March 3, 2011

Book Review: What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez

A very fitting cover
At First Sight: Marisa's life has always been complicated - living in Houston, helping support her family and most often than not taking care of her niece Anita and getting dragged into her older sister's messes - but, during senior year of high school a bit of hope opens up for her since her AP calculus teacher keeps urging her to apply to a prestigious engineering program at UT-Austin.

Marisa knows is a long shot and that her immigrant parents have never cared much about how well she does at school and are more worried about how much money she can scrounge up to help pay the house bills than about Marisa's college plans; but she has always wanted something more for herself and this might just be her way to get it, if she can survive Senior Year.

This is a plan that gets infinitely more complicated when her sister Cecilia's husband gets injured in a work accident, and Marisa finds her self stretched more thin than ever. Her only comfort being her best friend Brenda and her new boyfriend Alan, and her niece Anita, for whom Marisa would do anything and everything, even going after her dreams, against all odds, just so Anita can see that it can be done.

Second Glance: I was very excited to read this book and also a bit reluctant, mostly because I tend to go very hard on characterization of Mexican characters. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the  occasional but proper use of Spanglish* and the fact that the author didn't fall into easy stereotypes

The story itself, well, it goes a bit in circles (though not much), but it is one of easy derails off the road and hard choices between what's best for you and what your family wants. Marisa's family was an accurate description of Mexican family-dynamics in the good and the bad, a bit old fashioned and perhaps a bit exaggerated but very true in it's essence. 

I loved Marisa's voice, her vulnerability and her mistakes, the way she gets off track at times - because it shows just how easy it is - and how she pushes to make things right. I really liked Alan and Brenda who perhaps not always understood the way Marisa thought but who tried to be there for her every step of the way. And even Marisa's siblings were well drawn, her irresponsible, vaguely lazy brother and her sister who's always dumping responsibilities on Marisa, but comes through eventually, as does their mother.

Bottom Line: What Can(t) Wait is an interesting look at the choices we make to become who we want to be, and a good book all around, regardless of anyone's background. It was a great pace and something interesting to say. 

Favorite Quote: "Because whatever our other failings, Mexicans don't let people in crisis go hungry." - Marisa (So true, at so many levels, lol).
* Re: Spanglish. I have something to say about the word 'mija', I was born and raised in Mexico and I can count with the fingers of ONE hand the number of times I get called mija in a YEAR, seriously, stop using it so much, it's not that representative of Spanish/Spanglish. Honestly. 

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