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The Princess of Las Pulgas

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After her father's slow death from cancer, Carlie thought things couldn't get worse. But now, she is forced to confront the fact that her family in dire financial straits. To stay afloat, her mom has had to sell their cherished oceanfront home and move Carlie and her younger brother Keith to the other side of the tracks to dreaded Las Pulgas, or "the fleas" in Spanish. They must now attend a tough urban high school instead of their former elite school, and on Carlie's first day of school, she runs afoul of edgy K.T., the Latina tattoo girl who's always ready for a fight, even on crutches. Carlie fends off the attention of Latino and African American teen boys, and one, a handsome seventeen-year-old named Juan, nicknames her Princess when he detects her aloof attitude towards her new classmates. What they don't know is that Carlie isn't really aloof; she's just in mourning for her father and almost everything else that mattered to her. Mr. Smith, the revered English teacher who engages all his students, suggests she'll like her new classmates if she just gives them a chance; he cajoles her into taking over the role of Desdemona in the junior class production of Othello, opposite Juan, after K.T. gets sidelined. Keith, who becomes angrier and more sullen by the day, spray paints insults all over the gym as he acts out his anger over the family's situation and reduced circumstances. Even their cat Quicken goes missing, sending Carlie and Keith on a search into the orchard next to their seedy garden apartment complex. They're met by a cowboy toting a rifle who ejects them at gunpoint from his property. But when Carlie finds him amiably having coffee with their mom the next day -- when he's returned her cat -- she begins to realize that nothing is what it seems in Las Pulgas.

348 pages, Hardcover

First published November 16, 2010

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About the author

C. Lee McKenzie

21 books420 followers
I always have free gifts for visitors to my Blog, so stop by. Sign up and get your gift today, and you can see all of my work on Amazon. I'd love to connect with you on Instagram, too!

In my other life--the one before I began writing for teens and younger readers--I was a teacher and administrator at California State University, San Jose. My field of Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication has carried me to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages. I can say, “Where’s the toilet?” and “I’m lost!” in at least five languages and two dialects. Go ahead. Pat me on the back.

My idea of a perfect day is one or all of the following: starting a new novel, finishing writing a blockbuster novel, hiking on a misty morning trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saying Namaste after a great yoga practice, sipping a cappuccino topped at a bustling café, reading in front of a fire with snow outside, swimming in an ocean someplace.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 7 books121 followers
February 15, 2014
I enjoyed this book more than I expected, since I rarely read or enjoy YA unless they have a lot more going on for them than teenage romance. What I liked about The Princess of Las Pulgas was the look into a family that was turned upside down by the death of the father, and beyond that, the look into a school on the "wrong" side of town. You really feel for Carlie and her family, and want everything to work out for her, her brother and their mom. I liked that it was more about dealing with grief and difficult family issues than it was about romance.
Profile Image for Kyleigh.
203 reviews
January 16, 2011
Well, after that synopsis I really don’t know why I’m writing this review. That basically summed up the whole novel. I really, really enjoyed this book. I don’t know what it is about obscure novels that makes me think they aren’t going to be good, (well actually I blame that mentality on Her, Me and You) but they always turn out to surprise me and I end up loving them. Princess of Las Pulgas is much the same. While it is just traditional good teen drama, there’s always something refreshing reading about everyday life. Sometimes I just need to break away from the supernatural and get back to reality. Carlie is going through what many people will never have to experience. She loses her father, her home, her school, her friends, and eventually even her cat. Everything that was dear to her is suddenly taken away. Carlie comes from a wealthier neighborhood and looks down on Las Pulgas. “The Fleas” is the opposite of the very lifestyle Carlie once had. Her mom is forced to get a job at the supermarket to support their family, and Carlie is utterly ashamed. She’s so horrified by her new home that she won’t let anyone from her old life see it. While at first she is a bit snobbish towards her new surroundings, that is not the driving factor for her attitude. She’s suffering from a huge case of loss. It’s easy enough to judge someone in a novel for their actions, but would you really be any different? While I’m not one to pout and moan, the outbursts of attitude and anger I can definitely relate to. No one is above those kinds of actions. We’re human, and sometimes we just need to vent.

Carlie was very relatable and I grew to really connect with her character. While at times I did want to smack her for the way she acted, she really was a great person. Some of her friends however, I did not like so much. Lena is just a plain witch with a capital B! She’s can only talk about herself and when she does give Carlie the time of day it’s only to put her down. I was really happy that Carlie just didn’t let Lena treat her like that. She knew exactly what Lena was implying with her remarks and eventually Carlie had enough. Because of Carlie’s new surroundings and her new view on life, she sees Lena for who she truly is, a despicable excuse of a friend. While Carlie loses Lena she gains a true friend in Sean. While the first time they met was a bit interesting (she mistook him for a burglar) they’re friendship grows. He treats her politely and always knows how to cheer her up. He’s thoughtful, gorgeous, and gay. Don’t ya just hate how that always happens? I swear the hottest guys on this planet are gay. Sometimes being a girl is depressing. Despite the female populous’ mourning over such cases, Carlie accepts Sean for who he is and truly values his friendship.
While Carlie’s views on people are in upheaval, she comes to find that the kids at Las Pulgas aren’t as bad as she originally thought. Carlie and the female thug K.T. have more in common than Carlie could ever expect. Even Juan Pacheco, who nicknamed Carlie Princess, is starting to grow on Carlie. His slanted smile is enough for any girl’s knees to go weak. Plus well his name is Juan. Maybe it’s because I’ve had four years of Spanish, but that name just screams sexy. Like Alejandro… *waggles eyebrows*
This is a great story for any teen and very relatable to everyday life. Life can be rough, but it’s always a good reminder to look on the brighter side of things. I greatly enjoyed this book, and I’m sure many readers will as well. Carlie truly grows in this novel, and in the end discovers that she truly fits in with the fleas.
288 reviews14 followers
March 17, 2014
I have a confession to make. I am NOT a 16-year old girl. And, yet, I absolutely loved C. Lee McKenzie's The Princess of Las Pulgas, which IS about a 16-year old girl. I have read and enjoyed several YA books in the past that had teenage female protagonists - Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne and Wyndano's Cloak by A.R. Silverberry (his was a fantasy to boot) come to mind. So I'm not a novice when it comes to YA's. You can add this one to my recommend list. It's absolutely terrific.

