From School Library Journal
Grade 6-10–A cell-phone mix-up leads to first love in this warmhearted, humorous novel. Marisa Rodriguez, 14, is an indifferent student at her run-down school, chubby from an excess of junk food, and too quick to express her anger with her fists. Still, she dreams of a better life. When she meets geeky Rene, love blossoms despite his highwater pants, white socks, and honking laugh. She is inspired to switch to a better high school, where she improves her grades, loses weight, and even gets a part in the school play. Obstacles present themselves, of course; Marisa's former classmates are threatened by her attempts to better herself, and Rene's domineering mother opposes their relationship. Soto's portrayal of Marisa's family, friends, and neighborhood–in a novel peppered with Spanish words and teen slang–is set in a world where poverty, drugs, and early pregnancy are acknowledged but don't dominate the story. Marisa is the most sympathetic character, while others are less fully developed. Occasionally stilted dialogue and clunky writing (She breathed in and out like a prizefighter) will distract some readers. However, it's hard not to like spunky Marisa and appreciate the fresh point of view she brings to what otherwise might be a typical teen romance.–Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
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Gr. 7-10. After a scuffle with the "sorry rat" who broke her best friend's heart, 14-year-old Marisa grabs the wrong cell phone. It belongs to Rene, a "muy
wimpy" chess player who attends a magnet school across town. As they exchange phones, Marisa finds herself curiously drawn to Rene, a skinny, "genuine nerd," very different from the homeboys at her rough school. Inspired to make a change, and get closer to Rene, Marisa transfers to his school and is surprised to find herself transformed from "a moody shadow" in class to someone who "could bare her soul." As she and Rene progress to handholding and kisses, secrets emerge that threaten their academic possibilities and their affection. Soto deepens this gentle romance between opposites with subtle, authentic glimpses of an uncertain world, where adults don't always provide protection and nurturing. With humor and insight, he creates memorable, likable characters in Marisa and Rene, who find support and love by valuing authenticity and sweetness over cool. A glossary of the text's occasional Spanish words and phrases is appended. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved