Neruda Diaz carries around his legendary namesake's poems, but they haven't helped him find the love he desperately seeks.
Latino 16-year-old Neruda Diaz was named in tribute to his Chilean father and grandfather's favorite poet, Pablo Neruda. A talented portrait artist, Neruda is determined to achieve the kind of overwhelming love "The Poet" captured, but so far he's "unluckiest in love" and has fallen unrequitedly for eight different girls. When his English teacher assigns a biography project, Neruda ends up partnered with aloof, white classmate Callie Leibowitz, who turns out to love volleyball, classic movies, and makeup art. Their blossoming friendship makes Neruda wonder if Callie could be the one, but his concept of love begins to waver as he uncovers a family betrayal. Though less of an issues book than the author's previous titles (There Will Come a Time, 2014; Out of Reach, 2012), there's still plenty of thought-provoking substance to Arcos' third. The focus on the power of friendship (Neruda's best friend, Mexican-American Ezra, is a recently released ex-con ready to restart his life), art (visual, literary, even makeup), and family relationships makes this considerably more layered than the typical high school romance. Neruda is a great example of the sort of thoughtful and artistic male protagonist teen literature really needs.
This satisfying and unconventional love story explores the various meanings of the word. (Fiction. 13-18)