I have to give you a warning right up front. Our protagonist, Carlie, loses her dad to cancer when Carlie is 16. That leaves Carlie, her 14-year old brother, Keith, and their mom. This is not a spoiler alert because we fine out about the dad on page 2. But this may influence whether or not you want to read the book or recommend it to somebody else. This is not a fun topic, but it obviously sets the stage for the rest of the book. And if you're talking about the beginning of a book grabbing you, I don't know how much more dramatic this could be.

What follows, and this all happens early on, is that Carlie and her family have to sell their house and move from a very upper middle class California city on the ocean to a much more "modest" area inland. Carlie and Keith have to go to a new school where Carlie is an incoming junior and Keith a sophomore. Really, the book is all about the transition from a school where Carlie's biggest worry is what dress to buy for the Spring Fling prom to a school where an armed security guard checks the arriving students each morning. This obviously wouldn't be easy for anybody.

Now you have the premise. What transpires is all believable to me. I felt a ton of emotion for many of the characters and did a fair amount (okay, a whole bunch) of tearing up along the way. In fact, some of my tearing up, if we're being honest here, was a little stronger than that. I avoided tears running down my cheeks, but I did have to blow my nose a few times!

I really can't tell you too much more. You need to read it and see how it all shapes up. I will say, though, that Lee had the opportunity to make this story sappy and maudlin - and she didn't do it. It felt honest to me and, as I mentioned before, totally believable. Since I've got 48 years on her, not to mention being a different gender, means, I guess, that you don't have to be a 16-year old girl to like this book. For those of you, though, that typically read only Jack Reacher, Mitch Rapp, Gabriel Allon, John Wells, and the like, this may not be the best book for you. For everybody else, have at it. I think you will thank me.

ASIDE: When our 9-year old granddaughter, Haley, was a few months old, and for several years after that, she went with Joni to a class called Music Together. For those of you who don't know what this is, it's basically an interactive music class for kids aged 0-4. Well, there's one song about a cat that eats mice. And the verse calls the cat "sleek and fat." On page 308, Carlie sees her cat after not seeing her for a few weeks and says that she is "sleek and fat." I had to smile at that one.
Profile Image for Courtney.
204 reviews39 followers
May 6, 2011
The Princess of Las Pulgas is about a girl who lost her dad to cancer and then is forced to move to Las Pulgas. Her mother tries desperately to keep up with the mortgage in Channing but with the medical bills left behind and the cost of the funeral she finally decides they have to move to Las Pulgas and she has to get a job. The move devastates Carlie and her brother Keith. The school is dangerous, their apartment complex is dangerous and they feel their lives are now an embarrassment. Carlie is nicknamed Princess because she puts on the snob attitude when she arrives at Las Pulgas.

This book was a very meaningful story about how to keep on moving forward after devastation. I won this book and had it sitting on my shelf for a while before picking it up because I have also lost a dad to cancer; I really wanted to read this story but I was also very nervous! The struggles Carlie went through were very realistic to life, the anger towards her father for dying-check, the anger towards herself for being mad at her dad and mom-check, the frustration with how her life will never be the same-check, and the pushing everyone away because you are scared they'll die to-check.

What I liked most about this book is the accurate portray of what a family goes through after a death like this, the mom, brother and Carlie were all very realistic characters and my heart went out to the family and the issues they were dealing with! I loved that Carlie stood up for herself too! I thought the story line was pretty unique with the added story about Carlie being in a play and the issues her brother went through too!

What I liked least about this book was the friends/people in Carlie's life. I really disliked the character of Lena, she was obnoxious, annoying and really reminded me of a 13 yr old girl instead of 16. I was also disappointed about Sean; I won't go in to why because I don't want to spoil the book but it was displeasing to me that he is the only nice guy in Carlie's life. I also felt like the secondary characters were just not well-developed. I wanted to love Juan, K.T. and all the rest more than I did but there just wasn't much to go on to fully love them!

I can't imagine dealing with the death of my dad without the help of God and that was the one thing lacking from this story, I would have loved to see Carlie turn to prayer to help her get through her pain but that is just my opinion.

