Friday, January 23, 2009
Amor and Summer Secrets - Diana Rodriguez Wallach
All she ever wanted...
For fifteen year old Mariana Ruiz, it's not so much an unexpected vacation as a literal "guilt trip" - her father's way of atoning for ignoring his Puerto Rican roots. But freedom from her parents is little compensation for being forced to spend two months with complete strangers rather than with her best friends in Philadelphia.
Once on "vacation", her worst fears come true. The heat is merciless, the food is spicy, and her great aunt and uncle's mountain house teems with relatives, only one of whom - her distant cousin Lilly - speaks English. Bored, and hoping to make up for missing her best friend's star-studded Sweet 16, Mariana offers to help in the planning of Lilly's Quincenera. Soon, despite herself, mariana clicks with new friends who open doors to romance and long-hidden secrets. Suddenly the summer she dreaded is ending way too quickly. It might turn out that the last place she ever wanted to go is the one place she truly finds herself.
Funny, though, and smart, Amor and SUmmer Secrets is a story about friendship, family, rivalry, secrets, and how much you can change over the course of one loco summer...
Going into Amor and Summer Secrets, I had heard many great things. I had also spoken with Diana Rodriguez Wallach before (I did an interview with her closer to the release date of the book) and she's really nice. So, I went into this book with extremely high expectations.
And they were most definitely met. While in the beginning, Mariana was a bit annoying and whiny, it wasn't overdone, and it was in places that I could understand. I mean, going to visit family you knew existed, but have never met? Missing your friends sweet sixteen parties? Being in a whole different country with family who can't even speak your language? Yeah, I can understand where the whiny teenager came out. Heck, I probably would've been whiny in the same situations.
Wallach also explained the setting wonderfully. The setting is Puerto Rico, which I've never been to, and I know a lot of others who haven't been there, either. It was critical (in my opinion, anyway) then that the setting was written wonderfully. I could understand the city, the sounds, the heat. It all flew off the page and I could see it. It almost felt like I was there, too.
The other thing that was done beautifully was Mariana's character change. She really finds herself in Puerto Rico, a place she thought she would hate. She does hate it in the beginning, but she eventually learns to love it, and to embrace her heritage.
Amor and Summer Secrets is a wonderful book that will leave you hanging on until the end and keep you waiting for the sequel, Amigas and School Scandals, which I hope to get my hands on soon. It's a wonderful book, and I really do think everyone should read it.