From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7 Up—Antonia Lucia Labella, 15, strives to become the first living saint in the history of the Catholic Church. She petitions various saints for any number of reasons, big and small, serious and amusing. Every month for the last eight years, she has written to the Vatican with a new idea for a patron saint for everything from fig trees to kisses and offered herself as a candidate for the position. Her first request after the death of her father was to become the Patron Saint of Daddy's Heart. Each suggestion has been met with silence, but Antonia hasn't given up hope. The teen's life revolves around working at Labella's Market (the best homemade pasta in Rhode Island), school, boys, and saints. Freitas brings to life the protagonist's experiences at a Catholic school and in an immigrant family. First loves and family feuds fill the pages. Antonia wants nothing more than to experience her first kiss with her longtime crush and is horrified when his advances indicate a desire for more. She takes her religion seriously, without proselytizing. With a satisfying ending, this novel about the realistic struggles of a chaste teen is a great addition to all collections.—Cara von Wrangel Kinsey, New York Public Library
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*Starred Review* Fifteen-year-old Antonia Labella is a busy girl. She goes to Catholic school, helps her widowed mother in the family grocery, and dreams about kissing Andy Rotellini. However, updating her saint diaries is the most pleasurable way to fill her time. Each year Antonia starts a new diary, filling it with pictures and cards of saints to venerate and pasting in copies of her letters to the Vatican as well as the infrequent replies. Antonia writes regularly, noting oversights in patron-saint specializations and recommending the logical candidate to fill the position—that would always be Antonia. First-time novelist Freitas hops into the romance genre and brightens and heightens it by providing characters who are anything but run-of-the-mill (though Mom’s a little stereotypical) and expanding the tale to include a religious fervor not usually seen in today’s teens, not so amusingly anyway. Yes, it’s kind of silly that Antonia thinks she has a shot at being the Patron Saint of the Kiss, but her first-person narrative is so smile inducing, it’s easy to go along with the premise. As Antonia sorts out her feelings for longtime crush Andy, as well as Michael, the boy who makes her blush, readers will be hard-pressed to decide what interests them most—make-out sessions or martyrs. Grades 8-10. --Ilene Cooper
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