Title: The Victoria in My Head
Author: Janelle Milanes
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 19th 2017
*I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review*
“Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.
But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.”
Janelle Milanes’s debut The Victoria in My Head is a feel-good contemporary with an easy-to-relate-to protagonist. Victoria Cruz doesn’t exactly live her life on the edge. As a scholarship student and the daughter of parents with Harvard aspirations, Victoria’s life is pretty much laid out for her. She’s good at going through the motions, of never taking a chance on anything, even if it’s something she really wants. When she gets the opportunity to audition for a rock band, Victoria isn’t sure she can overcome her stage fright in order to do so. Taking those first steps toward embracing her dreams won’t be the hardest decision she’ll have to make. Victoria will discover that finding her place in the world isn’t easy, and despite all the dissenting voices around her, only she can decide her own future.
The Victoria in My Head is an incredibly readable novel. I nearly finished it in one sitting, not because it went by particularly fast, but because I had to find out what happened next for the protagonist. Victoria is a really insecure character. She doesn’t readily share how she feels with other people and is more prone to imagining what her life could be like than actually taking steps to make these things happen. Her parents are Cuban immigrants who have sacrificed a lot in order to open doors for their daughter. They have grand ambitions that are constantly being reinforced by Victoria’s school and best friend. This added pressure is enough to get anyone to crumble, especially for someone who isn’t sure if her dreams are the same as those around her. Despite how it sometimes felt to Victoria, it’s clear that her parents only want what’s best and it’s their earnestness in wanting to be involved in her life that endeared them to me.
I loved the friendships in this novel. Victoria’s best friend Annie is incredibly driven and iat first it does feel like she isn’t quite hearing Victoria when she talks about what she wants in life, but it doesn’t take long to realize that Annie is an incredibly supportive friend. The budding friendship between Victoria and her new bandmates is also one of the highlights of this novel. They build a kind of family that looks out for one another and it was really nice to see the loyalty they show later on in the novel. I was a little iffy about the romance in this novel, but despite my first impression, I ended up really liking the person Victoria ends up with. It’s a relationship that grows overtime and felt earned because of all the hiccups along the way.
The Victoria in My Head is an important in that it’s a book written for teens still trying to find their own voice, who feel insecure in their own skin, or who grappling with the added pressure of parental expectations.