I couldn't review this book right after I finished it because I was so tempted to go on a long angry rant about how much I disliked it. I think I've cooled down enough, though, even if I still want to call this "As the Stomach Churns."
I couldn't get past the sheer lack of reality here, or the poor writing, or the cliched plot. This book was on a list of recommendations for reluctant teen readers. Apparently the list-makers assumed the reluctant readers are also not very bright. In real life, Latino gang-bangers and hyper-perfect cheerleaders do not fall in love, live happily ever after, and cure Alzheimer's (I am NOT using hyperbole; it's in the epilogue.) Also, the author needs to join us in the current century: teen girls are no longer likely to say that the solar system will tilt out of alignment if the head cheerleader (excuse me, "pom squad captain") does not date the captain of the football team. Also, I heavily resent the heroine's fear of letting her disabled sister go into assisted living. Assisted living facilities have made huge strides in resident care and continue to do so, and certainly the heroine's home environment wasn't a safe and nurturing place for her completely dependent sibling. The heroine even blames her mother for not training the home health workers. Why would her mother train them? The agency would train them. Vocational schools would train them.
We also have an unnecessary murder-mystery plot that adds nothing to the story and is cellophane see-through, potty humor even a five-year-old wouldn't find entertaining, and every Tex-Mex curse word in the book. Since the book never defines the curse words, I now have paranoid visions of teens using them without really knowing how insulting they are. While the author credits a professor of Latino studies in the acknowledgments, I still felt like she simply read a wiki and inserted "cultural" details here and there to give the illusion of authenticity.
I felt this book had heavy racist undercurrents. He's Latino; of course he's in a gang! She's white; of course she's rich and perfect and saves his soul! Why couldn't they both be Latino, or both be white? Why couldn't she be the one from a dangerous background and he the rich kid with absent parents? The hero isn't even proud of his cultural heritage. He wants to be called Alex instead of Alejandro, bag the blond trophy girlfriend, and leave his roots behind. I nearly gagged on the white-is-right undertone, felt relieved when I finished the last chapter, and then wanted a stack of pancakes to go with the syrup in the epilogue. Oh, and I just found out there's a sequel! I don't think I'll be rushing out to grab it anytime soon.
Recommend to: Your worst enemy. Anyone who thinks General Hospital is deep. Anyone who thinks Twilight wasn't sweet enough.
Don't recommend to: Anyone naive enough to believe life works the way it does in this book, anyone with taste, anyone who...Well, anyone!