“Geeky loner” Rick Gutiérrez convinces his romantically uninterested crush to spend a summer perfecting their salsa-dancing skills in Cuba.
When motherless Rick’s first-and-only girlfriend dumps him on his 16th birthday, the lolcat-video entrepreneur dubbed “That Cat Guy” by his classmates decides to take more risks. He meets the beautiful, salsa-dancing Ana Cabrera and joins her at a New York City salsa school in hopes of scoring a date. A few months later, half-Cuban, half-German Rick has progressed to a mediocre casino dancer but is still just friends with Ana. When Ana suffers a tragedy, Rick impulsively suggests they visit his dead mother’s relatives in Havana in order to reconnect to his roots and immerse themselves in dancing salsa. Improbably, off Rick and Ana go to Cuba, where living conditions are quite different than they imagined. Rick’s teen cousin Yosvany is a player who keeps flirting with Ana and pointing out the ways Rick lacks game, but at least he introduces them to Pablo, an accomplished dance instructor. The debut author is a veteran salsa teacher, so it’s unsurprising the dance descriptions and detailed music references are authentic, but several of the plot points prove beyond belief, such as how the teens are allowed to go to Cuba to begin with, not to mention eventually involve themselves in dangerous Communist-subverting activities.
As a dance-filled coming-of-age tale, the story keeps the beat, but as a romance, it stumbles. (Fiction. 13-17)