After the death of her dutiful older sister, Olga, Julia must deal with grieving parents and the discovery that her sister was keeping secrets.
Fifteen-year-old Julia Reyes is nothing like her sister, “Saint Olga,” who was struck by a semi at age 22 and was always the family’s “perfect Mexican daughter”: contributing at home, attending community college, working at a doctor’s office, and helping their mother clean houses. Julia, on the other hand, hates living in her roach-infested apartment building in their predominantly Latinx Chicago neighborhood, and she doesn’t even try to live up to her Amá and Apá’s expectations that she behave like a proper Mexican young lady. After secretly snooping through Olga’s room, Julia begins to suspect that Olga may have led a double life. In one of many overlong subplots, Julia starts a romance with a rich Evanston white boy, Connor, whom she meets at a used bookstore. Sánchez’s prose is authentic, but it’s difficult to root for Julia, because she’s so contemptuous, judgmental, and unpleasant: “I do dislike most people and most things”—from “nosy” aunts, “idiot” cousins, and tacky quinceañera parties to even her “wild and slutty” best friend, Lorena, at least sometimes. An abrupt plot development involving self-harm and mental illness feels forced, as does a magically life-changing trip to Mexico in the third act.
This gritty contemporary novel about an unlikable first-generation Mexican-American teen fails to deliver as a coming-of-age journey. (Fiction. 14-17)