BPLG/REFORMA Review

Author:  Santiago, Roberto and Olmo, Jesús
Title: Prohibido tener catorce años
Publisher:  Edebé     Publication Date:1998
Pages:  175 pages
Paper price:  $10.95     ISBN:  84-236-4769-2
Type:  Fiction     Grade level(s): 8-10
Translation notes:  Not a translation.

Reviewer:  Mark Hall, San Francisco  Public Library
Comments:
Set in an unnamed city in Spain, this is a very funny and realistic novel about Iván, who is having a very bad first week of classes at his high school.  Told entirely in the voice of 14 year old Iván, a lot of the humor comes from his wry observations about his friends, classmates, and assorted adults.  While Iván's voice and especially his internal dialogues are funny, so is the dialogue in general, with a cast of quirky, distinct and memorable characters. The plot revolves around a number of romantic complications involving Iván's best friend, Pablo; his love interest, Natalia, and several other interested parties, all with secrets to tell, and all of whom choose to confide in Iván, with predictably messy results.  Added to the tribulations of teen love are the complications of school and parents, especially when Iván is expelled from school after falling in with a new, cool kid with a chip on his shoulder.  By the end of the novel, Iván has started to clean up his messes, and, to his disbelief, seems to have lucked into love in a completely unexpected place.
This book is from Spain, so of course it's Castilian Spanish, with its "vosotros" forms, and some different slang, but I didn't find that a barrier.  One striking difference is the mention of teens drinking.  There is mention of the legal drinking age being 16, which seems awfully young to a Californian.  To those that are worried about that aspect, it's not glamorized, and part of the reason Iván is expelled from school has to do with cutting classes and drinking beer.