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The Smell of Old Lady Perfume

El Paso Scene

This El Paso native’s debut novel is a melodic and melancholy tale of a girl’s sixth-grade year. The book begins with the high expectations of most incoming sixth graders looking forward to being the top of the food chain at an El Paso elementary school. Chela Gonzalez soon finds her friends leaving her behind in shallow pursuit of popularity. After her loving “Apá” (father) is rushed to the hospital, her mother’s mother moves in to help and the air becomes thick with “the smell of old lady perfume, dying flowers and alcohol.”
I normally shy away from anything that includes “bittersweet” in the promotional description, particularly when it concerns the fate of a “daddy’s girl” and her father, but I found the middle school struggles (and personal triumph) faced by Chela endearing, particularly as a fellow nerd who was continuously put off by the “tween girl hierarchy.” Although she now resides in Chicago, Martinez hasn’t lost her connection and passion for her border roots, which I hope to see continued in her future works.
- Lisa Kay Tate, June 28, 2011 

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