Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed. But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought.
*I will note that I listened to this book. Kyla Garcia was a great reader so I encourage you to read however you choose!
Oh man. Where do I begin? There are so many great things about this story. At the heart of this story is Julia. She is fierce, witty and desperate to break free of the traditions her family force on her. So what if she does not know how to make tortillas from scratch? She can write a poem that will make your heart feel emotions you did not know you had. Julia wants more from life than settling for the life her parents want for her. Her older sister Olga is filling that role already as she is the good daughter. That all changes when Olga is killed in a terrible accident. Through this story we observe Julia as she attempts to deal with the expectations that are being forced on her as the surviving daughter.
In this story we explore the traditions of a Mexican family, the life of an immigrant family, mental health, but at its core, this story is about staying true to yourself. The primary theme is individuality and staying true to yourself even when it is difficult to do so.
Julia is a wonderfully witty narrator. I loved being immersed in her life and seeing how she overcomes her troubles. While dealing with the difficult loss of her older sister, Julia is also facing her future. Julia and her parents have very different ideas of what that future should look like. Life does not stop for those death leaves behind. Julia is center stage for her family now. This is such a worthy read. Not just for the young adult audience it is intended for but for all readers. Something will resonate with you. I am sure of it!
Rightfully so, this book was longlisted for the National Book Award. It was certainly a well-deserved nomination. I hope you give it a try!