Oh, Gary Soto, why do you hurt me so?
I would have given you a pass for the first few pages of Accidental Love. After all, I have always liked your writing so clever, so funny. This was something new for me, reading your young adult fiction, so I was willing to cut you some slack in the beginning.
But, Gary, it just didn’t get better. The writing was stilted and unrealistic. I’m not even including the dialogue, where I am going to trust that Latino teenagers talk the way you say they do. I’ll give you that. It’s the back story thrown in as Marisa walks down the street, steps into the elevator, picks her nose. Okay, I made up that last one, but do you see where I am going with this? It just doesn’t flow. It’s the ideas planted that don’t come to anything. There’s a nail in her mother’s tire, and it sounds like something is up but there’s nothing there. Her father seems suspiciously out of it, like something is wrong with him but I guess not.
And the story, well, I just don’t buy it. Marisa meets this nerdy smart boy, after beating up the boy he is tutoring. They pick up the wrong cell phones, and meet to exchange them. Based on this one meeting, she is suddenly inspired to change her ways and switches school to get a better education in a nicer school. She becomes Rene’s girlfriend, but his mother tries to keep them apart because Marisa is from a rough part of town. Rene and Marisa try out for Romeo and Juliet. Wait, is that a parallel to their story? Wow! No one has ever thought of that before.
I liked how you incorporated Spanish words and phrases in the dialogue. When I read books that do that, I always believe that I will somehow learn a little bit of Spanish before the book is finished. Of course, I took three years of Spanish in high school and two years of Italian and can’t even eavesdrop properly, but you never know.
I know I’ve been tossing your name around for ages here at the library. But you know what? It is only your picture books that I have ever recommended. I don’t know that I have ever read your books for older kids and teens. But I know I hear great things about your writing in general. Even the reviews of this book were good.
Where did it all go wrong, Gary? Is it me? It’s me, isn’t it?