Review Detail

Unusual Fantasy Book
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Sal is new to Culeco, a school for the performing arts in Miami, having moved there with his Papi and American Stepmom after his Mami Muerta (the spirit of his mother, who is deceased) kept appearing in their home! He runs afoul of Yasmany, whose locker is next to his, but saves his own skin when the boy bullies him by having a dead chicken appear in Yasmany's locker, but then all traces of it disappear. Gabi is a friend of Yasmany's, but she and Sal hit it off. It turns out that there really was a chicken, but Sal brought it through a wormhole in a locker, and when it returned to its own dimension, all traces of it are gone. When his Mami Muerta appears again, his father (a scientist) tries to find a way to make her not return. He installs an enormous remembranation machine and tries to keep track of the calamatrons that are being left in our dimensional plane by things from other planes. Gabi has a newborn brother, Iggy, who is very sick and has spent the entire month of his life in the hospital, and Gabi wonders how Sal's powers might be used to help him. Sal has Type 1 diabetes, and occasionally has issues with it, but is good about checking his levels and is well versed in how to deal with light headedness and other symptoms. Yasmany is having troubles at home, which make him act out at school. When it looks like Iggy might not make it, Sal and Gabi try to increase their research, deal with their families, and stay out of trouble at school.
Good Points
I really liked the fact that the diabetes was just one factor with which Sal had to deal, and it was depicted realistically and without drama. The Cuban cultural connections are interesting, with lots of descriptions of food, relatives, and some Spanish language phrases. Sal and Gabi are both rather fun and likable characters, and I loved how supportive American Stepmom was. While most of the Rick Riordan Presents has some sort of mythology included, this is more of a science fantasy with Cuban culture, which was a nice innovation.

Weaknesses: There's a LOT going on in this 400 page book, and some of it is not well explained. I never felt very sure about what Sal's father was trying to accomplish, or about how Sal brought things from other universes. Gabi has a lot of "dads" with really odd names (e.g. Grizzly Dad'ums), and that was never made clear, nor was the existence of a robot/android character. The plot is a bit hard to discern with all of these wacky goings-on.

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe is due in March 2020, so this is going to be a series. It's part of the Riock Riordan presents line and is similar to Margot and Mateo Save the World by Darcy Miller, Holms' The Thirteenth Goldfish, and Downey's The Ninja Librarians.
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