I thought this book was on my tbr list and I was looking for a good available audiobook on Libby; it wasn’t on my tbr list and the book was fine. Didn’t quite meet my expectations but I’m still glad I gave this book a listen.
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. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
I think my feelings for this book will be best understood if I write this review in list form. My feelings are just so polarizing: I either loved a certain element or I hated it. Well, hate might be a strong word, but there didn’t seem to be any in-between.
Things I Liked
- The messages: There were so many important messages in this book. Examinations of mental health, the immigrant experience, the value of family and education, the impact of sexual assault, sex, and so much more. Everything was discussed in an open and honest way without feeling like the author was preaching on the subjects. I really enjoyed how these ideas played into Julia’s character and her development. This is just one point on the list but each topic here had such a big positive impact on the book.
- Mexico: I feel like I learned a lot about Mexico throughout this book. True, it’s fiction, but this is an #ownvoices book and it seemed like the representation was accurate. I also liked learning about Julia’s family’s experience as Mexican-American immigrants, particularly since her parents were undocumented.
- The narration: I really liked the narrator of the audiobook. She gave every character a different voice and helped bring them to life, which was very needed considering point 1 below.
Things I Disliked
- Julia: Seriously, I couldn’t connect with Julia. She always seemed so whiny, confrontational, obnoxious, and ungrateful. I get it, her sister died, she has depression and anxiety, and she feels like everything is out of control. But even as the book progressed and we started to understand the reasons behind her behavior I couldn’t like her. It felt like everyone around her was growing, and the instant I thought Julia was too, she’d go back to being rude and judgemental and it felt like she didn’t make any progress at all.
- The length: Was it just me or did this book feel a bit too long? Maybe it’s because I listened to it, maybe it was the random time jumps, or maybe it was my dislike for our main POV character, but I found myself growing tired of the book. Even as conflict after conflict arose, I couldn’t get super into the book.
- The ending: I won’t spoil anything but I feel like a few things were left unresolved. I know this isn’t the end of Julia’s life and even if it was not everything in life gets resolved by the end, but it felt like threads that were created earlier in the novel were never picked up again. Why even bring them up if you’re going to give them a generic ending or not address them?
The first points on both lists carried so much weight for me. I really liked the topics addressed throughout the book but I’m a very character-driven reader. If I can’t connect with the character, their reasoning, or their choices, there’s only so much the rest of the book can do for me. I would still recommend reading this book, but bear in mind if you’re like me you might not like it as much as many other readers seem to.