Kirkus Reviews QR Code
CARMEN by Walter Dean Myers


by Walter Dean Myers

Age Range: 13 & up

Pub Date: April 26th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60684-115-0
Publisher: Egmont USA

As he did with Swan Lake in Amiri & Odette (2009), Myers takes a classic story and gives it a new twist and fresh voice. This time, it’s a spin on Bizet’s Carmen, which in turn was based on a short story by Mérimée. The elements are essentially the same as the opera, but they are updated to an American urban setting: present-day Spanish Harlem. Carmen is an 18-year-old factory worker, feisty and freedom-loving, the “brightest star in their universe.” She loves falling in love, but she is too independent to ever belong to a man; for her, there’s no por vida. José is not a soldier here, but a love-obsessed police officer; and Escamillo is not a bullfighter, as in the opera, but a 28-year-old rapper-turned-filmmaker who fancies himself “knee-deep in fantastic!” Ego as much as romance is the tie that binds here, and camp passion and operatic melodrama—with a hearty dash of Shakespearean sexual humor and innuendo—are the ingredients that make the story work. Factory workers and business owners, police officers and computer hackers, hip-hop and Bizet bring the stage alive in a script that comes complete with stage directions and cued sound effects. A perfect match with Jen Bryant’s The Fortune of Carmen Navarro (2010), a prose refresh of the same classic tale, and a great choice for high-school theater productions. (Drama. 13 & up)