About the Book

Title: What Can(t) Wait
Published: 2011
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Mathalicious!
BFF Charm: To Love Oneself Is the Beginning of a Lifelong Relationship (aka HELLS YES)
Talky Talk: Muy Legitimo a Dejar
Bonus Factor: H-Town, Math, The Marilla Cuthbert Award
Relationship Status: Have You Been Reading My Diary, Ashley Pérez?

Cover Story: Mathalicious!

On first glance, I wasn’t really feeling this cover, cause you all know how I feel about covers with faces on them. But I have to say that, unlike many books I’ve read where I’ve wondered if the publishers even gave the poor cover artist an inkling of what the hell the book is about, this cover is pretty spot on. You look at it and think, “This is a book about a Latina girl who is good at math and may see math as her escape,” and you’d be 100% correct. Also, I love the little math joke of having the t in “can’t” in parenthesis. That’s actually, by being mathematically correct, also linguistically correct, and as someone who loves words and math in equal measure, I really appreciate that. Because I’m a nerd.

Plus, Marisa’s hiding half her face on the cover, and while typically the only thing I hate more than faces on covers is half-hidden faces on covers, this actually makes sense for the character. Well done, cover artist and publisher!

The Deal:

(Alright, you guys are gonna have to bear with me here, because while I can delightfully skewer something like Flowers in the Attic with one hand tied behind my back while also performing complex yoga poses, it’s a lot harder for me to write a review for a book I love without basically dissolving into tears and exclamation marks and screaming “JUST READ IT OKAY!!!” to various passers-by.)

Marisa Moreno is a seventeen year old girl living – or stuck, depending on your view – in Houston, TX. She’s busy juggling all of the various aspects of her life -babysitting her niece Anita, working at the local grocery store, spending time with her bestie Brenda and boyfriend Alan, and trying to ace theAP calculus test. Marisa desperately wants to get out of town and seek anonymity and independance at the University of Texas, but life isn’t quite that simple. She has to fork over half her pay from her after-school job to help her family pay the bills, which means she can’t save up as much as she’d like, and her older sister Cecilia’s husband Jose gets into an accident which pretty much guarantees he won’t be working anytime soon, so Marisa has to care for little Anita more and more as Cecilia has to work double shifts. With so many balls to juggle, it’s only a matter of time before she starts dropping some of them, and then something happens that makes her wonder if she’ll ever be able to pick anything up again . . .

BFF Charm: To Love Oneself Is the Beginning of a Lifelong Relationship (aka HELLS YES)

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Guys? Marisa IS me. Well, I mean, not really; we’re actually quite different on the surface. She’s the daughter of Mexican immigrants; I’m the daughter of Mississippi natives. Her parents don’t care about her grades; mine probably cared a little too much. And she is, in general, a hell of a lot more “good” (and a whole lot less bratty) than I ever was. But when you strip away the outside, we’re a lot alike – two girls who feel stuck in their town, who don’t want the same thing that their classmates want, who want to go out and do something, be something better than they are at home. So, because I love myself (cause I’m awesome), I would 100% give Marisa my BFF charm. I’d fucking present it to her in a velvet jewelry box and everything, cause I LOVE HER. She’s strong and smart and determined and brave. MARISA FOR PRESIDENT!

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Marisa and Alan definitely have some swoony times – and Alan is pretty swoony all on his own* – but this story is more about Marisa and her goals than about her goals of getting into Alan’s pants. (Though there is some of that too.)

*So, Alan’s totes swoony, but maybe a little too good. He’s nice and thoughtful and sensitive and doesn’t bullshit around with his or other people’s emotions. But he’s not good in an unrealistic way, which is one of the (many) things I loved about this book. Alan is exactly the sort of good guy boyfriend that smart girls like Marisa have in high school and the early semesters of college. Then smart girls like Marisa tend to get a bit drunk on their own sexual power and break their good guy boyfriend’s heart. Um. Not that I did that, or anything. Or know anyone who did. Nope. No siree. Moving on. Except to say, nice guys of the world (not Nice Guys, which are different), on behalf of most smart girls out there, I apologize for breaking your heart that one time. You got over it, though.

