Sonia is struggling to get through highschool. She wants to be the first person in her family to graduate. Her parents are first-generation immigrants to the United States. Her father is always busy with two or three low-paying labor jobs, and her mother never learned to speak English. Their house is always crowded and expectations on Sonia are high- to clean up, cook meals, help her mother decipher bills, care for her new siblings (who are born halfway through the story) and so on. Family demands often keep her home from school more often than not, but sometimes she doesn’t want to be there- seeing her brothers laze around and use drugs, her drunken uncle make messes and unwanted advances towards her, a religious aunt dropping by unannounced acting super judgemental. Sonia has a plan to get ahead by doing her best at school, but her attempts always seem thwarted. More than ever when her mother sends her to Mexico to visit her grandmother for the summer- cutting short her school year- and frustrating her with lack of amenities and differences in culture she experiences in the very rural setting. But things change during her visit with relatives. She learns more about where her family has come from, starts to see things differently. Not so much resentment and criticism, a bit more compassion and understanding. Maybe upon returning to the States after this vacation, she can start to make a real difference in her life.
Things get in the way again. In particular, her nasty uncle. And there’s a boy who is fixated on becoming her novio– but she’s determined to not let that distract her from her goals. Honestly I thought the boyfriend was a little weird. I was positively surprised to realize when I was done reading, this book was written by a male author- I thought he got a female voice down very well- but the romantic phrases that boy kept repeated were just a bit too much. Absurd, at times. (Who talks like that? Is this what the author thinks girls dream of hearing??) There was one typo in the book that threw me off- I actually read the sentence three times to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood the homophone. And then there was a scene where her grandmother was killing a chicken for the family dinner, she saw the head chopped off, and made a statment that chickens don’t have eyelids. What? Um, YES THEY DO. Also disappointing was how briefly the time in Mexico was treated. For how life-changing this seemed to be, there wasn’t enough said about it. The story skipped over that part relatively quickly, which disappointed me.
Other than that, I really enjoyed this book. Made me feel happy to be reading a good book again.
Borrowed from my teenager.