Saturday, April 22, 2017

Arc Review: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. 239 p. Viking/ Penguin Young Readers Group, May 16, 2017. 9781101997239.

Thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora lives and works with his large extended family. They own and run a Cuban American restaurant, La Cocina de la Isla, walking distance from the apartment complex where they all live. Arturo's grandmother, and founder of the restaurant, is the glue that holds the family together. She founded the restaurant with her now deceased husband and has recently passed the reins of running the restaurant to Arturo's mother. Arturo's family gathers at the restaurant each Sunday for dinner where they engage in spirited conversation and bicker good-naturedly. The clan is hosting a new addition for the summer. Carmen and her father have moved into the complex. Arturo views her as family and is confused by the sudden rush of feelings for her. Arturo has two best friends, who will be off to separate camps for the summer soon while Arturo begins work at the restaurant as a junior dishwasher. 

Arturo is an endearing narrator and clearly adores his family, especially his Abuela. He's also charmingly awkward with Carmen. When Wilfredo Pipo invades the restaurant to introduce himself one day, everyone takes an instant dislike to him and his oily ways, even Abuela, who likes everyone.

Turns out, they have good reason to suspect Pipo, he plans on gentrifying the neighbor and La Cocina de la Isla is not on the blueprints. He's pushing them out. What's more, the rest of the neighborhood seems charmed by the idea. Arturo's aunt wants to do something and Arturo's mother has a more wait and see attitude. Arturo's scared and he and Carmen team up to get to the bottom of things. 

There's a lot to like about this debut. It's a gentle story of family, connection and growing up. Reading it was like being enfolded into Abuela's warm hug. It was like meeting a family for the first time but feeling like I've know them forever. Arturo's voice is earnest and awkward and at times, hilarious but always genuine. 

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