What Can't Wait, by Ashley Hope Pérez
Reviewed by Isabella, age 14, New Jersey
Marisa lives torn between two worlds. At home, her Mexican immigrant parents expect her to put the family's needs above her own by settling down, marrying a nice boy, and working at the grocery store. But at school, her calculus teacher has a different set of expectations - she wants Marisa to ace the AP exam and go to an engineering program at Austin, away from home. As her home life becomes increasingly unbearable, she finds herself unable to seek refuge in her best friend or her boyfriend, and must instead figure out on her own what she wants.
Marisa is a strong and admirable character, remaining resilient even in her less-than-ideal surroundings where girls become pregnant at a young age and few people go to college. At all costs, she's loyal to her family, even skipping school to help out her mess of a sister and giving all the money she earns to her struggling parents. But when the time comes, she grapples with the decision between her needs and her family's, and Ashley Hope Pérez beautifully portrays this conflict without being overbearing or preachy.
The plot of What Can't Wait had a great deal of potential, but some may feel that Pérez doesn't delve deeply enough into it. Several aspects were glossed over when they could have been fleshed out more, especially given the relatively short length of the book. The story could also border on predictable in places, with both the plot twists and the ending somewhat obvious ahead of time.
Despite the plot flaws, this is a story of family, of overcoming hardships, and ultimately, of determining identity. Honest and real, this is not a book that shies away from difficult topics but rather meets them head-on. Though some may wish for the themes to be more deeply explored, What Can't Wait remains a gritty and inspiring story that will resonate with readers of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
I give What Can't Wait, by Ashley Hope Pérez, 3 out of 5 stars.