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Annotation: When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz's father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes, and doesn't like everything she sees.
Catalog Number: #216073
Format: Perma-Bound from Publisher's Hardcover
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 328 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-358-12435-2 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-8005-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-358-12435-1 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-8005-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2019029658
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
As her life begins to unravel, a teen struggles with her father’s decision to run for president.Cuban American Mariana Ruiz has always supported her charismatic father’s political ambitions. Mari and her family have been by his side during every campaign, from local South Florida positions to his current role in the U.S. Senate. But as the Florida primaries approach, the young woman balks at the growing demands expected of her and the breaches of her privacy. Running away right before a national televised family interview, she becomes the focus of viral videos and manufactured tabloid articles. Sylvester adeptly delves behind the scenes in political families’ lives while presenting the complexity of a young woman realizing that her parents are not the heroes she always believed them to be. The diversity of South Florida is represented here with nuance; Mari’s friends have Haitian, Dominican, and Peruvian ancestry, and Spanish is sprinkled throughout, adding to the narrative’s setting. The characterization is multilayered; even Sen. Ruiz is multifaceted as a politician who struggles with staying true to his Latinx heritage and family while trying to cater to the pressures of his big developer donors. With subtle strokes, messages about the power of activism come through while never feeling preachy. The authentic voice will draw readers in and help them see themselves in Mari.A timely call to stand up for your beliefs. (Fiction. 14-18)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Mari Ruiz has played the role of the senator's well-behaved daughter throughout her father's political career in Miami: no drama, just smiles. But since he announced his run for president, the media is zooming in close on Mari in particular, making privacy a thing of the past. At the same time, her best friend and her friend's mom abruptly find themselves forced out of their home, contaminated water is making people in Florida sick, and a student activism group at her high school is gathering steam. As Mari learns more about her father's policies, she finds that he's the common link and that doing what's right might mean going against his campaign. Sylvester's YA debut embodies the theme of our decade: to stand up and speak up for what we believe in. A real 2018 Florida bill inspired the protest that ultimately ensues in the book, heightening the urgency of the matter and coloring the truth behind the details. Mari's obliviousness to her father's position and lack of curiosity about her mother's past are offset by the gradual unraveling of the lives around her and her determination to finally seek answers by surrendering her assumptions. Sylvester expertly puts readers inside the pressured lives of a family in politics and reaffirms the adage that indeed, knowledge is power.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist
Kirkus Reviews
Word Count: 77,986
Reading Level: 5.1
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.1 / points: 12.0 / quiz: 509939 / grade: Upper Grades


"I'm Anthony Ruiz." My father pauses, widening his smile. "And I approve this message."
      From behind the camera, the director says, "Just a few more times."
      "I'm Anthony Ruiz, and I approve this message."
      Someone holding a light over me and my family coughs. Papi leans forward and looks across the couch at Mami before trying again. "I'm Anthony Ruiz and I approve this message."
      "Not so fast, Tonio," she says.
      "I'm Anthony. Ruiz. And I approve this message."
      Ricky tries to keep from laughing, but ends up sounding like he sneezed with his mouth closed. I shoot him my most stern don't-laugh-at-Papi look, but I fail miserably at keeping a straight face.
      "You sound like a robot, Papi," he says.
      "It's super unnatural," I add.
      "I'll try it one more time. We don't have all day," he says, but I think he's trying not to laugh too. The dimple on his left cheek--the one that, according to Mami, makes the focus group of women her age melt--starts to peek through.
      "Actually, this is going to make great blooper reel footage," the director says. "The PACs will love it."
      At the mention of PACs, my mother clears her throat and turns her nose up, away from the director. It's no secret that she's not comfortable with what we're doing. When I asked her why before the shoot, she said that Political Action Committees can help the candidates they're supporting, but they can't donate more than five thousand dollars directly to their campaign.
      "It's to keep super-wealthy people from buying influence in an election," she said. "But outside of that five thousand, PACs can do other things with the money they raise, like make ads and buy airtime on TV for their chosen candidate."
      "So we're shooting these videos for the PACs," Ricky said matter-of-factly. I raised my eyebrows and gave him an encouraging smile. It's cute how he acts like he knows what he's talking about, even though I suspect he thinks there's a giant yellow Pac-Man doing Papi's bidding. Still, he catches on to more than my parents give him credit for.
      "No no no no no," Papi replied, very quick to contradict him. "We're not shooting footage for the PACs. We're putting these on YouTube. Whatever anyone does with all the video is completely up to them."
      Mami glared at my father.
      "It's too gray, Tonio. You know how I feel about shady tactics."
