by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Clarion Books, 2017, 445 pages, Young Adult Fiction
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it's senior year, everything is changing, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal's not who he thought he was, then who is he? And what does his adoption have to do with it?
Saenz takes his time unfolding this character-driven tale, but it doesn’t feel like it. Written in short yet poignant chapters, I was compelled to keep reading. Saenz’ writing style (short choppy sentences that are still beautifully written) reminded me a lot of Beth Kephart, although I feel like Saenz’ writing style is a little more relatable.
I loved the healthy, respectful relationship Sal and his father have. (And because I’m old and grumpy, I related a lot with Sal’s father’s exasperation whenever Sal and his friend Samantha texted each other while standing right next to each other.) While Sal is having trouble dealing with the changes life brings, his friends also have family troubles and they find refuge with Sal and his father. I didn’t enjoy how much some side characters swore, but I loved the themes of family, compassion, social responsibility, death, redemption, and the value of a human life. This is a beautifully written book that will resonate with those who read it.