When We Make It: A Nuyorican Novel

When We Make It: A Nuyorican Novel
Age Range
Release Date
August 30, 2022
Buy This Book
The energy. The clarity. The beauty. Elisabet Velasquez brings it all. . . . Her voice is FIRE!--NYT bestselling and award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson

An unforgettable, torrential, and hopeful debut young adult novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to make it," for readers of Nicholasa Mohr and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican question asker who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister, Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has long been denied.

When We Make It is a love letter to anyone who was taught to believe that they would not make it. To those who feel their emotions before they can name them. To those who still may not have all the language but they have their story. Velasquez' debut novel is sure to leave an indelible mark on all who read it.

Editor review

1 review
Powerful and Gritty
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What I loved:

The idea of a novel in verse is always appealing to me, and I was unable to put this book down, finishing it in a single day. The author captures the hardships of living in an inner-city setting and growing up in poverty, with so many systemic factors working against Sarai, yet still manages to highlight the small joys she finds in her life. Sarai dreams big, but sees all the ways that the world works to hold her down, and is older than her years, seeing difficult situations, such as addiction, domestic violence, gun violence, mental illness, and teen pregnancy, on a regular basis. The characters in the story are realistic and compelling, and while they’re busy focusing on survival, they don’t have time to indulge in processing their emotions. Sarai is left to deal with her own feelings about who she is and how to reconcile her Puerto Rican heritage with the fact that she doesn’t know much about her own history and what it really means to be Puerto Rican.

The Final Verdict:

The story is amazing, addressing race, class, and socioeconomic issues against a background of gentrification and what it means to the people living in the area. Some of the issues may be difficult material for some younger readers to process, but it’s a gorgeously written story. The powerful format of poetry turns this raw and gritty story into a thing of beauty, highlighting Sarai’s strength and hope amidst all the factors working against her.
Good Points
- Beautiful use of verse.
- Well-rounded characters and strong setting.
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