neighborhood. José, unable to control his rage when Carmen flees to the arms of another, shoots her as she waits outside Escamillo's concert. Myers seamlessly pulls off the drama's transportation to a contemporary urban setting and, true to form, renders it accessible to today's teens. The dialogue quietly touches on deep social issues, especially in the back and forth among neighborhood characters and the police. Some of the more minor narrative threads prove a little weak in translation. For example, Micaela, the "good girl" José's mother hopes he'll marry, is somewhat underdeveloped. Unlike in the original, it is unclear how she is connected to his family, and why José is physically separated from his mother, which makes a few of their interactions feel somewhat random. This adaptation's authentic dialogue, fast pace, and readability, however, trump any minor imperfections. An excellent choice for reluctant readers, urban or otherwise.—Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.63(d)
NP (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Walter Dean Myers is one of the most renowned writers working today and has published in many genres, including nonfiction, picture books, poetry, historical novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is best known for his gritty urban YA novels, particularly those set in his beloved Harlem, including the New York Times Best-Selling Monster

Myers has received many awards and honors for his work, including two Newbery Honor Awards, the first Michael L. Printz Award, five Coretta Scott King Awards, the Margaret Edwards Award, the ALAN Award, and the new Virginia Hamilton–Coretta Scott King Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Walter Dean Myers grew up in New York City’s Harlem, where he sets this retelling of Carmen. You can visit him online at www.walterdeanmyers.net.

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Carmen 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No! Thats what makes me more mad. They said the only reason why is because she is nine years old. And i am going to court in october cuz they said that I pushed her off the cliff! Its so frustrating.
taMEka More than 1 year ago
I love the story of Carmen and Myers' adaptation is nice, but I don't like how it reads like a screen play. And the narrative of this book never mentions that it reads this way.
ElizabethMH More than 1 year ago
Thats a really boring comment......just sayin
epicrat More than 1 year ago
A modern-day telling of the French opera Carmen along the lines of what West Side Story did for Romeo and Juliet. Saucy and vivacious chica del barrio Carmen knows how to wrap guys around her finger, so when she sets her sights on Officer José, he never had a chance to resist. Carmen likes undying devotion in her men, but José gets a little too possessive to her liking. She drops him for the flirty rapper-turned-producer Escamillo which leads into a tragically explosive conclusion. I had been excited to read a Walter Dean Myers' modernization of Carmen, but I was not prepared for a script whatsoever. I wish I had been more familiar with Carmen and the music because it definitely contributed to my confusion as to what was going on and when the characters were breaking into song. As a cold reading, I couldn't picture what was happening - but I wonder how it would play out as a live performance. I'll have to keep an eye out for the accompanying music that is supposed to be part of this retelling.