When Savannah Espinoza’s dad was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease three years ago, her small-town New Mexico life went stagnant.
Paralyzed by a secret fear that she, too, has inherited the hereditary disease, Vanni, a Latina, has abandoned her dreams of swimming on a college team and isolated herself from her friends. She now plans to spend the summer after graduation hooking up with boys and working at her family’s Mexican restaurant. Things are stirred up when she meets pugnacious Leigh Clemente, a white girl, who’s recently moved to New Mexico and wants nothing more than to leave. A turbulent relationship blossoms between the two, both of whom have their own reasons for feeling stuck. While Leigh’s character shines, Vanni’s personality is hard to pin down, which leaves the first-person, present-tense narration somewhat flat. Still, Vanni’s well-crafted arc ends powerfully when she makes a hard choice in order to finally take charge of her life. Also well-handled are Leigh’s genderqueer identity and Vanni’s bisexuality, through which Podos affirms that identity is something people come to in their own time, on their own terms. Additionally, the author richly and authentically describes the culture of a small New Mexico town, while welcomingly unitalicized Spanish enriches Vanni’s interactions with friends and family.
A worthwhile addition to collections of contemporary romance with depth. (Fiction. 14-18)