From National Book Award finalist Carrie Arcos--a fresh take on happily ever after, and friendship, that is anything but a love story. When your namesake is Pablo Neruda—the greatest love poet of all time—finding “the one” should be easy. After all, sixteen-year-old aspiring artist Neruda Diaz has been in love many times before. So it’s only a matter of time before someone loves him back. Callie could be that someone. She’s creative and edgy, and nothing like the girls Neruda typically falls for, so when a school assignment brings them together, he is pleasantly surprised to learn they have a lot in common. With his true love in reach and his artistic ambitions on track, everything is finally coming together. But as Neruda begins to fall faster and harder than ever before, he is blindsided by the complicated nature of love—and art—in more ways than one. And when the relationships he’s looked to for guidance threaten to implode, Neruda must confront the reality that love is crazier, messier, and more beautiful than he ever realized—and riskier, too, than simply saying the words.
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What worked: I really enjoyed this coming of age story that has it's own spin of a 'love' story. Neruda romanticizes what a real relationship might be like. He bases this on his own dogged eared copy of Pablo Neruda's The Poet: Book of Questions. His attempts at catching the eye of the beautiful Autumn backfires. Readers feel the awkwardness of Autumn's response to him. When he's assigned to write an essay on Callie, he's not too excited. At first she comes across as hardcore and scary. I love how we see her unfold into a girl with her own insecurities and strengths.
That's the strength of this novel. At first we see over-generalizations almost to the point of character stereotypes: the hardcore Goth-like girl; the perfect parents; and even the damaged prisoner that Neruda wrote to in eighth grade. Readers find that these characters are much more complex than that. Just like real life!
This is a coming of age story as Neruda arcs by the end of the novel from someone who only romanticizes on an almost cliche version of true love to finding out that there are different flavors out there. Friendship can be it's own love tale.
There's a big wow reveal toward the end of the novel that I didn't see coming! But Neruda's growth felt real and very authentic. Not all teens have a serious relationship and Neruda and Callie's relationship is one that I feel will resonate with more than one reader.
Beautifully woven tale of a teen who searches for his own love story and finds that there is power in friendship too.