The other half of happy by Rebecca Balcárcel

“I wonder why Zuri’s accent sounds fancy while Dad’s accent doesn’t”

the-other-halfThe other half of happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.

Genre: Middle grade, contemporary, fiction, #ownvoices

Publication: August 20th 2019 by Chronicle Books

Series: None, Standalone

Length: Hardcover, 332 pages

Rating: ★★★★★

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Quijana is a girl in pieces. One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana’s Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn’t know more about her family’s heritage. One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she’s found true friends. But she can’t help the growing feelings she has for Jayden. One-half kid, one-half grown-up: Quijana spends her nights Skyping with her ailing grandma and trying to figure out what’s going on with her increasingly hard-to-reach brother. In the course of this immersive and beautifully written novel, Quijana must figure out which parts of herself are most important, and which pieces come together to make her whole. This lyrical debut from Rebecca Balcárcel is a heartfelt poetic portrayal of a girl growing up, fitting in, and learning what it means to belong.

Disclaimer: I received an e-arc copy of this book in exchange of a honest review for Sazón blog tour. 

I hadn’t read middle grade books in years, I don’t really know why, and I regret it, because I could’ve read so many good books just like this one. I mainly picked up this book because it is written by a latinx author, without reading the synopsis and I’m glad I did it.

In the book we follow Quijana who is starting classes in a new school, but not only that her cousins from Guatemala moved in her town and now her Dad who is Guatemalan is all about remembering what it felt like when he was young and living in Guatemala, he’s using Spanish more and Quijana can’t understand.

The writing was easy to read, it flowed like water and that made me devour the book in just a couple days. The pacing was good, and I think that’s perfect for children because it sucks your attention and doesn’t let go.

The book is a more character driven type of book than a plot driven one. What really matters in this book is character development and feelings, and I personally love it because is good to remember books by their characters instead of their stories.

The plot is about Quijana changing, figuring out how to feel happy with herself again and finding out what’s her place with her friends, her family and and who she’s at this time.

Quijana isn’t the typical soon to be teenager, she feels torn between two cultures and is just starting to realize that she can be more than just American, that she does not have to choose what to be. What I liked the more of her is her courage and determination because even when she’s afraid or insecure she managed to stay true to herself and accomplish what she wants. She can be a little annoying and sometimes she even feels rude (when she’s talking to her parents) and I see how that can bother some readers but reading that reminded me that I used to be the same.

Quijana’s das was my favorite character, he reminded me of my papi. He’s so strong but he’s also sensitive, he’s strict but knows how to have fun. I admired how calm he acted when things go wrong and how he doesn’t hide being sad. He’s the one that gives the warmth to the book, he also helped me at understanding my dad better.

Zuri and Jayden are the best. I loved Zuri and how sassy she is, every time she appeared and Jayden is the best friend. They are just what Qui needs.

Reading the family dynamics reminded me of my own family, all the craziness and the warmth characteristic of latinx families. The relationship between Qui, Memito is also a highlight. And all the Carrillos. It’s amazing reading a book where the family isn’t broken or what triggers the plot.

Wrapping up, if you love character development, crazy families or want an easy but amazing read this book is for you. The other half of happy is the book I wish I had when I was younger, I think I’d be changed me even more if I read it before. It’s one of my favorite reads of this month.