All this being said, I would recommend this book to YA readers, especially those dealing with the loss of a family member or the stress of changing schools in high school. The book was clean for all those interested in knowing that.
Profile Image for Lynn Kelley.
Author 7 books22 followers
July 4, 2012
It's hard enough for any teen to change high schools, but Carlie is forced to switch in the middle of her junior year after her father dies and the family loses their home by the sea, the home Carlie has grown up in. An old, deteriorating apartment in lower class Las Pulgas is the only thing they can afford. Carlie's brother Keith hates life now and makes lots of enemies at the new high school where the students are a rough bunch. The other kids have no idea that Carlie is withdrawn and not so friendly because she's still mourning her father, the one who seemed to hold the family together. As if being targeted as an uppity snob isn't bad enough, Keith's new enemies take out their anger on Carlie.

Aside from living in fear, she's ashamed of her new digs and avoids letting her old friends know she's living in a dump. Her best friend is so caught up in her own social life, she's clueless about Carlie's plight. Carlie realizes she can't risk confiding in her so-called best friend.

As Carlie's loneliness and problems continued to mount, I found myself drawn into her life and worried about her safety, grieved with her over the loss of her father and the loss of the life she once knew, and sympathized with the displaced feelings she constantly faced. I cheered her on when she showed strength and began to fight back and stand up for herself. The story unfolds beautifully, especially with some unexpected turns that left me feeling satisfied with the way it ends. I'll never forget Carlie's poignant story.
Profile Image for Erin Fanning.
Author 10 books81 followers
May 2, 2016
This story of redemption, survival, and forgiveness features believable, likable characters and situations that readers of all ages will appreciate in an impossible-to-put-down novel that I consumed in about a day. Author C. Lee McKenzie is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA authors with a gift for capturing universal emotions which will have you cheering (and, at times, crying) for the heroine. Highly, highly recommended!
Profile Image for Jacqui.
Author 62 books179 followers
November 9, 2021
In C. Lee McKenzie's The Princess of Las Pulgas, (2013), High School junior Carlie's father dies leaving his upper class family to face a future without his income, where their abundant lifestyle must dramatically change. When the reality of their circumstances can no longer be ignored, Mom makes the tough decisions to move to her two teenage children to a different high school in a cheaper area, take away their cell phones and the bills associated with them, sell all but one of the family cars, and much more as she tries to feed her family on what is now their much-reduced income. Carlie's entire life has been one of comfort with no thought to how that was paid for. That is now gone. How she makes her severely altered circumstances work is the moral core of this story. Their journey is clever, realistic, instructional, and worth the read.

This is the theme of all of McKenzie's young adult books--putting teenage protagonists into impossible circumstances that can't be survived, and then McKenzie shows me how they make it work. In Not Guilty (click for my review), it was juvenile prison. In Double Negative, it was a toxic family life. Both buried the teenage characters in events that seemed intent on destroying them but instead made them stronger.

With an overall Amazon rating of 4.4 stars, you won't go wrong with this story.
Profile Image for Victoria Lees.
Author 3 books29 followers
October 8, 2021
The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie is a thought-provoking YA novel. The themes of loss, upheaval in life, of not fitting in are alive in this story. The novel depicts not only the teen protagonist Carlie, but the whole family trying to find balance in life after the death of Carlie’s father.

The characters are well-drawn, all self-absorbed in their grief, afraid of reaching out and helping each other. Carlie’s well-to-do family loses their beloved home and are forced to move into low-income apartments in a seedier part of town. McKenzie packs the novel with trials and troubles for the family. Carlie is a junior in high school and she’s ripped, mid-year, from her friends and her upscale school to attend what she believes is a lesser school.

Change. The only constant in life. And so very necessary for story. Carlie’s embarrassment, her change in circumstances and fellow students all contribute to her growth and change. Carlie doesn’t want anyone from her old life to see where she lives, where she attends school. She needs to learn to accept others as they are in order to find true friendship.

Time and truly noticing other people help Carlie to heal. She comes to realize that the people in her new life aren’t as bad as she once thought. The writing is fresh, the language original. Carlie is relatable. The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie is a good story for any teen struggling to find balance in life.
Profile Image for Kai.
407 reviews128 followers
June 2, 2011
Review posted at Amaterasu Reads

A heartfelt, heart-wrenching stunning tale of loss, hope and love.

With a family slowly falling apart because of her father's death, Carlie, her brother Keith and their mother had to leave behind the life of luxury and comfort they have known all their lives to make a new one for themselves. One far from the rich life. From a mansion overlooking the beach they were now in a cramped apartment in the seedy side of town, with neighbors screaming at each other, and mingling with kids with questionable characters.

Carlie was secretly grieving inside and it was slowly destroying her, hating everything and everyone in her new life, her new school, her new classmates. Her brother Keith was slowly giving in to the hatred he feels and their mother had to pick up the pieces their father left and try surviving with what was left of their family.

It was a struggle to read about Carlie. Going through the stages of grief was hard, and she had to do it in a new place she doesn't want to be. Hiding from friends, pretending and lying were her way to cope. I understood why Carlie was doing all those things. Everyone has their own way of coping up with the hurt and the loss, Keith took it out in school and Carlie found a way through writing.

The strength of character of each member of the Edmund family slowly but surely came out with each wrongs they did, each mistake they had to correct, each truth they had to accept. They're strong and though the problems keep on coming, they did not give up. Mrs. Edmund earned my respect, and I found myself liking Carlie so much.

