- Gabby Womack
How Moon Fuentez fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: YA Romance (w/magical realism)
The Hating Game meets I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter in this irresistible romance starring a Mexican American teen who discovers love and profound truths about the universe when she spends her summer on a road trip across the country.
When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.
Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Philips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.
Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.
Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?
This book is much needed but was difficult for me to get through. The fat phobia and toxic family member felt familiar and painful. Once I got past my own discomfort, I appreciated Gilliland's plot and the slow burn between Moon aka Luna and Santiago. Their combative yet playful banter helped the story along. They had a natural chemistry. However, they both had serious insecurities that made it easy for each of them to push the other away, often out of fear of deception. Santiago has a physical disability and Moon has been abused enough to truly believe that her body is unacceptable. Although I've seen these emotions play out in one other romance book, I've never read one where the main character and their love interest are dealing with this at the same time. It's pretty heartbreaking because their fears are not unfounded.
Fat and disabled folx are often pushed aside as unsexy. The most common terms I've heard to describe us are more along the lines of "brave" and "impressive." Which is extremely frustrating. Gilliland shows how those compliments can come across as condescending and backhanded. Why are we brave? For going about our lives in our bodies? Is it impressive that I can do so much despite my perceived disadvantages or is it just that you can't fathom being able to be happy and successful in my body?
"You can only save yourself," Tía continues."This doesn't mean others can't help you. But if you're looking for them to give you your worth, to give your life meaning? They will always fail you."
Moon Fuentez is a good example of why sharing someone's blood does not make them your family. When your family member hurts you and does not seek to repair this wrongdoing and make sure they never do it again, they are toxic. It is never okay to accept abuse, no matter who the abuser is. It is not up to you to fix them. Sometimes, those relationships just can't be repaired. It's okay to walk away for your own safety and peace of mind.
This book is technically a young adult romance, but I felt that the emphasis was more of self-love, never giving up, and Moon's connection with nature. The scenes where she's connecting with her tarot or with plants and flowers are my favorites. I can picture the lighting and the beauty of the scenes.
My only critique of this book is that I couldn't tell whether or not the phrases that the teens/young adults used were accurate.
I believe that this novel can be empowering for folx who are going through these issues and helpful for those who never have or will. Empathy is key to being better friends and humans.