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  • Gabby Womack

When We Make It by Elizabet Velasquez

Rating: 5 stars

Genre: Young Adult - Novel in Verse

Representation: Nuyorican girl, poverty

Content Warnings: rape, classism, abuse, teen pregnancy

Topics: poverty, mental illness, motherhood, disabilities, growing up



Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader 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 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. - Penguin Random House



A must-read for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo!

This novel-in-verse is beautiful, relatable, raw, and powerful! I read this book as an audiobook and the author's narration really brought the story home for me. Her delivery was hard-hitting, yet vulnerable. As I listened, I thought about how many people could relate to Sarai's story, her family's experiences, and struggling to "make it."

Sarai is earnest and thoughtful. She spends a lot of time trying to understand who she is, where she stands, and what she wants for herself. She is very independent despite her mother's dependence on her. It was amazing to read from the perspective of a girl who understands that she and her people have been undervalued by society and who refuses to be gaslit by the boys and men around her.

"Professional Spanish Knocks on the Door

Professional Spanish is fake friendly.

Is a warning.


Is the kind of Spanish that comes

to take things away from you.

The kind of Spanish that looks at your Spanish

like it needs help.

Professional Spanish of course doesn't offer help.

It just wants you to know that it knows you need some..."

Not once did I feel like Velasquez was trying too hard to sound like a teenage girl. In fact, her writing was so seamless that I immediately fell into Sarai's world and forgot that a grown woman penned her words. This novel is an amazing addition to its genre and to the young adult demographic.

I recommend this book to absolutely everyone. You may not have these experiences, but I believe it's important to see through other's eyes.


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