I recently read Danielle Burnette’s The Spanish Club, a contemporary novel which takes place in Mexico as a high school’s Spanish Club travels there from Chicago to soak up history, practice the language and take in the summer sights during the World Cup. Their tour guide, Miguel, shows them around the pyramids, and they later travel to the interior of Mexico and end up in Puerto Vallarta on the West Coast. The students travel by bus, and lively minor characters abound.
The novel centers around two seventeen-year-old best friends, Brianna and Dana, who share a close bond, and now Dana will sadly be moving away at the end of the summer right before their senior year. Both of them deal with a family secret where they feel deeply betrayed, but it’s the transformation of their personal friendship that interests me the most. When Brianna slowly finds herself falling in love with Enrique, one of the students on the tour, this creates problems for Dana, posing a threat to the established order.
I enjoy reading novels about the ups and downs of female friendships, and Brianna is a strong heroine and easy to like. Dana is more flawed and operates from a place of hurt. She cannot be trusted to give the best advice, and she creates problems between Brianna and Enrique, having the tendency to play games.
Throughout the novel, Brianna advances toward and retreats from both Enrique and Dana as she tries to figure out what’s best for her. The problem of whether or not to trust Enrique comes into play more than once. Brianna goes through a series of dilemmas that require her to make choices she hasn’t had to make before. Can she trust the person she’s falling in love with? Can she trust her closest friend? Can she trust herself?
Brianna travels through her problems with honesty and integrity, and this is the thing I like most about the book. She’s a good role model, especially for teenage girls. I am reading the novel from a mother’s point-of-view, a grandmother’s point-of-view, and it’s nice to come across a heroine with a strong sense of herself. I would especially recommend the book because of this.
Another plus was the vivid description of the setting. I have traveled extensively throughout Mexico, and it was nice being reminded of some of the places I had visited. Miguel is a fun tour guide and the book is filled with historical facts and sprinkled with Spanish.
The pace of the novel is at first slow and easy, as are the days themselves, and picks up as the conflict intensifies. The ending was a complete surprise.