Genre: Young Adult- Contemporary
Publication Date: 2017
Page Count: 452
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Also By Benjamin Alire Saenz:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Sal is about to start his senior year of high school. He loves his life with his best friend Sam, who is really more of a sister, and his adoptive father. But thoughts about his unknown past and a tragedy leave Sal, and those in his life, dealing with grief and uncertainty. Sal doesn't like the way he's dealing with these changes, by throwing his fists at anyone in his way, but is it an inevitable part of his DNA?
I loved Aristotle and Dante when I read it earlier this year and was surprised to see that Saenz had a new release that I hadn't heard anything about! I loved this one, not quite as much and Ari and Dante, but I did love it.
Of course, this book has great diverse representation. Sal is white, but was adopted by a gay Mexican-American father and both of the other teenage characters in the book are Mexican-American as well. I really enjoyed Sal's father, both as a character and a diverse representation, as parents are usually M.I.A. or unlikable in YA novels. Sal's father is so loving and so kind, and very much likable.
I love the way that Saenz writes teenage male characters and father-and-son relationships. He doesn't write stereotypical male characters, who hide their feelings and rely of a tough image; his male characters are realistic, but honest about their feelings and gentle. Sal was such a sweetheart, and so was his dad. I loved their relationship and think it's great to see healthy parent-child relationships in YA.
Another element of this book that I loved was the lack of romance! Sam and Sal have been best friends since they were small children, and even though it would have been easy for Saenz to put them together romantically, he chose to explore their friendship/sibling relationship instead. I loved that, and I really think it added to the beauty of the story.
This book deals with a lot of interesting and usual YA contemporary topics such as friendship, grief, self-discovery, etc. But it also deals with a few unique topics such as faith and religion, having a gay parent, being adopted into a culture you weren't born into, and platonic male/female relationships. I thought all of the themes and topics were well-done, and are all things I would love to see in more books.
I thought this book was the perfect combination of sad and sweet. I couldn't stop reading once I got to know the characters; the story flows beautifully and the short chapters make it hard to put down. I definitely consider myself a fan of Benjamin Alire Saenz, and will be keeping an eye on all of his new releases. I highly recommend you pick this up!