Despite the seriousness of this novel, I loved reading about Carlie's life in school. Each person she met had their own story, their reasons why they behave the way they do and Carlie found unlikely friends and allies as she slowly pulls away from a life she couldn't ever get back and started building a better one with her friends in Class room number 9. Readers will meet diverse, interesting characters with depth that will add life to Carlie's gloomy world. Each one of them is important and characters such as K.T. and Alex felt like they were my own friends as I read about them.

Reading about Juan made me feel like I'm seeing Alex Fuentes from Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry. He might not be a bad boy, but Juan is the one guy who understood Carlie right from the start. He's the Othello to Carlie's Desdemona, and the perfect example of how prejudicial Carlie was. Because Juan Pacheco is not just the guy who works in Sam's Shack, or the boy who lives in a seedy hotel and works in a garage.

The Princess of Las Pulgas incorporates themes such as culture shock, stereotyping, and romantic conflicts in a story of one family's struggle to move forward, to see beyond the pain of losing a loved one as seen through a girl's eyes. The Princess of Las Pulgas gives hope to its readers.

C. Lee McKenzie's writes with simplicity and finesse. From the first page down to the last, readers will not be able to let go of this book as they journey through Carlie's life self-discovery, friendships, family and love.
Profile Image for Sallie.
Author 2 books96 followers
February 22, 2016
Nothing prepares you for the loss of a parent, nothing! We meet Carlie Edmund and her family at her father 19s bedside, on his death bed. All too soon, or maybe not soon enough, Carlie is drowning in the loud silence of grief. While being pummeled by an agony so deep that it bores into her bones, Carlie suffers yet another blow that further rocks her tremulous attempts at survival. The loss of her father, her safe harbor, support and comfort is followed by the loss of her family home. It 19s more than any 16 year old should have to deal with, but such is the nature of life, the harbinger of change isn 19t always good.

Carlie has never given any consideration to the accoutrements of her upper middle class life. Prior to her father 19s death, Carlie spent her days wondering who would ask her to the dance, shopping for designer clothes, texting friends and daydreaming while looking out her bedroom windows at the Pacific Ocean. But not anymore; Carlie, her brother, Keith, and her mother, Sara, move to the other side of town, to Las Pulgas. For Carlie, Las Pulgas might as well be Pluto. The shabby apartment complex 19s sidewalks are littered; dumpsters are conspicuously lined up and are an ugly welcome. The apartment doesn 19t provide the slightest refuge. The walls are thin, the neighbors are screaming, and music is blasting. For the first time in her life, Carlie is ashamed of what she doesn 19t have, her mother of what she can 19t provide and her brother of being forced to attend a school that he and his former track team mates held in low esteem.

The forced move is palatably agonizing for Carlie as she struggles with pain and guilt, Keith with anger, and Sara with loneliness and depression. They 19re all besieged, but it 19s Carlie who drives the story. The reader watches Carlie question who she is and her beliefs about people. Carlie learns of prejudices she didn 19t realize she had and not to judge or misjudge based on economic class and skin color. In other words, Carlie grows up, maturing, accepting and respecting.

There 19s so much more I could say, but I 19m trying not to giveaway away too much. But let it be said loud and clear, this is a must read! C. Lee McKenzie 19s story is beautiful and at times reads like poetry. For those who have experienced losing a parent, you will recognize C. Lee McKenzie 19s tableaus of the overt vestiges of grief as well as those known only to the individual as galvanic. There is nothing desultory in C. Lee McKenzie 19s delivery. Watch Carlie rise from the ashes of sorrow like the mythical phoenix and you will root for her every step of the way.

Reviewed by:
Sallie Lundy-Frommer
Author of Yesterday 19s Daughter
Profile Image for Brandi Kosiner .
995 reviews295 followers
January 1, 2011
We are hit hard right from the start in Princess. Emotions are running high and they stay that way.
I really appreciate how the passing of time is dictated: with sorrow at the holidays; remembrance and grieving for what they lost.
Some of the wording is so lyrical- ‘wrapped in a cocoon of grief”, “when I read what I just wrote, some letters aren’t clear. Even though I’ve turned a new page, the tears have made the surface rough, so Oct 22nd has bled through to a new day.” It makes me feel even more connected with Carlie.
I haven’t lost a parent but I have felt like my whole world has turned itself upside down and my heart broken. I can identify with Carlie in that respect. Her voice is powerful, emotional, and heart-felt. She is sarcastic and throws in dark humor at the right moments. I could stay in her head all day.
I really adore the voice of her Dad as she is dealing with stuff. It really shows me without tons of back-story how he loved her, taught her things, and made a huge impact on her life. I also love seeing the moments with her mom. They do not have a perfect relationship but it is good and normal. Well, as normal as can be expected. They fight, but ultimately they love one another and are there for each other. It is nice to see a parent/child relationship that is functional and what you may see in the real world. It doesn’t dominate the book, but it is there. I like it.
I love the secondary cast of characters- K.T., Keith, Jeb, Mr. Smith, Anthony, Sean. They all have something wonderful and unique to bring to this story. They have their own personalities and they are wonderfully written. Juan is a man in disguise but I really like what is revealed underneath.
PoLP is a heart-wrenching tale of loss, recovery, self discovery, and love- familial, friendship and amore. It proves through several avenues that people and places are not what they seem at first glance. I was entranced from page 1 and I flew through, wanting to find out what turn of events would bring, and what Carlie would learn about herself and others next.

