From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—Sofi is a California teen obsessed with clothes, boys, and trying to escape the strict controls of her immigrant parents. Fed up with their rules, she tells them that she is spending the weekend with a friend, cramming for finals. Instead, she sets off for Mexico with two girlfriends. Instead of the anticipated romantic encounter with her big crush, Sofi experiences drunken make-out sessions and American tourists behaving badly. Eager to return home, she is stopped at the border and told that her green card is a fake. Hysterical, Sofi calls home to discover that she and her parents are not legal citizens, and that she is trapped. Unable to speak Spanish, she goes to stay with her father's sister. Far away from iPods, Internet access, and a working phone, Sofi is forced to review her life and realize the sacrifices her parents made to give her better opportunities. The plot is paced well, with Sofi gradually evolving from a spoiled American teen into a bicultural, bilingual young adult. The Spanish language and foreign setting are well integrated into the book. While the Americans are more shallowly developed, the Mexicans whom Sofi encounters are vivid and well-rounded. Although there are occasional clichés, the writing is emotional and engaging. The author's Estrella's Quinceañera
(S & S) and Laura Resau's What the Moon Saw
(Delacorte, both 2006) also explore a young woman's struggle with a bicultural identity.—Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX
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"What's the harm in a little white lie?" wonders Mexican-born, Orange County resident Sofi Mendoza, who attends a classmate's house party near Tijuana against her parents' wishes. On the 17-year-old's return, she's stopped at the border and learns the impossible: her green card is false. Barred from reentering the U.S., she takes refuge with a Mexican aunt she's never met, and while her parents fight legal battles, she gradually shifts from terror and sneering disapproval of her relatives to openhearted love and gratitude. As in Estrella's Quinceañera (2006), Alegria combines chick-lit elements with a girl's struggle to define her Mexican American identity. Unsparing descriptions of ugly Americans include graphic "Girls Gone Wild" episodes that will leave teens examining their own party culture. Views of Mexican life beyond the tourist beaches are welcome and rare in YA novels, and Sofi's bumpy search for herself will resonate with teens of all backgrounds, particularly those who, like Sofi, celebrate a mixed heritage as "a bridge between cultures, the best of both worlds." Engberg, Gillian