Sweet 15

by Emily Adler and Alex Echevarria
ages: 13+
First sentence: “Here’s how it went down, the beginning of The End.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.

Destiny Lozada is about to turn 15. And because she’s the daughter of Puerto Ricans, this means she must have a quinceañera. (You know what that is, right? The coming-of-age party/religious rite for Latina girls? Good.) Well, her mother really, really wants to throw Destiny a huge party, even though they really can’t afford it. And Destiny’s older sister, America, is thoroughly against that idea. Destiny, who doesn’t want to rock any boats, is trapped in the middle, watching her sister rant, her mother rack up costs, and her father try and work enough to pay for them.

She doesn’t want any of it. But no one’s asking her.

She spends the first few weeks of high school being buffeted this way and that by her mother, her best friend Omar (who Destiny’s mother has recruited), and her sister. It’s frustrating and humiliating, all made worse by the crush she has on a former friend’s cousin. Thankfully, even though the book meanders a bit, it finally comes to a head, in which everything turns out both a little bit predictably and just as it should.

The best thing about this book, however, was not the writing (okay) or the plotting (a bit on the slow side). It was the fact that in these pages there is a stable, hardworking immigrant family, with men who are neither into gangs or drugs, who hold jobs and work hard and are smart. It’s so nice to see Latin@s being portrayed that way; too often they are reduced to stereotypes: the women work hard and love their lazy, good-for-nothing, gang member men. Bah! I loved the family relationship here, for even though Mama and America were overbearing and not listening to Destiny, it’s quite evident that they love her and really do want what’s best. And her father, even though he doesn’t play an active role in the conflict, is a quiet pillar of strength and love. It’s amazing.

And that’s a lovely, lovely thing to see.

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