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For the IBARW review books by POC challenge! Also, Color Online is running a Color Me Brown book challenge for August.

Kara Martinez died for 11 minutes in the same accident that killed her father, and ever since then, she's seen signs on people that Mean Something. Unfortunately, she has to puzzle out the meaning of the signs herself before she can avert whatever disaster they signify. Even more unfortunate is that she has to hide everything that makes her herself from her mother to stave off the threat of hospitalization for mental illness. Meanwhile, she finds herself falling for Anthony, a guy from the wrong side of the tracks who may or may not be connected to all the signs she's been seeing.

I really enjoyed this! First, I love having an entire book populated by POC when the plot is not about being POC. Yes, part of Kara's angst is that her half-Irish half-Mexican mother tries to deny all her Mexican heritage because she hurts to much from the death of Kara's very Mexican father, but the majority of the book is about Kara piecing together the puzzle of the gun signs and trying to figure out what to do about it. I was a little more hesitant about the inclusion of gang violence because I am tired of POC books being all about "the street," but overall, I liked how Parra treated it and her emphasis on Anthony showing Kara that his neighborhood isn't just gang violence. It's where he grew up and has playgrounds he played at and schools and hangouts and etc.

I do have a quibble with the book's portrayal of the treatment of mental illness, which seemed a bit unreal from what I know. The therapist and Kara's mother team up to try to put her in a hospital because she's still having nightmares, she's given drugs without her consent, and her therapist shows strong tendencies to listen to her mother instead of to Kara. I mean, I have no doubt that this happens with sucky therapists, but I kind of wish it weren't perpetuating the whole "people who are basically fine get stuck in hospitals and have drugs shoved down their mouths OMG we are so overmedicated!" thing. (eta: more here on "consent" forced onto people and abuses in the mental health system)

I also thought the ending was not as strong as it could have been; there were a few too many plot points crammed into too small of a space. One in particular seemed to come out of nowhere and could have used much more set up.

Still, I enjoyed reading about Kara, especially because her issues with her mother resonated with me on a personal level. I also liked the romance between her and Anthony, which is quiet and sweet and has the two of them actually talking to each other. And overall, it's a book about psychic kids with angst, starring POC, yay!

ETA: Oh, Kelly Parra also blogs with other people about Latina YA here.
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October 2017

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