Rummanah Aasi
 Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.
   But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

Review: Mariana "Mari" Ruiz has always supported her charismatic father’s political ambitions. Mari and her family have been by his side during every campaign, from local South Florida positions to his current role in the U.S. Senate. Now Senator Ruiz has eyes set on being the first Latino and Republican candidate for the President of the United States. As the Florida primaries approach and the primary race is in full throttle, Mari's is taken aback by the growing demands expected of her (i.e. no social media presence and being on her best behavior) and the breaches of her privacy. Running away right before a national televised family interview, she becomes the focus of viral videos and manufactured tabloid articles.
  The first half of the book is slow and the focus is on Mari's sudden impact of her father's campaign and her gradual awakening that her parents are fallible and not heroes that she placed on pedestals.  There are allusions to her mother's issues with the campaign as well, particularly her assistance in writing her husband speeches and being involved in other aspects of his campaign that are not acknowledged and taken advantaged of by her husband. The second of the book, in my opinion, is much stronger and layered as Sylvester weaves political issues such as immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, the environment, and gentrification. Senator Ruiz is a multifaceted politician who is trying to stay true to his Latinx heritage and family while catering to developer donors in order to pursue his political interests. I have not encountered many young adult novels in which a person of color is running for office or has political privilege so I found that aspect really refreshing. I was intrigued by the white passing Latino narrative to be interesting as well and I wished this was explored a bit more in the novel. The diversity of South Florida is represented here with nuance; Mari’s friends have Haitian, Dominican, and Peruvian ancestry, and some important secondary characters identify as LGBTQ+. Spanish is also sprinkled throughout the novel and enriches the narrative’s setting. While I did sympathize for Mari as her individual rights were overlooked, I liked her much more when she started her journey of being an activist as she looked beyond herself and held her father accountable for his actions. I appreciated the book's messages about the power of activism that come through but do not feel didactic. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and a scene while Mari's body is being objectified in the media and in school. There is also allusions of inappropriate conduct of one of the campaign staffers towards Mari. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert, Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisa Saeed
1 Response
  1. I am into politics so this sounds good. It's an usual topic for a YA book and I like that.

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