(Carlos Hernandez, 2019)
How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany’s locker? When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared. Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.
What I Liked
- I loved the Spanish throughout this novel. I mean it makes sense being in Miami with a focus on Cuban culture, but Hernandez did not hold back. There were some passages or conversations that were entirely in Spanish and I truly loved that. I even learned a few new words/phrases myself! I can definitely see myself using “cacaseca” and maybe even calling someone a “sandwich” here and there.
- I guess going right along with the point above, I felt very much engrossed in this culture. The author does a really great job of making you feel like you are at the center of this community that is rich in Cuban culture and you just get absorbed by it. Hell, Hernandez had me thinking I was Cuban by the end of this. My point being that especially for a middle grade book, the author does an amazing job of introducing and making this specific culture feel relatable and interesting,
What I Disliked
- Too much going on
- While all the components on their own are interesting, and I can totally see why they are important to the storyline, it still felt a little overwhelming with all that was happening. They talked a lot about physics theories, magic, different types of sewing techniques, illnesses (several different ones) and a slew of other things, so you can see where one might get lost, or in the very least, bogged down with information.
If I could pick one word to describe this book it would be rich. I felt so absolutely immersed in this world, with these characters, and didn’t have a second thought about it until the story was over. I wouldn’t say the characters were my favorite characters I have ever read about, but they were enough to get me through the story. The characters weren’t even my favorite parts of the book! I really loved the culture and the language that the author just envelopes you into. The scenes are just so immersive that some of the plot was lost on me, I was having too much fun just living in this world. That all being said, I feel as though this book is the best one to come out under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint thus far. It is way different than the “Percy Jackson outline” which was super prevalent in both Aru Shah and Storm Runner, while also feeling much more immersive and personal than Dragon Pearl. Basically, I really enjoyed it! It was a great addition to this growing collection and I look forward to reading more from this author.