A Latino boxer from a gang-infested farm town falls for a naïve rich girl.
Miguel Angel may be a struggling farmworker's son in Alisal, the poorest neighborhood in California's Salinas Valley, but thanks to an after-school boxing club, his dreams of becoming the next Muhammad Ali keep him away from the town’s ubiquitous gangs. Plus, he's got Britney, a beautiful blonde from posh Pebble Beach. But when the boxing program faces eviction, Miguel Angel's future seems uncertain—and he doesn't even know about Britney's missing period. Despite the book's initially intriguing premise, the author fails to deliver believable characterization or a focused plot. Supporting players are a confusing mix of hollow stereotypes—Britney's father, for example, combines high-class snobbery and racism with his own thuggish violence. There may be wealthy white lawyers who don’t want their daughters to date scholarship-needing "losers," but how many seriously threaten to blow out the brains of those "beaner" boyfriends? The romance is disappointingly bland, and the omniscient narration feels disconnected from the characters it's describing (straight-talking Miguel Angel waxes poetic about "princess" Britney's nourishing kisses and "long hair floating down her back like a curtain of monarch butterflies in the forest of his mother's Michoacán"). A touch of unnecessary magical realism (Miguel Angel speaks to the comical ghost of his great-grandmother) only muddles the narrative further.
Clichés and unbelievable characters bog down this opposites-attract tale. (Fiction. 14-18)