Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

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Annotation: I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectation... more
Catalog Number: #306293
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2021
Edition Date: 2021
Pages: 384
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 0-316-46027-3 Perma-Bound: 0-8000-0649-6
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-316-46027-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-8000-0649-5
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Penelope Prado is head honcho at Nacho's Tacos when her father isn't there til he fires her for skipping out on her college classes. Like many immigrants, her parents' cloak their desire for a better life for her under tough love, but she perceives it as a rejection of her dream to open a pastelería. Just as Pen's thoughts of inadequacy begin to take hold, she meets Nacho's newest hire, Xander, who's searching for his estranged father and under the threat of having his undocumented status exposed. When the restaurant is in trouble, the two learn the true meaning of family, both inherited and found. The portrayal of a tight-knit Chicanx community brought together by food and love is at the core of this novel, and Kemp's precise writing flows from Pen's perspective to Xander's effortlessly, even while revealing their individual lives. Some alcohol abuse might push this into older YA territory, and issues of mental health are handled with care. Recommended for readers who enjoy strong stories about found families, expectations, and food.
Publishers Weekly
Set in a close-knit community in Austin, Tex., debut author Kemp-s exquisite YA contemporary romance follows two Latinx teens after their lives intersect at a beloved neighborhood restaurant. When 18-year-old Penelope -Pen- Prado makes the difficult decision to come clean to her Mexican American parents about having skipped a semester-s worth of community college classes, as well as her real dream of owning a bakery, she is promptly fired from her father-s restaurant, Nacho-s Tacos. Mean-while, 18-year-old Alejandro -Xander- Amaro, a new hire at Nacho-s, longs to find his absent father and lives with constant worry about his own undocumented status. When Xander runs into Pen on his first-and her last-day working at Nacho-s, romance ensues. Told in the protagonists- alternating, refreshingly candid voices (-So I have to decide what-s scarier: living a life that doesn-t belong to me, or losing the one I love-), Kemp-s novel serves up finely rendered, stirring character arcs for both, as well as an intimate portrait of two teens grappling with mental health, complicated family relationships, and newfound love. Much like Elizabeth Acevedo-s With the Fire on High, Kemp has created a truly special combination of deliciously described food, expressive prose, and dreamy romance. Ages 14-up. Agent: Andrea Morrison, Writers House. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up In Austin, TX, Pen Prado's Mexican American family runs Nacho's Tacos, a popular place to eat and gather and the community hub that neighborhood residents turn to in times of need. Pen's father, Ignacio, can always be counted on for a meal when someone is hungry, quick money for a small job, or steady employment for people with undocumented statuses. Pen has a passion for cooking and dreams of running the restaurant when her father retires, but her parents insist Pen finish nursing school. When they find out that she has been skipping classes, they fire her from the restaurant and let her know that she may continue to live at home only if she finishes school. Xander lives with his abuelo and lives in fear of his undocumented status being revealed. He has worked with immigration lawyers and private detectives in hopes of finding his father, but so far doesn't even know if he's alive. When Xander, who is from Mexico, takes a job at Nacho's Tacos, he finds a place to belong and a family as his relationship with Pen progresses, but those things are threatened by J.P., or El Martillo, a loan shark who has corrupt members of law enforcement on his payroll. In this coming-of-age story told in multiple perspectives, Pen struggles to deal with familial expectations while chasing her dreams of cooking, the heady emotions of first love, and mental health issues stemming from anxiety and depression. Secondary characters are well developed and the plot is a balance of tension, humor, romance, and fear. Lush imagery celebrates Mexican culture and depicts how food can bring people together. VERDICT This nVoices YA contemporary debut is not to be missed; recommended for most collections. Samantha Lumetta, P.L. of Cincinnati and Hamilton Cty., OH
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Two Latinx young adults in Austin, Texas, find love at the crossroads of family, food, and self-discovery.Eighteen-year-old Penelope Prado loves working at Nacho’s Tacos, her father’s Mexican restaurant, and dreams of eventually having her own bakery, but her parents—especially her stern father—want more for her. Xander Amaro is a new hire at the restaurant who gets past Pen’s tough exterior with his vulnerability and care. He is from Puebla, Mexico, and undocumented; his father left for the U.S. when he was a boy, and his mother sent him to the States to live with his abuelo. As he holds out hope of locating his father, he is welcomed by the vibrant crew at Nacho’s that works, parties, and pranks together. When a lie sends Pen away from her family home and the restaurant, she must face forced independence while managing her mental health. Kemp’s evocative writing weaves a tender love story set in a tightknit working-class neighborhood that vibrates with life despite local businesses’ ongoing struggles with El Martillo, a dangerous loan shark. Fans of Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High (2019) will cherish Xander and Pen’s love story and Pen’s passion for food. This stellar debut offers a cathartic take on a relationship between a father and daughter.Authentic flavor inside and out. (Fiction. 14-adult)
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews (12/1/20)
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly (12/1/20)
ALA Booklist (4/1/21)
Reading Level: 6.0
Interest Level: 9-12

I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between not disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she's been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho's who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she's been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho's is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo's, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander's immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

This stunning and poignant novel from debut author Laekan Zea Kemp explores identity, found families and the power of food, all nestled within a courageous and intensely loyal Chicanx community.

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