The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Victoria in My Head by Janelle MilanesThe Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes
Published by Simon Pulse on September 19, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
AmazonThe Book Depository

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.

From debut author Janelle Milanes comes a hilarious and heartfelt tale of the spectacular things that can happen when you go after what you really want.

Most of my favorite reads this year have been rereads, which is always a bit disappointing. I mean, obviously I want my rereads to be amazing (ideally, the books just get better every time), but I also want the books I’m reading for the first time to be amazing. Is that really so much to ask? For all my reads to be outstanding? Logic tells me yes, but my heart says no. Finally, though, for the first time in what feels like months but is probably actually weeks (because reading so much really does turn your brain—though mostly in great ways), I loved a new-to-me title. Technically, I should have read The Victoria in My Head an age ago, but our relationship was worth waiting for. Seriously, though, this book is so fracking cute.

Contemporary romances break down into several different subcategories to me with regards to how they feel, rather than to tropes:

  • Sheer fluff (e.g. Royals by Rachel Hawkins)
  • Low drama, realistic plot with fluff (e.g. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli)
  • Melodramatic soap opera (e.g. Summer trilogy by Jenny Han)
  • Super sad balanced with totes adorbsness (Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson)
  • Super sad but lightening elements, aka heart-crushing but the book won’t leave you only feeling sad (The Memory Book by Lara Avery)
  • Unrelenting tragedy (We Are Okay by Nina LaCour)

Not sure if that will have meaning to anyone else, and I know it’s super weird that I stopped talking about the review book to discuss other books, but it’s my blog and I do what I want.

Okay, all that was because I want to categorize this book and have it make sense. The Victoria in My Head falls into the realistic fluff category, despite having a plot that occasionally leans toward soap opera (love triangle drama). For me, that flavor of contemporary is decidedly my favorite. Emma Mills does those so incredibly well, as does Becky Albertalli. These books don’t have massively dramatic plots, with most of the drama being merely the day-to-day weirdness of growing up, but they’ve got a bit more edge to them than a sheer fluff story. To sum up, if you like Emma Mills or Becky Albertalli, consider checking out The Victoria in My Head.

The title truly helps the reader understand Victoria. She’s been drifting through life doing what she’s supposed to: working hard to get into Harvard to fulfill the dream of her parents who immigrated from Cuba precisely to give her this opportunity. Victoria’s a scholarship student at this super fancy prep school in NYC, and her life is flat. Meanwhile, she has this idea of who she is in her head, of this exciting Victoria who has dreams and passions, but that person has never been on the outside. That’s such a relatable feeling I think, for teens especially, as they struggle to decide between being themselves and being popular. (I know it’s not that and cut-and-dried, but omg does it feel like it when you’re in high school.)

Victoria’s character arc rocks (pun intended), and it starts as many a YA heroine character arc does, when she spots a boy so hot she cannot put words together in a reasonable order hanging up a flyer about auditions for a lead singer. Victoria, conveniently, has a great voice, and she loves to sing and to dance. Victoria, inconveniently, has massive stage fright and pretty much zero confidence in herself. With some encouragement/pushing from her bestie Annie, Victoria tries out for the band and makes it

Her journey takes a long time; it’s a slow slide towards confidence and authenticity with many a setback. Her romantic journey mirrors her emotional one too, with her pursuing someone she does not truly want merely because he seems like who she should want. I know a lot of people loathe love triangles, and I get it, but I love them when they’re well done, as this one was. Obviously it’s frustrating to watch Victoria make the wrong choice, but I wasn’t actually mad about it because I understood why she was doing what she was doing, and I could totally see my teen self doing something similar in that situation. Victoria doesn’t yet know what she wants, and she’s trying so hard to make the right choices.

Well, except with her parents to whom she lies for much of the book. But! I loved her parents. They’re sweet and loving and protective but not overprotective. I don’t see a lot of parents like that in YA. It feels like a lot of the time they’re either absent, cruel, besties, or overprotective. Though Victoria’s parents aren’t particularly like mine, I found the dynamics of their relationship pretty relatable, because her parents always tried to do their best for her even if they don’t always understand (admittedly hard to do with an uncommunicative teen like Victoria). They’re not perfect parents but they felt like realistic, good parents.

The romance, obviously, is super, super cute, with a great slow burn. And I liked that I wasn’t really on board initially either and got to be won over with Victoria. The nicknames in this book are absolutely precious (and I’m picky about that). I had such shippy feels for so much of this book, AND the way the love triangle resolves is outstanding. OH! And to make everything even better, there was an f/f ship on the side that was also absolutely shippy.

Milanes’ debut The Victoria in My Head made me smile so hard for pretty much the entirety of the time I spent reading it. The voice is excellent, the romance is shippy, the supporting cast is lovable, the plot is low drama, the character arc is dynamic and believable, and the family dynamics are fantastic. What an amazing debut, and I’m so excited to move on to Analee, in Real Life.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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