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Playing With Boys


Playing With Boys

Alexis Lopez is a transplanted Texas conservative living among the
liberal left in PLAYING WITH BOYS, the latest novel by Alisa
Valdes-Rodriguez, whose first was the bestselling THE DIRTY GIRLS
SOCIAL CLUB. Alexis manages Latino musicians and her most famous
band is the Los Chimpances del Norte, a Norteno band that is world
famous among those of Hispanic persuasion.

The opening chapter has poor Alexis worrying over the band, all of
whom are misbehaving badly at an exclusive party honoring the band
members who had just donated $5,000,000 to UCLA's Center for
Chicano Studies. The band, dressed in brightly colored outfits with
huge belt buckles, is embarrassing Alexis, who believes in dressing
conservatively in public, especially at these high-society
functions. She also believes that those with money would know how
to behave appropriately, but this rule does not seem to apply to
"The Chimps." These men are millionaires, yet here they are at this
fancy party groping the female guests.

One of the women who the bandleader, Filoberto, decides to grope is
a famous Latina actress, Marcella Gauthier Bosch, known for those
popular Mexican telenovelas. Alexis doesn't recognize the actress
at first, because Marcella is working as a server at the party.
When she explains to Alexis who she really is, Alexis is
star-struck. At the same time, Alexis does not understand why this
wonderful actress is working at a party when she should be the star
of the party.

After Alexis saves Marcella from the hands of Filoberto, she bumps
into Samuel, who had helped her set up the party and the donation
to UCLA. Standing next to him is a very petite woman who turns out
to be his wife. She's very quiet, shy and insecure, but once they
get to talking, Alexis finds out that Olivia has written the script
for an intriguing movie.

The three women's lives become entwined, as Alexis decides to buy
Olivia's script and make it into a movie starring Marcella as the
woman who portrays Olivia's mother, Soledad. Soledad and Olivia had
witnessed the murder of Olivia's father in San Salvador many years
ago, and this movie is the story of Soledad's life. As the deal is
inked in pen, the three women bond and become unlikely

In the meantime, Alexis is having boyfriend problems, and Daniel, a
Pulitzer Prize-winning news reporter, becomes rather psychotic
after she decides to break up with him. Soon after the breakup, she
meets (by accident, literally) a handsome Cuban named Vladimir
(Goyo), who takes the reader to Cuba and the story of his
girlfriend, who is still trapped there, living in an oppressed
country without any freedoms. Alexis feels an immediate attraction
to this man and has no idea that their lives will soon intersect in
more ways than one.

PLAYING WITH BOYS takes on a light tone throughout, but underneath
the comedy lies a more serious theme. While Alexis's Hispanic
friends are living a life taken for granted in the heart of Los
Angeles, the stories of Soledad and Goyo remind them of what it was
like for their friends and families before they came to the United
States. Olivia suffers through reoccurring nightmares of what she
experienced as a child in her homeland of El Salvador, while Goyo
dreams of his lost love trapped in Cuba. And through it all,
Alexis, Olivia and Marcella become friends despite their
differences. What they share are universal feelings about men,
relationships and what it is like to be a Hispanic American living
in California.

It may take a while for the reader to get into the novel, as it
takes some time to set up the characters and the plot. But once the
reader gets past this, PLAYING WITH BOYS will keep one absorbed
until the very end. The author does a good job describing Southern
California, from the Valley to East Los Angeles and in between. The
many different characters, both major and minor, are fun, fully
developed and real. The story itself is original, with flashbacks
to Goyo's and Olivia's childhoods, although the ending may be
obvious to most readers. This reviewer gives PLAYING WITH BOYS four
stars out of five and will definitely get a copy of THE DIRTY GIRLS

Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton ( on January 18, 2011

Playing With Boys
by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 0312332343
  • ISBN-13: 9780312332341