One of my favorite quotes:
“Do you remember what I said that day on the auditorium steps about taking the jouney? …What I didn’t say was that many journeys, often ones you didn’t plan to make, take you to an unexpected destination that turns out to be exactly where you want to be.”
Keep your eye out in February for "Loving the Reviews" Challenge hosted by Sniffly Kitty and I. Ms McKenzie will be a part of our 'featured authors' and will be donating a prize.
Profile Image for Lawral.
169 reviews23 followers
January 23, 2011
Poor Carlie. After watching her father slowly die of cancer, a move across town might seem trivial; upsetting, but trivial. Fights with her mom, not getting asked out, rude neighbors, or a "pushy" English teacher (in the Tina Fey Mean Girls way) might also seem trivial. But all together? Carlie is helplessly watching her life fall apart around her.

Carlie's main problem with her new life in Las Pulgas is all the "poor people," as she sees them. Almost everything she dislikes about the people around her can be attributed to, in Carlie's mind, the fact that they are poor, or at least more poor and classless than the people she used to know. Even though Carlie and her family are in Las Pulgas because of financial problems, she doesn't see anything that she could have in common with her new neighbors and classmates. She puts on a tough front, but it's pretty obvious (to everyone) that she's just scared. She holds herself apart both because she feels she's better than those around her and also because the kids at her high school terrify her, something they pick up on all too easily. Eventually she makes a couple friends, but there is no Big Lesson about class consciousness. ::sigh of relief::

And through all of this growing and learning on Carlie's part, there are play rehearsals. The junior class is putting on Othello, and Carlie has been cast, against her will, as Desdemona. Opposite smokin' hot Juan. And Juan, very sweetly, refuses to take Carlie's crap. He calls her out on her assumptions about her classmates and about him. He drives her nuts (in good and bad ways), but he also protects her from some of her other, scarier, problems at Las Pulgas High.

For a while, this pile-up of problems distracts Carlie from the pain of losing her father. It's not as though she forgets about him or even stops being sad. She's just dealing with all of this other things first. But her father's advice keeps sounding in her head telling her to be strong, something she doesn't know if she can do anymore. When she finally faces her feelings about her father (with the help the scene in which Desdemona must say goodbye to her father), it is so real.

The Princess of Las Pulgas is an honest look at how Carlie deals with huge upheavals in her life, both a huge change of lifestyle and the death of her father. It still manages to be a suspenseful, romantic, and uplifting read.

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Melanie Goodman.
95 reviews15 followers
January 16, 2011
Carlie loses nearly everything: Her father dies of cancer, her mother can no longer afford their house and moves the family to an apartment in a seedy neighborhood, and her school zoning changes and she must attend an urban high school that’s a far cry from her elite suburban school. While she is grieving the loss of her father, she is also adjusting to a completely new lifestyle. Carlie is too ashamed of where she lives to tell her old friends about it, but too upset and aloof to start making friends in her new home and school.

When Carlie’s English teacher pushes her to play the role of Desdemona in the school’s theater fundraiser, Carlie reluctantly takes on the role. At first, Carlie continues to be uncomfortable around the kids in her new school, and they mock her apparent snobbishness, but over time she finds that there’s more to the people of Las Pulgas than she realized. The more time Carlie spends in Las Pulgas, the more she realizes that it might not be so bad after all.

C. Lee McKenzie’s The Princess of Las Pulgas is another enjoyable work of contemporary, realistic teen fiction from WestSide Books. The characters are multi-dimensional, more than the stereotypes initially used to portray them. The depiction of social class and prejudice is an important one, reminiscent of Perfect Chemistry, though perhaps not quite as steamy. While Carlie’s attitude is occasionally offputting, her behavior is generally excusable given her palpable grief. What ultimately makes Carlie so endearing is her ability to learn from her new circumstances, to begin letting people back into her life, and to reconnect with her mother and brother, who are adjusting just as much.

In many ways, The Princess of Las Pulgas resembles so many other books and movies that deal with similar topics, so I could see how you might cross this one off your list when reading the summary, but I would urge you to give it a chance. McKenzie’s writing is beautiful and often poetic, and she fills the book with a cast of charming side characters. Carlie’s potential love interests Sean and Juan, tough girl K.T., rifle-carrying orchard owner Jeb, and Quicken the cat are just some of the many supporting characters who make this book worthwhile.
Profile Image for Crystal.
545 reviews35 followers
June 10, 2011
The Princess of Las Pulgas is an amazing book. I could not put it down. It felt real, dealt with real situations, played on real sympathies and really didn't pull any punches. It's about finding yourself wherever you are and being true to yourself and knowing and finding your true friends. It is a feel-good book with important lessons and great entertainment value.

Carlie's life has dealt her a tough blow with the loss of her dad to cancer. While she's still reeling from that situation, she learns that she, her mom and her brother have to move from their house in Channing to Las Pulgas which is nowhere near the same type of area she is use to living in, it's a little rougher and their apartment is much smaller. Life is a big change for Carlie and her brother Keith and her mom as well. The high school is a real eye-opener for both of the siblings. Keith wants nothing to do with the track team, Carlie wants nothing to do with anyone, she wants to remain friends with her best friend Lena in Channing and her hopeful new boyfriend Sean who is also in Channing.

