Maria Fernandez, who goes by Ri, is a seventeen-year-old Mexican American travelling a journey of self-discovery and cultural truth. One day, Ri uncovers a long-missing letter written by her mother, which declares her sought-after location and strong will to reconnect with her daughter. Due to her inability to read the letter written in Spanish without Google Translate, she decides to abandon the strict rules her grandmother has set (which bar her from learning about her culture and heritage) and transfers language classes at school from French to Spanish. This choice pushes her towards a path of recalcitrance and contemplation. These virtues, along with her consistent determination, lead up to Ri meeting with her mother in secret, dismissing her grandmother’s pushes to absorb the ways and culture of the “American Dream”, and leave her reassessing her dearest relationships. Along the way, Ri learns that some things are not as they seem. This suspenseful novel discusses self-identity, ethical actions and connections, and cultural importance through the eyes of Ri. Will she succeed in her desire to reunite with her mother and will her grandmother find out?
Nikki Barthelmess has created a strong character that taught me the importance of being myself and embracing my own culture. Ri kept me turning the pages till the very end of this book, and her journey also had a lot that enlightened me! I admire the powerful message behind the book and the meaningful theme led me to connect with this story in a deeper way, so that I could understand Ri better. Overall, I would say that this novel is fantastic and communicates many important morals. I highly suggest it to you due to its meaningful messages and quality writing style!
One memorable aspect of this book is how the author incorporates Latinx culture throughout the chapters. The genuine depiction of culture in this story enabled me to understand more of the story and connect with all of the events in this book easily. These references are sprinkled throughout the novel and definitely assist in understanding many of the characters’ motives, especially Nina’s and Grandma’s.