What Can’t Wait by Ashley Hope Perez

what cant wait

Rating: 5 stars

What Can’t Wait by Ashley Hope Perez is a story that will resonate with teens from Texas (the setting of the story) to Chicago (where the second language spoken is Spanish, followed closely by Polish).

In this realistic tale, seventeen-year-old Marisa is attending high school, trying to continue getting good grades so she can attend college, working long hours at the local super-store to help with the family finances, and balancing a soon-to-be boyfriend and best girlfriend.

There are many ways in which this book, with its superb plot, writing style and characters, stands out from many young adult books about Hispanic teens. Marisa’s gritty reality is that her older brother is a mechanic and happy to repair an extra transmission a week for additional money. Her sister married too young, has a volitile marriage to a loser, and also has a young daughter who hears too much arguing and cursing and sees too much drinking and drug abuse to be a happy youngster.

Marisa’s father is an immigrant who dropped out of school after third grade to work. He can barely read and does not support Marisa’s desire to go to college. In fact, neither he nor Marisa’s mother (who is a typical, but very real, subservient Mexican wife) have ever praised her for her straight A’s throughout high school.

Marisa’s dream, to study engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, seems as far away as Austin seems from Houston. So do her dreams of getting in, getting a scholarship, and even just passing AP Calculus.

When there’s a tragedy in the family and Marisa is expected to drop all her dreams and work, she must make a difficult decision. Is family more important than dreams even when that family doesn’t support her dreams?

What Marisa finds is that those who truly love you will always be there in times of need. And that’s a life lesson worth learning.

Young adult readers will enjoy the fast pace of the book, the realistic nature of the story, and the wonderful characterizations. I especially enjoyed that fact that unlike many, many books where Spanish is thrown in for effect, in this book the Spanish is not thrown in, but carefully placed in spots where real bilingual speakers would go from English to Spanish. For example, in one dialogue the word “huerita” is used; it’s perfect–there is no true translation for that word, and it’s absolutely a word that needs to be in Spanish.

Disclaimer: the reviewer used a digital galley provided by NetGalley for this review. This reviewer declines to review books not worthy of recommendation. (Please NOTE: This is a reprint of a February 2011 review)

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