From School Library Journal
Grade 7–10—After the death of the grandmother she has never met, Emily, a Jewish teen from a New York City suburb, spends a life-changing summer in Puerto Rico. Her mother left her homeland to attend college in New York and stayed on to earn a doctorate, marry, and, seemingly, never look back. Now, the girl must sacrifice a precollege road trip and final weeks with her boyfriend to stay in Puerto Rico while her grieving parent reconnects with her past. At first, relations are strained between Emily and her relatives; though polite and tactful, she's shy and sometimes mistaken for "stuck-up," particularly by her cousin Lucy, who treats her like a spoiled, privileged brat. As her mother comes to grips with her estranged sisters and her loss, Emily learns the truth about their severed ties as well as about life in the real Puerto Rico-not the one in "getaway brochures." When Lucy suspects that she is pregnant, only her New York family can help; old-fashioned attitudes and limited options for women are part of her decision to leave the island, just as her aunt did so many years before. Emily's honest, thoughtful narrative tells this engaging story of family and culture drawn from the author's own experience.—Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
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When high-school senior Emily Goldberg leaves her New York suburban home to attend her grandmother's funeral in Puerto Rico, it's her first meeting with her mother's extended family. She has always wondered why Mom didn't return home after she left for college in New York, or even later, when she married her hippy Jewish boyfriend. Emily stays in Puerto Rico for the summer to help Mom reconnect with what she left behind, and discovers a new world. Her fast, funny, present-tense narrative is totally without affectation as she learns about food, music, museums, and the rain forest, gets close to a gorgeous guy, and tries to overcome the seething hostility of her cousin Lucy (who treats her as "a new strain of toenail fungus"). Without heavy messages, Ostow draws on her own half-Jewish, half-Puerto Rican roots to tell a moving story that has a solid plotline and plenty of family secrets--past and present--as it opens up issues of tradition, feminism, friendship, and loyalty. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved