Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
by Pablo Cartaya
* * * * Stars (Great!)
Marcus Vega is an enterprising 14-year-old, who looks much older than his actual age (6 feet tall, 180 lbs, mustache). To help his single-parent mom out with bills and emergencies, he runs a number of different businesses – charging kids at school for littering or using their cell phones (both against school rules), and offering a fee-based protection service walking kids home from school (to keep them from being bullied). When the real school bully takes a shot at Marcus’ younger brother, Marcus gives him a knuckle sandwich for his trouble, and both boys are hauled into the principal’s office. Marcus is suspended – pending a possible expulsion (as are his money-making endeavors), and his mom decides the whole family could use a break to figure out what to do next. They go to Puerto Rico, the last known location of Marcus’ father, to visit family and friends. Instead of relaxing, however, they all get caught up in Marcus’ obsessive search to find and connect with his dad. When they do finally track him down, he’s nothing like the person Marcus had been imagining. Marcus is disappointed, but able to say what he needs to say, and release some of the anger he’s been bottling up inside. When they return home, things are different, too – kids at school have been fighting to end Marcus’ suspension and allow him to return. Sprinkled with Spanish and rich with description of the island, culture, and people of Puerto Rico, this realistic story is one of a struggling family, a bond between brothers, and newfound friendships and connections. An afterward from the author describes some of the devastation (hurricane damage – Hurricane Maria, 2017) suffered by those who live on the island.
Reviewed by YA Librarian