"North of Happy" is a touching YA book about exploring your passions and recovering after tragedy. Carlos was in high school when his brother Felix took him on a quest to find the best taco where they lived in Mexico City. On the way, Felix was caught in some crossfire and killed. Carlos has felt like half a person since it happened and has been seeing Felix wherever he looks. Felix had left home and explored the world, visiting some of the restaurants they saw on Food Network shows. Carlos is following the path their parents had laid out for them, planning an internship at his father's company, college in the US, and then working at his dad's company.
When Carlos sees a restaurant that was on his brother's to-visit list, he decides to take a flight out and try it himself, with the ghost of Felix accompanying. As he tries the food and meets the hostess, Carlos realizes there is more he needed from this journey and accepts a job washing dishes, pushing his intended short visit into something longer.
This is really a book of recovering from grief, coming-of-age, and discovering who you are. Carlos has a difficult road ahead of him, and Alsaid has captured this beautifully. The tone is coated in the sadness that Carlos has felt, and we feel his pain and self-discoveries through the story. This was not an easy read, but so so worth it.
Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through a giveaway. All opinions are my own.