Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Can't Wait An Immigrant Story With Bite

(Image from Indiebound)

Marisa Moreno's parents came to The United States to make a better life for themselves. So, why won't they let her do the same? Sure, they want her to graduate from high school, but only if it doesn't interfere with cooking meals for her gruff Papi, babysitting her niece, or working enough hours at Kroger to help pay the family's bills. Marisa knows her duties to la familia come first, but she also knows she's smart enough to really make something of herself. Marisa's parents want her to stay in the barrio, marry a neighborhood boy, have babies, and work at some dead-end job like a good little Mexican girl. Marisa wants more. So much more.

When Marisa's favorite teacher urges her to apply to a competitve engineering program at the University of Texas, Marisa longs to do it. But just the thought of fleeing Houston fills her with paralyzing guilt. How will her Mami and Papi afford rent without Marisa's paycheck? Who will cook Papi's meals? If Tia Marisa isn't around, who will watch little Anita, soothe her when her parents fight, keep her safe from her drug-dealing father's vicious temper? And what of sweet, gorgeous Alan Peralta, who's finally showing some interest in her? Can she leave all of it behind? Just for some fancy science program? As much as Marisa wants to follow her own dreams, she knows it's impossible.

As things at home become more and more impossible, Marisa faces the most difficult choice of her life: Does she give up on her own future to make everyone else happy, like she's always done in the past? Or does she fight for her dreams, no matter what the cost? Trapped by all that's expected of her, Marisa will be forced to choose between tradition and progress, cultural expectations and personal ambition, familial obligations and her own fulfillment. Can she find a way to make her dreams come true without losing everything in the process? Or is she doomed to eke out a hard scrabble life in a cockroach-infested tenement building, just like her parents?

What Can't Wait, a debut novel by Texas native Ashley Hope Perez, is an immigrant story with bite. It's familiar, touching on all the usual conflicts, but surprising in its unflinching honesty. I found the novel both compelling and affecting, even though I would have liked a whole lot more originality from it. Still, it's refreshing to see modern Mexican-American culture being explored in teen lit, especially when it comes from a writer like Perez, who uses her own experience to make her story realistic, relevant and, most of all, relatable to readers of every background. While What Can't Wait didn't blow me away, it has placed Perez firmly on my radar. You better believe I'll be keeping my eye on this intriguing literary lady.

(Readalikes: I guess I don't read many stories about Mexican-American teenagers. Any ideas here?)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language, sexual content and depictions of underrage partying/drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of What Can't Wait from the generous folks at Carolrhoda LAB. Thank you!

9 comments:

  1. This book sounds like something I would enjoy, for the Texas setting alone if nothing else. Thanks for relating your experience. I'll be checking it out.

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  2. I really loved the cover of the book! and thanks for that wonderful review!

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  3. The cover is really eye catching! Beautiful!

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  4. These shoes are usually accessible everywhere

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  5. This book sounds like something I would enjoy, for the Texas setting alone if nothing else. Thanks for relating your experience. I'll be checking it out.

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  6. The cover is really eye catching! Beautiful!

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