      "It's common practice. All the other candidates do it."
      "That's not the kind of reasoning I want to teach the--"
      She was interrupted by one of the assistants asking us to take our seats at the dinner table.
      Not that we actually ate dinner. It's noon on a Saturday and we've been up since five in the morning for makeup and to catch what they call "good light." Papi said grace twenty different ways over a meal we didn't eat, then we played catch in the backyard. Correction: Papi and Ricky tossed a football back and forth while Mami and I sat on beach towels by the pool, laughing like we were in a 1950s toothpaste commercial. We walked around the neighborhood holding hands as a family, and now we're here: all four of us on the couch in the living room. Mami sits next to Papi with Ricky to her right, and I sit to Papi's left. He puts his arms over our shoulders and squeezes.
      "I love you all so much."
      "Nice, that's really nice," the director says. "One more time?"
      "Gladly," Papi says. "I'm just so proud of my family." We all look at him and smile, but his gaze remains steady on the camera until he finally catches my eye and says, "I love you, hijita."
      I smile back despite the awkwardness. Between the film crew and Papi's campaign staff, there are at least fifteen people watching us. There will be who knows how many million more, once the videos are online.
      I try not to think about it.
      "Okay, now let's try the approval a few more times, but this time the kids join in and say 'we approve this message.'" The director takes off his Marlins cap and runs his hands through his hair. I can't remember his name, just that Papi was really excited we got him for this shoot because he did a bunch of spots for a Mitt Romney PAC in 2012. When politics was still about honest men running, he always says.
      "I don't think that's a good idea," Mami says.
      "¿Por qué no?" Papi lowers his voice even though we're all wearing mikes.
      "It's tacky, dear. Leaning on the kids so much."
      "I think it'd be sweet. Ricky, what do you think?"
      That's messed up and my father knows it. Ricky's only eight, which means he does anything Papi asks, no questions. He'll figure out he has a choice in things eventually. For now, he nods enthusiastically.
      I'm surprised Papi asks me. Has he forgotten the fifty-three hundred times I've begged him and Mami to leave me out of this? My father acts like I'm still eight years old and dreaming of being an actress. He caught me rehearsing my Oscar acceptance speech in front of the mirror with a hairbrush as a mike the one time and he's just never been able to drop it. He put me in front of the cameras every chance he got, calling me his Best Supporting Actress. But back then his campaigns were different. For one, I had no lines. Mami was in charge of everything and she insisted it was for our own protection that Ricky and I should be "seen but not heard." Besides, people weren't exactly tuning in by the millions to watch footage of their local elections.
      This, though. This is on a totally different level.
      Before he announced he was running for president last fall, my father made a really big deal about getting me and my brother's support, and of course I was excited for him--I still am. But guess who froze on camera during her first channel 39 appearance when the anchor asked the simplest question of all time? Turns out a mike is not the same as a brush. Turns out it makes "Are you excited for your father?" sound like "What is the square root of seven hundred forty-nine thousand?" Papi knows I can't handle the public speaking thing. He knows that inside I panic Every. Single. Time. Still, he can't accept the fact that I'm not a crowd-pleasing natural like him.
      Mami cuts in before I can answer. "You don't want to look like a local mattress store salesman, do you?"
      She gives me a subtle wink. At least she remembers that Papi promised to use Ricky and me as little as possible. "Only when it's absolutely necessary," he'd said.
      Except who gets to decide what's necessary and what's not?
      "Don't exaggerate, Juliana. It's just a few simple words." He smiles, but his dimple isn't showing anymore. He taps me on the chin and says, "Right, chiquitica? It's not like we're live."
      I wave his hand away like it's a mosquito that landed on my face. He's making things so much worse. We may not be live, but everyone's watching us. If I contradict him in front of the crew, I can already imagine what his assistant, Joe, will say when it's over: every time you undermine your father, you make him look like less of a leader. But if I stand here another second, I'll feel my throat turn into a giant suction cup, like in those nightmares I always have where I've lost my voice.
      "Can we take a break?" I finally say. "I need to use the restroom." I don't wait for the director or my dad to say yes or no. I walk out before they have a chance to stop me.

I use the half bathroom downstairs because the camera crew is blocking the way to my bedroom and bathroom upstairs. It's smaller than my closet but at least it's quiet. I check my phone and see that Vivi texted me a bunch of screenshots and links to articles in support of my father.
      See? It's not so bad. She adds a bunch of smileys and the lady-dancing-in-red-dress emoji. That's her trademark.
      Thanks, I text back. Still trending, tho.