Talky Talk: Muy Legitimo a Dejar

Okay, I don’t know how to say “2 legit 2 quit” in Spanish, because it’s been 14 years since I’ve sat in a Spanish class, and while I’m still pretty good at reading it, I can’t write it or speak it to save my life. So I know that’s not quite right, but you get my point.

Pérez’s prose is straightforward and flowing, and doesn’t get tripped up in trying to be artistic over authentic. And, bless her, she never once falls back on My Most Hated Language Device, i.e. having a character say something in Spanish and then immediately translate it into English, even though all the people around speak Spanish. The characters speak in a mixture of Spanish and English, but you’ll either be able to translate the Spanish or figure it out from the context clues, because you are not dumb and, luckily, Ashley Pérez does not think you are dumb! Thank you, Ashley!

Bonus Factor: H-Town

The downtown Houston skyline behind a park with cyclists

H-TOWN REPRESENT! So, I’m sure it’s great when you live in New York City and can read about Central Park or Magnolia Bakery or some theatre in a book and be like, “Oh, ha ha! I was just there last week!” and then flip your hair dismissively and go back to doing the NYT crossword puzzle while drinking your latte. (This is basically what I think New Yorkers do every day. Then they rush to their jobs, but their jobs don’t start till 9 am so I don’t know why they have to rush? That’s a full hour and a half later than I start work. Anyway!) BUT I LIVE IN HOUSTON. And I’ve never been to Magnolia Bakery or Central Park! But you know where I have been? The Angelika! The South Side! Brunch at Pico’s! (Which isn’t mentioned in the book but I like to pretend that if Marisa and I were besties, we could avail ourselves of some bottomless mimosas there.) Warrens! And various other amazing Houston landmarks! And so has Marisa! (okay she hasn’t been to Warrens yet either because she’s underage, but you’ll get there, Marisa!!) In this book! So I got to celebrate my hometown and geek out at the same time.

Bonus Factor: Math

Chalkboard with math equations on it

Yeah, I said it. MATH. Because I LIKE MATH, because it’s logical and straightforward and sometimes when I’m upset and feel powerless, I do long division problem sets and 3rd grade Mad Minutes, because I find them to be soothing. Marisa is WAY better at math than I am, though, cause not only does she TAKE AP Calculus (which I also did), she has the guts to take the AP Calculus Exam (which I did not)!! Of course, at the same time, I kind of wanted to tell her, “Marisa, mi corazon, don’t waste the 78 dollars* on an AP Calc test and just take the SATIIs when you get to UT because you’ll place out there. If I could place out of my math requirements with the SATII, then you certainly will be able to.”

*Do they still make you pay for the AP test? I’m an old; for all I know, AP tests involve unicorns playing tiddliwinks these days.

Bonus Factor: The Marilla Cuthbert Award

Close up of Marilla Cuthbert from the 1980s' Anne of Green Gables movie.

Okay, hear me out. I was NOT going to give Marisa’s mom our newly minted Marilla Cuthbert award. But the thing is, she’s a woman stuck between strong, independent people – her moody, proud, quiet husband and her smart, strong-willed daughter. She wants to keep her family close, even when doing so costs her sleepless hours and exhausting triple shifts at work, and she’s found herself the parent of a child who wants nothing more than to escape. When she apologizes to Marisa for not being a good mom, you find yourself agreeing with Marisa: she did her very best.

Relationship Status: Have You Been Reading My Diary, Ashley Pérez?

Immediately after finishing this book, I emailed Ashley Pérez to ask her if she had, in fact, been stalking me for the last 15 years or so. Because Marisa and I were just SO similar! Guys! I can’t even tell you HOW SIMILAR we are because some of it is spoilery but can I just say that the place where she lives at the end of the book? I LIVED THERE. That’s how freakishly similar our lives are!

But even though Marisa and I have some similarities, I’m willing to bet that I would have loved this book just as much if we hadn’t. It tells a story we don’t get to read much of here in YA land, and it tells it with grace, warmth and not a little humor. When I read the last page, it was with happy tears in my eyes as I wished Marisa – and therefore myself – happiness and success in all her new adventures.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from netgalley. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). What Can’t Wait will be available in March 2011!

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.