This book was hard for me to read after loving Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe so much. Sam and Sal both felt so much more disjointed as young adults, and there were moments of pure incongruity that I felt were hard to get past.
For the most part, this book was relatively feminist and questioned gender norms, but there were definitely times when I felt the author played up as many stereotypes as possible without really talking about them too much. For example, when Sal was talking about baseball, he says, “One of the great things about Sam was that she didn’t throw like a girl.” First of all, Sam does throw like a girl because she is one, and it shouldn’t be an inherently bad thing to be a girl. Girls can throw a baseball well.
In the same paragraph about the two of them learning to play baseball together, Sal goes on to comment, “You know, for a gay guy, my dad was pretty straight.” Secondly, why is there a certain way to be gay and why does baseball not fit into that category? I mean, gay people are people after all, as is the message that Saenz is trying to sprinkle throughout the rest of the story. This feels like lack of proper editing, as it seems in-congruent with the message Saenz is trying to send. Additionally, as this is marketed as LGBTQ+ fiction, it would be a good idea to make sure that as an author you’re not putting people into limiting boxes. Besides these couple of comments, I think Saenz mostly does a good job of proving that people don’t have to fit into limited societal norms, but there are definitely a few confusing lines throughout the course of the book.
There were some really great things about this book, predominantly the family dynamics and the way in which each of the characters was able to show love and grief in myriads of ways. I loved the cultural pieces that brought them together and allowed them to connect on deeper levels. Additionally, I don’t read as many book set in the Southwest, and something about that area feels refreshing to me.
However, overall I felt disconnected from the characters and confused about the message that was being sent to readers.