|Somewhere Between Bitter And Sweet|
Author: Kemp, Laekan Zea
Pen, whose dream of taking over her family's restaurant has been destroyed, and Xander, a new, undocumented, employee seeking his father, form a bond. Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 12/01/2020 Gr 9 Up—In Austin, TX, Pen Prado's Mexican American family runs Nacho's Tacos, a popular place to eat and gather and the community hub that neighborhood residents turn to in times of need. Pen's father, Ignacio, can always be counted on for a meal when someone is hungry, quick money for a small job, or steady employment for people with undocumented statuses. Pen has a passion for cooking and dreams of running the restaurant when her father retires, but her parents insist Pen finish nursing school. When they find out that she has been skipping classes, they fire her from the restaurant and let her know that she may continue to live at home only if she finishes school. Xander lives with his abuelo and lives in fear of his undocumented status being revealed. He has worked with immigration lawyers and private detectives in hopes of finding his father, but so far doesn't even know if he's alive. When Xander, who is from Mexico, takes a job at Nacho's Tacos, he finds a place to belong and a family as his relationship with Pen progresses, but those things are threatened by J.P., or El Martillo, a loan shark who has corrupt members of law enforcement on his payroll. In this coming-of-age story told in multiple perspectives, Pen struggles to deal with familial expectations while chasing her dreams of cooking, the heady emotions of first love, and mental health issues stemming from anxiety and depression. Secondary characters are well developed and the plot is a balance of tension, humor, romance, and fear. Lush imagery celebrates Mexican culture and depicts how food can bring people together. VERDICT This #OwnVoices YA contemporary debut is not to be missed; recommended for most collections.—Samantha Lumetta, P.L. of Cincinnati and Hamilton Cty., OH - Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 04/01/2021 Penelope Prado is head honcho at Nacho’s Tacos when her father isn’t there—until he fires her for skipping out on her college classes. Like many immigrants, her parents’ cloak their desire for a better life for her under tough love, but she perceives it as a rejection of her dream to open a pastelería. Just as Pen’s thoughts of inadequacy begin to take hold, she meets Nacho’s newest hire, Xander, who’s searching for his estranged father and under the threat of having his undocumented status exposed. When the restaurant is in trouble, the two learn the true meaning of family, both inherited and found. The portrayal of a tight-knit Chicanx community brought together by food and love is at the core of this novel, and Kemp’s precise writing flows from Pen’s perspective to Xander’s effortlessly, even while revealing their individual lives. Some alcohol abuse might push this into older YA territory, and issues of mental health are handled with care. Recommended for readers who enjoy strong stories about found families, expectations, and food. - Copyright 2021 Booklist.