      Last week, during the primary debate, Papi messed up bad. I could tell by the way Mami, who sat in between me and Ricky in the front row, squeezed my hand like she was making orange juice.
      The moderator had asked my father about climate change, about why the party is so averse to using those two words when Miami Beach is already being affected by sea level rise.
      "That's not entirely accurate," Papi said, in this vague, could-mean-anything way that I'm starting to realize is probably the point. He added that the weather patterns are not necessarily manmade and that what's happening on the beach shouldn't be blown out of proportion.
      "When a hurricane blows our way, do the other forty-nine states duck for cover? No, because we're talking about Miami, not the whole country," he said. Then, maybe out of nerves, or maybe thinking it'd be funny, he chuckled and added, "We can be our own Latin American bubble sometimes."
      By the end of the debate, #BubbleBoyRuiz was trending and people from both political parties were saying that comments like my dad's are what enable our government to abandon its own people in times of crisis, like they did Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Others were calling his Latin America sound bite controversial and insensitive, which everyone knows is code for racist. Joe started freaking out that my dad's campaign would have to go into crisis mode. Jesus. He just made all of South Florida think he doesn't think they count, is what he kept repeating, over and over. The primary elections are less than a month away; other states like Arizona and Illinois are voting on the same day, but my father's team is hyperfocused on Florida because for him, it's make or break. He can't win the GOP presidential nomination without winning his home state; it's worth way more votes than most. Pissing off the city with his highest number of supporters was a really stupid move.
      Even the kids at school were upset. In the halls, I counted four girls who walked by me popping their gum in huge, loud bubbles.
      "Ignore them," Vivi said. "They'll be over it by tomorrow. They're so full of shit, pretending they care about politics."
      But it's been five days and things have only gotten worse. I click on the hashtag and scroll. People accuse my father of turning his back on his own community. A headline from the Miami Herald reads RUIZ BURSTS OWN BUBBLE AMONG HISPANIC VOTERS. An opinion piece is titled HERE'S WHY SENATOR RUIZ'S COMMENTS PERPETUATE WHITE SUPREMACY. One of the most popular tweets (a thread shared twenty-two thousand times and counting) is by Jackie Velez, a senior at our school. She has a huge following because she's the editor of the school paper, and she interned at Teen Vogue one summer. The only person in a bubble is @SenAnthonyRuiz. He seems to have forgotten that Latinx people are Americans too. What makes him think we'll support him at the polls when he so easily turns his back on his own community?
      Jackie's avatar is a picture of her leaning against a mural of the Puerto Rican flag, screaming. Half her head is shaved and the rest of her hair is dyed bluish-black. It cascades diagonally over the left side of her face, accentuating her cheekbones and dark brown eyes in a way that makes her look like some sort of postapocalyptic Disney princess. I take a screenshot of her tweet and send it to Vivi.
      Did you see?
      I watch for the "Delivered" notification under my text to switch to "Read," but Vivi must have gotten distracted, because nothing happens. Instead, a follower request pops up on my screen, and I almost drop my phone into the toilet when I see who it is.
      The Jackie Velez.
      Requesting to follow me.
      It's like she knows we were just texting about her. I take another screenshot.
      Still no reaction from Vivi. I dim the screen on my phone and tuck it into my back pocket, ignoring Jackie's request. Or at least, trying to. For once I'm actually glad my parents made me set all my social media accounts to private at the beginning of Papi's campaign. What could Jackie possibly want with me, and why now?
      I take a deep breath and brace myself for whatever fresh hell awaits in the living room. Judging by the way Joe hovers over his phone, shaking his head, he's seen the latest tweets too. "It's not good," he says to Papi. "But it's still fixable. On the bright side, it'll only help the ratings for the interview on Friday."
      My stomach clenches. Three days ago, my dad's PR guy booked us all for a Meet the Candidates: Home Edition interview. It's this new thing where one of the major news networks doesn't just interview the candidate and the family--they get a tour of their whole house. Even the kids' bedrooms. When I asked my parents if they were fine with millions of strangers knowing where their kids slept at night, they agreed to leave me and my brother's rooms out of it. But then last night, one of the other candidates' Home Invasion interview aired. He has five-year-old twin daughters who wore identical yellow dresses. The whole family sat in their living room while the little girls took turns sharing stories of how their father plays hide-and-seek with them on weekends and never misses an imaginary tea party. Then they went into the girls' bedroom and poured pretend tea for the host. Now the news won't stop commenting on how cute and well-behaved they are. How the congressman should be so proud of his daughters. I think the part that got to Papi the most, though, is that they keep saying the congressman is such an involved father. So my dad decided the full home tour was back on, our rooms included. He insisted I was overreacting and that it'd be too risky for the campaign not to do it.
