Mini-Reviews: Lupe Wong Won’t Dance + Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

Hello, friends! I read a lot of books during Latinx Heritage Month and have so have many reviews for you. This week I am sharing a review of a book I read before LHM and my first read for LHM. Both were amazing reads and introduced me to authors I know I will be reading for years to come.

Title: Lupe Wong Won't Dance Author: Donna Barba Higuera Series: N/A Pages: 256 Publisher: Levine Querido Release Date: September 8th 2020

TW: racism, bullying, grief

"Lupe Wong is going to be the first female pitcher in the Major Leagues. She's also championed causes her whole young life. Some worthy…like expanding the options for race on school tests beyond just a few bubbles. And some not so much…like complaining to the BBC about the length between Doctor Who seasons. Lupe needs an A in all her classes in order to meet her favorite pitcher, Fu Li Hernandez, who's Chinacan/Mexinese just like her. So when the horror that is square dancing rears its head in gym? Obviously she's not gonna let that slide."

Donna Barba Higuera’s Lupe Wong Won’t Dance is one of the most amusing middle grade novels I’ve ever picked up. Seventh grader, Lupe Wong, is determined to meet her favorite baseball player, Fu Li Hernandez. In order to do so, she has to get A’s in all her classes including P.E., which for Lupe ought to be a cinch, but this year is different. Her teacher is forcing her students to learn how to square dance! Lupe doesn’t think dancing should be considered a sport and makes it her mission to get her teacher to change her mind. Lupe is a great character. She is stubborn, smart, and endearingly precocious. Unfortunately, every plan she makes backfires. I loved seeing Lupe with both sides of her family. She is Mexican and Chinese and is blessed with being a part of both cultures. Her father passed away two years ago, but with the help of her mother and his grandparents, his memory is still kept alive. Her love for baseball is tied to her father and sometimes it’s hard for her to work through her feelings of grief. Lupe also learns important lessons in this one including how to be a better listener to her friends. Donna Barba Higuera’s Lupe Wong Won’t Dance was a true joy that had me laughing aloud from start to finish.

★ ★ ★ ★

Title: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega Author: Crystal Maldonado Series: N/A Pages: 352 Publisher: Holiday House Release Date: February 2nd 2021

TW: fatphobia, mentions of racism

"Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard. Harder when your whole life is on fire, though. Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat. People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it's hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn't help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter. But there's one person who's always in Charlie's corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing--he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS. A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves."

It was impossible not to fall in love with the lead character in Crystal Maldanado’s Fat Chance, Charlie Vega. Charlie is a romantic, who spends far too much time imagining what her first kiss will be like. She’s used to being a spectator even in her own life. Her mother is constantly reminding her that she’s too fat and often prefers the company of Charlie’s best friend to her own daughter. It’s hard for Charlie not to compare herself to her best friend. Amelia, who seems to have it all, including the unflinching support of her parents. Charlie wants to be able to love herself even when the world tells her otherwise, but this can sometimes be hard. I loved how vulnerable and genuine Charlie’s voice was. Charlie feels like a real person who struggles with insecurities and who is prone to jealousy. I appreciated how realistic Vega portrayed Charlie’s relationship with her mother. Some mother-daughter relationships aren’t healthy and like life, don’t have a neat resolution to them. Charlie’s relationship with her best friend Amelia also has its ups and downs. Charlie has always felt like she was living in her friend’s shadow, but doesn’t realize holding her friend up on a pedestal is also unfair to her. The romance in the novel is super sweet and I loved that Charlie’s confidence was boosted by her love interest, but was never dependent on him. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is perfect for readers who love love and endearing lead characters.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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