Residents of a declining neighborhood band together to turn their economy around by building a tourist attraction.
Masi spent her life working in her family’s bakery in Pig Park, so named for the lard company that, until outsourcing, provided most of the area’s jobs. The multiethnic Chicago neighborhood agrees to the outlandish scheme of building a “Gran Pirámide” in their park, as a famous community developer suggests. Masi, at 15, is just happy to have a job outside with her friends, and she is also delighted to meet Felix, a college student from outside the area who shows up to offer help in the neighborhood. In a subplot, Masi’s mother leaves for an extended stay with her parents in Texas, where she is diagnosed with diabetes, while her father struggles to keep the bakery going. Masi’s anguish over her mother’s absence is palpable, though it also distracts somewhat from the pyramid project. The story of a community working together is uplifting, but the project itself occasionally strains credulity, as the teens confidently frame the interior walls and measure for electric switches and plumbing. Martinez uses nicely specific physical details to relate Masi’s experiences, and the moments in the bakery seem particularly authentic and are suffused with love.
The warm, diverse community setting and the realistic family interactions help overcome the somewhat jumbled plotlines. (Fiction. 12-16)