      "You have to understand, sweetie," he said. "We can't have people thinking we're hiding something. And you and Ricky are ready for this. Or was all that money we paid Jamie for nothing?"
      I wanted to tell him that yes, in fact, all my twelve weeks of training sessions with a media coach have accomplished is that I'm now hyperaware of how many ums and you knows I say when I talk, making me so much more insecure than before I started. And it's different for Ricky. An eight-year-old could do nothing other than blink on national television, and he'll be cute and endearing. Just look at the congressman's twins: they sipped on air and people lost their minds over their natural charm. Meanwhile, I have to be perfectly composed, enunciate every word, and make sure I sound smart but not robotic, sophisticated but not elitist.
      It made me wish Jamie had trained me in how to tell my dad no. How to speak so he would listen. By then, though, nothing I could say would have made a difference.
      Mami had been oddly quiet. Now she stands behind him and rubs his back in small, firm circles. "Are you sure this won't backfire?"
      Joe sends off a quick text. "Juliana, trust me." He always says her name with a hard J, like it's a longer version of Julie, instead of the soft J our family uses. "Even the people who hate-watch it won't be able to resist your charms. Let alone Ricky and Mariana's. You show some Miami pride, get back in touch with your local roots . . . convince them you're just like any other American family."
      We are like any other American family, I want to say. At least, I thought so until we started visiting Papi in DC every spring break. But other American families don't roast entire pigs in a hole dug in their abuelo's backyard on Christmas Eve. They don't make their ringtones play Celia Cruz or get their son's portrait painted for his first communion. Mami feels guilty that we never got mine painted when I was Ricky's age because we didn't have as much money back then, but you'll never see me complaining--it's creepy the way his eyes follow you down the hall and his little fingers clutch at the rosary.
      Joe looks my way like he just noticed I'm here. "Mariana! Why don't you show your parents what we've been practicing? For the interview?"
      I should have stayed in the bathroom longer. Joe's been writing out these notecards with lines that he thinks will make my dad sound good. He wants me to memorize them without seeming too rehearsed. Papi looks at me wide-eyed with his mouth half-open, the same way Ricky looks when he's playing video games, like he's expecting something spectacular. Mami sighs and says, "Go on, hijita."
      I feel every muscle from my stomach to my toes tense, and I take a deep breath.
      "I know my father will make a good president because . . ." I pause. It's hard for me to get the words out. They've been shoved down my throat for so long now, saying them feels like regurgitating. Even worse, Joe thinks I've paused because he taught me to. Said it makes me appear more genuine, like the thoughts are just occurring to me. "Because he's my hero and he's never let me down."
      My parents look like they're about to cry. I feel like I might too. It's not that that the words are a lie, it's just that, who even talks like that? When Joe originally asked me the question, I answered, because Papi works super hard. Like, night and day, he's working his butt off. And yeah, I know that's not exactly presidential daughter material, but it could've been finessed. Joe didn't even bother. He didn't even butcher what I said. More like he took an order for ham and offered up sliced cheese. And now I'll be humiliated in front of 2.5 million people. That's the show's viewership, one of the highest, if you ask Joe. Or even if you don't. He'll still brag about it to anyone who'll listen.
      "That's excellent. Excellent," Joe says. "Just don't be afraid to be yourself, okay? Just act natural."
      He's always saying that. Joe talks like we're close friends, when in reality he barely knows me. He just thinks he does.
      We shoot footage for another hour and a half. If this shoot and the interview go well, Papi and his staff plan on launching a livestream of his campaign. There'll be cameras everywhere he goes, which means everywhere we go when he's with us. I can't imagine anything worse. Our lives are being turned into a cheap presidential election version of The Bachelor. Would Jackie start writing about me then, too, with so much fresh material to pick through? I pull out my phone and hit decline on her request. Whatever it is she wants with me, it can't be good.
      Joe scribbles another line on a pink notecard and hands it to me. It's about how much Papi loves Miami--real subtle. I fold the notecard in half, then into quarters and eighths until it's a tiny wad so thick it won't bend any further. Papi glances at my hand, but I hide the paper in my palm before he can see what I've done to it.
      "You'll be perfect," he says.
      Perfect. No pressure or anything. Just perfect.

Excerpted from Running by Natalia Sylvester
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz's father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your hero--while the whole country is watching. In this authentic, humorous, and gorgeously written debut novel about privacy, waking up, and speaking up, Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter's vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes -style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father's political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was. But how do you find your voice when everyone's watching? When it means disagreeing with your father--publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

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