She however begins to meet some much more colorful people that teach her that people aren't always what they seem. The transition she faces is challenging but wonderful to watch. Both her, Keith and her mom have major changes to face and choices to make whether to accept what they have been given or just give up. The story is amazing and it flows so well. I love seeing Carlie change and also her brother Keith as well. The characters have very real reactions in this book and I loved getting to know the students as Las Pulgas was great too. Ms. McKenzie has a great way of bringing her characters to life and those characters shine in The Princess of Las Pulgas.

This will go down as one of my favorite YA books so far this year. It is just that enjoyable. If you want a wonderful contemporary YA novel then The Princess of Las Pulgas is for you.
Profile Image for Melissa (thereaderandthechef).
529 reviews169 followers
February 24, 2013
It's amazing how a book can pull you inside its story, make you feel as if you're going through the same path as the characters, and every feeling is as tough for you as it was for them. My heart suffered and recovered at Las Pulgas.

After the death of her father, Carlie, her mother and brother, have to move out out of their perfect life at Channing and join the community of Las Pulgas, California. It's a terrible ordeal for her and she is struggling to come to terms with the fact that everything will never be the same in her life again. She is ashamed of where the rest of her family came to end up in after the shock of losing her father. Their "new" apartment is not a place you would call fit for living and what would her friends think about her living at such a run-down place? A complete nightmare that gets worse once she enters her new school and has to deal with tough attitudes and glares from everybody.

To be honest, you have to be patient with Carlie throughout the whole story. Juan is right, she does act like a Princess from Channing, looking at her new classmates in Las Pulgas High as if they were the worst you can come across in the whole world, but it's because she is suffering and missing her father, that along with his death, her confidence was taken away too.

Surprinsingly, my favorite character came to be K.T., who turned out to be a cool girl after all. At first I was afraid of her just like Carlie, but learning more about her made me understand her attitude and sense of humor. Just like they say, it does us no good to question someone without knowing their background, for everybody is battling a war of their own.

I'm so glad to have come across with this very realistic story. It's clear that you really do have to look twice or thrice in everything that surrounds you. Things aren't what they really are and even in the toughest situations there will always be an opening where the light will break through.
If life moves on, then so do you.
Profile Image for Diana.
98 reviews
January 22, 2011
The very first line of the book basically gives you a feel of what the book is about. "Last night I pleaded with Death, but he turned a bony back to me, pushed Hope into the corridor and shut the door." (Page 1)

Carlie has recently lost her father to cancer and all her family is suffering from this loss. They have to move to a city that is the complete opposite of what they are all used to. They must adjust to their new life and make many sacrifices. As they spend more time there, they find that things may be different than what they thought they would be.

At the beginning Carlie isn't happy the way her life is shaping up to be. Her new school is nothing like the one she went to before and there were many things that she had to learn. At first she wasn't happy at her new school and didn't try to fit in but as the story progressed she noticed that there were many good things in Las Pulgas.

There were so many emotions that passed through her and I think it's a reason why I liked this book so much. She felt anger towards her dad for having died and left them the way they are but at the same time she's sad he isn't there anymore. One thing I loved is when her dad talked to her in her mind when she needed guidance.

Her mom and brother, Keith, had a lot of adjusting to do and the reader could tell the different ways that each were handling their problems. Keith gets in trouble but at the same time that brings him to accept their new reality. Their mom was always hurting for what had happened to her and her way of life had to change.

There were some amazing characters each dealing with different problems that I think brought them together. The ending was one that I really liked! It was emotional but I think it suited the book well. I had high hopes for this book and I'm glad to say that I loved it!
June 15, 2011
Princess of Las Pulgas is one of those books that brings you back to reality, away from the of the paranormal craze. C. Lee McKenzie's Carlie is a unique character put in a unique situation. After her father dies she is forced to grow up in many ways, even in ways that she is not aware of.

From the first page Carlie's story became very personal. Having lost a parent Carlie feels many emotions: sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, and even guilt and relief. Unless you have lost a parent it is very hard to understand what Carlie goes through; however, C. Lee McKenzie fills that gap wonderfully.

Carlie is thrown into a new world that she doesn't understand and doesn't want to understand. After her father dies her mom can no longer sustain the life style they have become accustomed to - in short, they become poor, have to sell their home and move into a very small apartment and attend a very different type of school. No matter how Carlie looks at it, life cannot get any better.

Carlie cannot let go of prejudices she once held against people and places - people and places that did not represent her 'old' life in any way. Then her English teacher volunteers her for the lead role in the school play. Just as in the play, the concept and affects of death plays a vital role in her life. And as in the play, these concepts are worked out in some form or another.

While there is a love interest in the novel, C. Lee McKenzie does not make it the main attraction. This is a perfect break from novels that make 'romance' more important than a life changing event. Carlie and her experiences are real. She transforms in front of your eyes from a girl to a woman. You will cry tears of sadness and joy, get frustrated at Carlie, and root for her. You won't be able to not add this to your favorite's list!
Profile Image for Beverly McClure.
Author 17 books453 followers
January 28, 2012
If you’ve ever lost a family member, you know how devastating it is and how your whole life changes. Then, if circumstances cause you to have to leave the home you’ve grown up in and live in a new place totally different to what you’re used to, it’s understandable that you’ll be bitter and hate your new life. At least at first.

