My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: March 7th, 2017
Publisher: Clarion Books
Point of View: 1st Person & Masculine
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Family, Contemporary, Death, LGBT
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
Unsurprisingly, I thought this was great.
I say unsurprisingly because I absolutely loved Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe novel, so it’s not as if I expected to hate this.
In a way, this new book resembles the one mentioned above. The author’s writing style hasn’t changed in the last few years, as it still is simplistic but lyrical. And this book doesn’t have a plot either, seeing that it centers mainly on the relationships between characters rather than the course of events.
It follows the lives of Salvador, his gay father, his best friend Sam and his new friend Fito. The lot of them are especially drawn together when tragedies start befalling them.
There are many deaths in this book. I was surprised by that. Not that I’m not used to deaths in contemporary novels; there usually just aren’t this many. In a way, it does make the story less realistic because, although death is part of life, it’s not realistic for there to be so many in such a short amount of time.
But those deaths do bring new themes to the novel. I can’t discuss them, since I will be giving spoilers, but let’s say family is well-defined through those deaths. They make the characters question a lot of things.
Especially Sally (Salvador). Already he’s unsure of who he is and who he is becoming. He’s mad at the world and at himself. His grandma is slowly dying of cancer, his grandma who is always there for him. Will he be the same Sally without her? Could his aggression come from inside of him—something that has been there for a while, waiting to be released?
Sally reminded me of Charlie from The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Shy. Keeps to himself. Kind of a loner, but has his best friends. Questions many things around him and about himself. Sensitive. Extremely huggable.
His friends are interesting also. Sam and Fito both have fully dysfunctional families. It’s hard on them. On their psychological. Sally’s family is the most normal-looking one, although his mother died and his father, who is not his real – biological – father, seems very lonely.
There may not be a plot per se, but there still is a sense of progression in the story, which I loved. I loved anticipating Thanksgiving and Christmas and the New Year because they are beautifully celebrated by the characters. Tons of emotions.
Everyone keeps trying to expect Sally and his best friend Sam to form a couple. I must say that I did also in the beginning. However, the more we learn about them, the more we realize that they are stronger together as friends.
A 2017 contemporary YA favourite!
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