The Captain & the Queen
The book opens with a ninety-year-old man lunging for our protagonist’s throat with a steak knife, threatening to kill him. Hooked? I certainly was. That’s the sort of opening my writing teachers always told me about: the kind that catches your attention and establishes character at the same time.
That, though, is just the prologue. The real action happens years earlier, when our protagonist and the older man’s daughter are both in high school. Even that action begins with a bang: Calista Christos steps out of a black Mercedes and knocks our protagonist, Mateo Nelson, speechless. That begins a whirlwind romance between a lower-middle-class Latino boy and a Greek girl who’s rich enough that she might as well be royalty.
Despite the class difference between them, this doesn’t always read like a star-crossed romance. It’s made clear multiple times that Calista’s father won’t stand for her dating someone either of Mateo’s class or his race, but Calista is more than happy to be involved with Mateo even so, as long as it’s kept a secret. Most of the book focuses less on the star-crossed and more on the romance, which is to its benefit. Mateo’s voice shines most when he’s wrapped up in his life, whether he’s worried about if his father might lose his job or thinking about his friends or Calista. He’s a football player, but he’s also a bit of a doofus in a way that only a high school senior can be. Everything’s either wonderful or terrible. The whole world might as well revolve around him. It hasn’t been so long since my own high school years that I’ve forgotten what it’s like, and Vega captures the mood perfectly.
I did have a couple complaints about the novel. Mateo’s voice does get a little overwhelming at points. The novel’s written in first person, and in some chapters there’s some exclamation to show how Mateo feels. In moderation, this gives a very good sense of his character and what’s going through his head. At times, though, it became a bit much, almost to the point of being irritating. The other thing that bothered me was when some phrases were off, such as when a character “got up on” another’s grill when the phrase is “got up in.”
On the whole, however, this book swept me away. I got caught up in Mateo’s head, laughing with (and occasionally at) him, and I rooted for him and Calista all the way. If you want a fun romance filled with reminders of what it was like to be young, look no further.
Chris Hayden has been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.
|Page Count||251 pages|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|