Canto Contigo

Canto Contigo
Age Range
Release Date
April 09, 2024
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When a Mariachi star transfers schools, he expects to be handed his new group's lead vocalist spot—what he gets instead is a tenacious current lead with a very familiar, very kissable face.

In a twenty-four-hour span, Rafael Alvarez led North Amistad High School’s Mariachi Alma de la Frontera to their eleventh consecutive first-place win in the Mariachi Extravaganza de Nacional; and met, made out with, and almost hooked up with one of the cutest guys he’s ever met.

Now eight months later, Rafie’s ready for one final win. What he didn’t plan for is his family moving to San Antonio before his senior year, forcing him to leave behind his group while dealing with the loss of the most important person in his life—his beloved abuelo. Another hitch in his plan: The Selena Quintanilla-Perez Academy’s Mariachi Todos Colores already has a lead vocalist, Rey Chavez—the boy Rafie made out with—who now stands between him winning and being the great Mariachi Rafie's abuelo always believed him to be. Despite their newfound rivalry for center stage, Rafie can’t squash his feelings for Rey. Now he must decide between the people he’s known his entire life or the one just starting to get to know the real him.

Canto Contigo is a love letter to Mexican culture, family and legacy, the people who shape us, and allowing ourselves to forge our own path. At its heart, this is one of the most glorious rivals-to-lovers romance about finding the one who challenges you in the most extraordinary ways.

Editor review

1 review
engaging YA contemporary about teamwork, music, and love
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CANTO CONTIGO is a consuming YA contemporary about grief/loss and working as a team. After the loss of his abuelo, Rafael (Rafie) is more committed to mariachi than ever. He is determined to win, as his abuelo would have wanted. However, his parents are moving, forcing him to switch schools from the team that has won the last 11 years in a row (3 with Rafie as the lead vocalist) to a school that has often come in second in recent years. At the new school, the mariachi group already has a lead vocalist, and they are unwilling to put Rafie in the front.

To make matters more complicated, the lead, Rey, also happens to be the guy Rafie hooked up with at a competition not long after his abuelo died. Unwilling to let feelings get in the way, they soon become intense rivals, both eyeing the lead vocal spot - a rivalry that becomes more intense when Rey forgets some lyrics and Rafie steps in, leading to a fight along with some light destruction of property. As their senior year continues, Rafie and Rey will have to find a way to get along, while both eyeing lead vocalist and suppressing the feelings that still lie beneath the surface.

What I loved: This was quite an intense read that builds smoothly over time. The rivalry was well-played with feelings lying under the surface despite animosity. The undercurrent of Rafie's grief leading to pressure on being the lead vocalist adds some tension to the relationship. While Rafie comes off as conceited and over-confident, the reader gets to know all sides of him - while also seeing that his self-confidence is deserved.

That being said, an important lesson that Rafie begins to learn is teamwork and the value of appreciating and working together. This mariachi group is built on more than just a desire to win (though they have that too). They are a community and his entrance throws them off-balance a bit. He will need to work together with Rey and the others to be able to make the music that they need to win.

Other potent themes of the book are around prejudice and allyship, with Rey in particular facing bullying and cruelty for being a black Mexican and for being trans. The community of the mariachi group embraces all its members - but the way that outsiders view them, including judges, comes up in the course of the story.

In terms of the romance, it certainly captures a rivalry-to-romance element with the way they both vie for lead vocalist and the arguments they have as a result. Ultimately, this leads to them spending even more time together as they deal with the aftermath and the resulting punishments (cleaning instruments and the like). Their relationship then builds slowly following.

As a note, this may work best for older YA audiences. The story also uses Spanish intermixed and undefined throughout the story. This added to Rafie's voice and really made it feel like his story, but it would definitely help if you understand some Spanish (notably, much of it is clear through context clues).

Final verdict: CANTO CONTIGO is an engaging YA contemporary about teamwork, grief, and music. Recommend for older YA readers who enjoy competitions, romance, and some good rivalries.
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