So real talk, I didn’t mean to check this book out for my e-reader at this time. I think I was trying to get Code Girls (lies all lies I read so much trash it was probably Gossip Girl again or a Lying Game book), but I clicked wrong and foop here we are. And I say this bc you know how sometimes you start a book and youre like “oh, this is not the book I want to read right now”? or even when you get off a waitlist of a book you were DYING to read and realize “nope, not here for it, I need something ELSE”? This was the book I needed to read right now.
I guess you could say there are two storylines. The main one is about Julia’s sister Olga, who’s had a fatal car accident, and over months you see the different ways in which everyone handles that. Julia throws herself into examining the life of her passive “good” sister; their mother decides to throw Julia the quincinera Julia and Olga never had. Grief is a weird, complicated, messy thing, and I liked how the author explores taht without getting too therapy-y.
The other part is Julia dealing growing up and being poor and living in two worlds. Her Mexican parents are in the U.S. ilegally; Julia and Olga were born in the U.S. but have been to Mexico often, and were raised with a lot of Mexican traditions. (There are parts where Julia speaking loathingly and lovingly of how much Mexican food she’s had to eat growing up, and I had viseral flashbacks to the horrifying amounts of Chinese takeout we ate growing up in my half-Asian family, because there were no other Asian carryouts. Toda the smell of cashew chicken makes me nauseous and hungry.) There’s a lot of shit she has to put up wiht on all fronts, adn it’s hard, and the author REALLY gets the tone right – yes it sucks to be broke and live in a shitty hood in Chicago and your parents are kind of shitty and it’s hard to balance the values and practices of one world with the one you live in. But also parents arent pure evil, and sometmes shit just happens.
**for real though spoilerz************
So tehre’s a fairly significant portion devoted to depression and anxiety. This book easily could have been about mental health in teens or suicide after the loss of a loved one or just gone down an afterschool special route. But it turned out to be a pretty good look at the spectrum of mental health and how we cope in different ways.
There’s a lot more to unpack, and some things i JUST do not want to give away. But goddamn it’s a sometimes emotional, very thoughtful, and overall extellent read.
What I gave it: 4 gingerbread men
What I would pair it with: Good question. Something sweet but a little bitter. With a quesadilla, because holy crap are there are lot of descriptions of food. So hangry. (Editor’s Note: Let’s go with Pinot Grigio)