Mini-Reviews: Ophelia After All + What’s Coming to Me (ARC review)

I am late with both of these reviews because of my blogging hiatus, but it works out really well because Latinx Heritage Month is just around the corner and both of these would make great reads for that month. Both Racquel Marie and Francesca Padilla make their debuts this year. I was impressed with both books and though they are really different from one another, I think they would both make a tremendous impact on their intended audiences.

Title: Ophelia After All Author: Racquel Marie Series: N/A Pages: 352 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Release Date: February 8th 2022

TW: homophobia, racism

"A teen girl navigates friendship drama, the end of high school, and discovering her queerness in Ophelia After All, a hilarious and heartfelt contemporary YA debut by author Racquel Marie. Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys - way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn't change, even if she wanted to. So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia's firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love--and sexuality--never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she's always imagined or upending everyone's expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all."

Racquel Marie debuts with Ophelia After All, an engaging coming of age YA novel about discovering new parts of yourself and embracing change while entering adulthood. Ophelia thinks she has her life figured out. She has an incredible group of friends, no shortage of boy crushes, and is going off to college to study botany. When she finds herself unexpectedly crushing on Tanya, a new friend, Ophelia must reevaluate what she knows about herself. As she struggles to come to terms with her sexuality, Ophelia’s relationships with her friends and parents also begin to change. Ophelia After All features a wide range of compelling characters beside its lead. Ophelia has a great group of friends whose personalities all leap off the pages. These characters are messy and selfish. They make mistakes and step on each other’s toes. They don’t always make the right decisions and can sometimes be dismissive of each other’s feelings. They are only beginning to understand what emotional maturity means and with growth comes growing pains. Ophelia is used to straddling different worlds with her multicultural heritage, but this also means she understands that being a part of both these worlds can sometimes feel like she doesn’t truly belong to either. Likewise, Ophelia knows that everyone expects her to have yet another crush on a boy. She’s a romantic and doesn’t go long without someone catching her eye. She isn’t sure she’s ready for other people to see her differently if they also learn she is interested in girls. Ophelia After All is perfect for teens questioning their queer identity and anyone who loves great friend groups.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)


Title: What's Coming to Me Author: Francesca Padilla Series: N/A Pages: 336 Publisher: Soho Teen Release Date: August 2nd 2022 TW: sexual harrassment, death of a parent, drug use, grief

**Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley, which does not influence my review.**

"Seventeen-year-old Minerva Gutiérrez plans revenge on her predatory boss in this equally poignant and thrilling contemporary YA about grief, anger, and fighting for what you deserve, perfect for fans of Tiffany D. Jackson and Erika L. Sánchez. In the seaside town of Nautilus, Minerva Gutiérrez absolutely hates her job at the local ice cream stand, where her sexist boss makes each day worse than the last. But she needs the money: kicked out of school and stranded by her mom's most recent hospitalization, she dreams of escaping her dead-end hometown. When an armed robbery at the ice cream stand stirs up rumors about money hidden on the property, Min teams up with her neighbor CeCe, also desperate for cash, to find it. The bonus? Getting revenge on her boss in the process. If Minerva can do things right for once—without dirty cops, suspicious co-workers, and an ill-timed work crush getting in her way—she might have a way out . . . as long as the painful truths she’s been running from don’t catch up to her first."

Francesca Padilla’s YA debut, What’s Coming to Me, examines grief, poverty and retaliation through a poignant and sometimes messy lens. Minerva Gutiérrez is barely keeping afloat. Her mother’s health condition has deteriorated beyond hope, she is skipping school, and working a tedious job in order to build up her “Probable Orphan Fund.” To outsiders, Minerva appears to be an apathetic teen with no motivation, who is just going through the motions. But Minerva is not okay. She is not dealing with her anticipatory grief, but is actively avoiding it. She doesn’t want to talk about her mother because then everything will be real and in order to get up every day, even to a life that is starting to feel more and more hopeless, she has to close herself off from this reality. It is a defense mechanism that often has her retreating into herself and often lashing out at others. She is angry and desperate to get out of her small town. This desperation leads her into dangerous territory when she and a friend decide to rob her shady boss. What’s Coming to Me starts off slow and made me wonder where it was going, but once its plot found its footing, it sunk its claws into me and never let go. Padilla’s debut is quietly mesmerizing, about the lengths people will go to to survive, what justice can look like when conventional avenues aren’t available to you, and how protecting yourself from grief can sometimes leave you drowning anyways.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)