The Victoria in My Head

400p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481480895.
Gr 9 Up—Victoria Cruz's parents expect her to go to Harvard. She attends prestigious Evanston Academy to study hard and score a scholarship. Her life is all laid out, a trail of future glory; at least, according to her hardworking Cuban immigrant parents. She appears to comply with overachieving expectations until she decides to join a band. She quickly overcomes stage fright and social reticence to become lead singer, and to date first one of two male band members and then the other. Herein lies a weakness of the book. Victoria's self-esteem centers around these boys and what they think of her. While dating the band's ultra-nerd, Levi, Victoria feels lost without his affirmation. It takes a while to realize that her heart actually belongs to gorgeous girl-magnet, Strand. Despite Strand's tendency to be a player, his character provides one of the book's strongest appeals. Teens will be charmed by his slick humor and by the depth of his character. Readers will laugh out loud at the witty repartee between Victoria and Strand, and the romance will draw in those looking for a sweet love story. Each chapter heading is a song title, creating an automatic playlist. Another positive plot element involves Victoria's increasing appreciation for her family's Cuban heritage, although its handling stays at surface level.
VERDICT Fans of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park will appreciate this slightly off-kilter romance and its ready-made playlist.

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