Adios to My Old Life (Caridad Ferrer, 2006) won this year's RITA award (Romance Writers of America's award for published romantic fiction) in the Contemporary Single Title Romance category. This created a minor firestorm, because it's a YA book and the romance is a subplot compared to the heroine's coming-of-age journey. (Ferrer originally entered it in the YA category, but when YA was canceled for insufficient entries, it was bumped into her second choice category.)
The fact that there was a kerfuffle doesn't surprise me in the least. RWA lives to kerfuff. But IMHO the win was well-deserved. Adios is a fine book by any measure. Ferrer takes a concept that could be gimmicky and silly--a 17-year-old competing in a reality show to pick the next Latin music superstar--and gives it depth via Alegria Montero's passion for music and performance. I've never watched American Idol, and I know next to nothing about Latin music, but Ferrer still made her world come alive for me. I don't have an $8,000 guitar, but I do remember how I treasured and guarded my saxophone in high school, and how I loved the smell of it and the way the keys felt under my fingers, even that one that was always a little sticky. I'll never perform for thousands of people, but I do know the rush I get from singing Handel at Advent or Easter, both the glorious transcendence of the music itself and the fist-pumping triumph I feel whenever I nail one of those alto lines. Adios brought the heroine's passion for music to life and reminded me of my own.