My rating: 5 of 5 stars
More than deserving of its National Book Award Finalist status, this novel is a stunning story of heritage, family and growing up.
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of this title.
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
Sanchez has taken a teenage girl and created one of the most relatable characters I have read yet in young adult literature. Julia and her family and the Chicago setting are absolute perfection, and readers will get swept up into both Julia’s grief over the loss of her sister, but also her agony about being trapped into a life that she doesn’t want. The mystery of her sister Olga’s death and Julia’s attempts to escape her family create subplots that make this title a incredibly compelling page-turner as well.
What seals the 5th star for this title for me, however, is the complete and utter ease that Sanchez weaves English and Spanish throughout the narrative, sometimes translating the Spanish and sometimes just leaving it out there because maybe the reader SHOULD be expected to speak and read a language other than English for once. Julia’s accounts of her family’s undocumented status and their harrowing journeys from Mexico are heartbreaking and 100% necessary and relevant, both for readers who are themselves living this life, but also for readers who struggle to understand the reality of living it.
Required purchase for high school libraries. Get this book into the hands of teens NOW.