Author C. Lee McKenzie’s latest novel for young adults, The Princess of Las Pulgas, deals with such a situation. When Carlie Edmund’s father dies, she loses not only the father she loves but also her home and her friends. Unable to afford their expensive beach house any longer, Carlie’s mother sells it and they move to Las Pulgas, the worst place in the universe Carlie can imagine living. Even the cat, Quicken, is upset and runs away. Carlie and her younger brother, Keith, also have to attend a new school where Juan, the boy with the big smile, gives her the nickname Princess because he says she acts like royalty. Carlie has a lot to learn about the students in her new school as well as her old friends from Channing. And along the way little whispers in her heart remind Carlie of advice her father gave her. To me, these whispers show how close Carlie and her father were and how she is hurting for him.

Ms. McKenzie has written a touching story about love and loss, family and friends, and how we can misjudge people when we don’t really know them. This book would make a great addition to school libraries to help students that may be going through a situation similar to Carlie’s and also for your own personal library.


I won a copy of this book in the author’s contest.
Profile Image for Jessi.
319 reviews42 followers
December 29, 2010
This book is a heartfelt look at a girl going through the grieving process after losing her father and basically everything and everyone she knows and loves. In moving to the rough neighborhood of Las Pulgas, Carlie must learn to deal with people that are different from her in the way they cope with life, and she has to learn to cope in her own way. One of the strengths of this book was that it was real. Everything felt natural and exactly the way it would happen in real life.

The diversity of the people that Carlie meets was what drew me to the book and was also my favorite aspect of the book. I felt that the characters were diverse without being stereotypical for their race or gender or sexual orientation. Having taught in a rougher part of town in the past, I wondered if the characters would have a realistic feel, and they did not disappoint.

My favorite supporting characters were the two boys that Carlie has a "thing" for a different times throughout the book - Sean and Juan. Sean is just that hot but nice character that you've gotta love, and he ends up being fairly surprising. Juan is just ... dreamy. I like the way he challenges Carlie's preconceived notions about Las Pulgas.

The ending felt a little too easy for me in some places, but I loved the way it showed all of the problems in Carlie's life coming full circle. This is a satisfying read with some great life lessons for teens.
146 reviews28 followers
January 20, 2011
The cover of this book does not do it justice. I feel like the cover is very plain and nothing special. The Princess of Las Pulgas is not plain and is most definitely something special.

C. Lee McKenzie is a wonderful author and her talent shines through in this book. The plot idea may not be something out of this world unique, but it is a touching, coming of age story. I loved reading about Carlie's every day life and how she was working through all of her problems. It sounds quite boring, but the way it was written really made it interesting. It wasn't a on the edge of your seat, or gripping you story, but it was very interesting.

Carlie was your average teenage girl. She had her ups and mainly downs, but she really grew as the story went on. I loved seeing how she grew as and her attitude diminish. Her family, teacher, and friends all played important roles too. C. Lee McKenzie crafted them just enough to be important, but not overpowering.

The only complaint I have is that the book was quite predictable. This was to due with the fact that it is not the most unique story. What it lacks in that area the author makes up for in the writing and characters though.

Overall I wasn't expecting this story to be that good, but it was and more. I recommend this book to everyone, especially teenagers.
Profile Image for Jinky.
538 reviews8 followers
March 13, 2011
The grabbing opening line, Last night I pleaded with Death, but he turned a bony back to me, pushed Hope into the corridor and shut the door. Now here's a YA that has meaning! Right from the beginning you knew you were in for a conflict of the heart. A story of bereavement but more about the gain in the long run. A careful, soft portrayal of a grieving family's process of loss. Incorporate a story with culture shock, Othello, and stereotypes and you've got yourself a book that didn't dwell on the grief but rather emphasized on growth and moving forward ...but never forgetting the pain of loss. A moving read. Beautifully crafted.

The cast of characters was awesome. Each brought substance to the plate. Their predictability worked for me here. I liked the classic lesson of not judging by appearance. I especially enjoyed the lessons of sacrifice, perseverance, and friendship. Hooray for characters with tenor! Well done, Ms. McKenzie.

I'm glad I won this book. Thank you Brandi @Blkosiner's Book Blog for holding the contest. I had really wanted to win this one. The title tickled my curiosity (Las Pulgas means fleas in Spanish) and the blurb along with your review gave added interest.

***Find this review and more at Jinky is Reading
Profile Image for Medeia Sharif.
Author 18 books426 followers
January 14, 2015
Carlie’s father dies of cancer, and her life goes down the drain. Her mother cannot handle the finances, so the family has to move to Las Pulgas. From a posh school and beautiful home, they transition to an inner-city school and a cramped apartment where they hear the neighbors argue all the time through the thin walls.

The students at Las Pulgas hold a deep distrust of Carlie, as she does of them. They both have misconceptions of each other, to the point that there is violence in the hallways involving Carlie and her brother. Her mother is trying to make ends meet with a job and going to school. When a possible love interest moves into her mother’s life, Carlie resists. She doesn’t want interference from her mother’s new friend. She doesn’t want to deal with the aggressive girl, K.T, whom she’s forced to work with during a dramatic production. She has her mind stuck on Channing, her old high school where a boy she likes attends, but a boy at Las Pulgas just might capture her attention.

It was very interesting seeing the contrast of Carlie’s old and new life. It was also great to see how she adjusted in Las Pulgas, although she had to go through very trying times there. This is a wonderful YA story about building new lives, knocking down stereotypes, and handling the grieving process.
Profile Image for The BookWhisperer.
1,728 reviews134 followers
December 26, 2010
The Princess in Las Pulgas is a very emotionally charged novel; about a young girl that loses her father to cancer, and then must learn what it takes to be a survivor. Carlie not only has to deal with the loss of her father at a young age, but she soon finds herself in an entirely different life that she is being told is her own. Prior to her father death; Carlie had what one would call the "Luxurious Life". Coming from the highly promenient side of town Carlie was used to a very sophisticated type of lifestyle; the kind that left her wanting for nothing. Only to wake one day and find herself living in a low class/poverty neighborhood and attending schools with metal detectors at every entrance. This is not a society of comfort or safety that Carlie is so accustomed. This is story about this young girl learning to look more than skin deep, and judge by character rather than class. It is interesting to see the transformation of this young girl when she finally decides to accept her new life. The progress of changes is very slow in this story allowing for very slow pace. Many readers may find this to be a struggle in reading, but the story is worth the struggle. Very good lesson for young generations to see what effect prejudices have on life.[return]
Profile Image for Jessie Harrell.
Author 5 books258 followers
February 5, 2013
I don't think a book has made me cry since Marley and Me years ago. And come on, the dog died. That's sad. But this book... this book made me cry. And tear up more than once. Lee makes the emotion come off the page in this book and her character, Carlie's pain, is palpable.

In short, this is a story about what happens when everything in your life goes wrong. Your dad dies a long and costly death to cancer. You lose your beautiful beach-front home and have to move to an apartment in the slums. Your BFF shuns you and the hot guy no longer wants to date you. Your brother gets suspended and arrested. Oh, and your new home is so crappy, even your cat abandons you to go live with someone else. Can you survive this heartbreak?

To Carlie, it doesn't feel like she will. This is her phoenix-like story where she is forced to rise from the ashes or sink into them. It's not a fast process, but it is beautiful.

There are many strong and important themes woven into the novel as well: true friendship, appearances, judgment, homosexuality (very minor), inclusiveness, anger, and forgiveness. This is a wonderful novel for any teen to read - adults too!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 2 books43 followers
October 4, 2015
Although I have read books by C. Lee McKenzie before, this was the first YA book by her that I’ve read. I didn't have any idea what to expect with The Princess of Las Pulgas, and I was completely thrilled with my reading experience. Carlie is a character who is in a new situation trying to figure out how to act and how to not get on people's bad lists. She's also piecing together what happens to friendships that might not have been as strong as she thought they were. I liked seeing how Carlie learned who and what was important to her and also what really didn't matter. She may not have been a princess, but she definitely had a pampered lifestyle before she moved to Las Pulgas. Readers get to watch Carlie grow and learn. I could relate to her because she was misunderstood by many people because of the wall she put up to protect herself from her own feelings about her father's death. This book made me laugh and cry. I couldn't put it down until I finished because I had to know how everything turned out for Carlie and her family. If you haven't read this book- I highly recommend you grab a copy.
Profile Image for Darby Karchut.
Author 19 books254 followers
January 17, 2011
I’m going to be honest right off the bat: I am not a fan of YA contemporary novels with female protagonists. Give me a hero fighting demons, struggling with werewolf issues, trying out a new set of angel wings, or even destroying a ring of power. All hail swords, magic, and things that go bump in the night.
I stayed up far too late several nights running because I could not put down The Princess of Las Pulgas.
It’s that good.
No, you can’t have my copy. Get your own.
There was so much I enjoyed about this book and I don’t want to give anything away, but my favorite aspect was the way C. Lee McKenzie dealt with prejudice (from both sides of the track, you might say) through well-conceived characters who you deeply cared about. And the supporting characters were developed just as well as Carlie. I would also recommend McKenzie’s debut novel, Sliding on the Edge.
I wish the author would write a sequel to The Princess of Las Pulgas. I would love to follow Carlie through her senior year.
Profile Image for Natalie.
487 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2016
Carlie, her mom, and her brother have not had the best fall and winter. Carlie's dad passed away from cancer and Carlie spends her time between missing him like crazy and hating him for dying.

Then her mom drops the bombshell. They can't afford their house in Channing and have to move to Las Pulgas. Carlie and her brother are horrified and Carlie doesn't want her friends to know where she lives.

The students at her new school assume Carlie is really a snob, when she just wishes things could go back to the way they were. But they can't and everyone in her small family has to accept that.

Carlie is a believable character going through an awful experience. There are a couple of times you just want to shake her, but they fit believably into the story. Stereotypes are both broken down and used in this story. Heart wrenching at times.
Profile Image for Margaret Arvanitis.
16 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2013
Author, C. Lee McKenzie brings Carlie Edmund to life and even though it has been years since I was a teen ager, but the authors skill at putting words together brought back memories. Not only is The Princess of Las Pulgas entertaining, it brings out the problems teens, both girls and boys, have to face. The need to be a part of something, and the conflict of facing life without a complete family. I understand Kieth's feelings in relationship to his actions. Ms. McKenzie brings out the desperation of the mom who has to raise two teen agers alone and the conflict between mother and daughter. This book not only entertains, it make me feel. The ending was so realistic and we find that sometimes bullies have their problems too. I plan to read all of this author's books.
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