Heartwarming, Uplifting - a real gem!


Arturo Zamora (13) expected this to be a typical, hot summer in Miami. He'll play basketball with his two best friends and shop for new basketball shoes. But that's not how life works. Now, Arturo's summer is filled with other problems. First, there's Carmen, his mother's goddaughter visiting from Madrid. She moved into his apartment complex, and he has a BIG crush on her. Arturo also has to help out at La Cocina de la Isla, his family's restaurant (and a neighborhood institution), because his grandmother (owner) is sick. Worst of all, Wilfrido Pipo, a rich businessman, is trying to buy his way into the neighborhood, so he can build a high-rise. 

A little undercover work by Arturo and Carmen reveal that Wilfrido plans to build his high-rise on land currently occupied by the restaurant. With his feelings for Carmen deepening, and his anger at Wilfido growing, Arturo has got to find a way to muster the courage and keep himself together - or risk losing everything that matters to him.

BTSYA / Teen Reader (14):
The book is a beautiful story about love, faith (el amor y la fe), and how they can help you. At its heart, this is a book about family, friendship, and love. Arturo shows us that the strength of one's family and love for your community are stronger than someone who tries to win hearts with extravagant festivals. I love how wonderfully Cuban and Hispanic cultural values are woven into the story. It made the background of the story much more understandable and presented many interesting topics I want to learn more about.

This book is hilarious, too. Arturo puts himself in funny predicaments that made me laugh a few times. I also loved how Arturo, because of his fear of failure, does not seize opportunities to overcome the fear. With the help of his family, Abuela and her letters with Jose Marti, he is able to ultimately helped him be a leader and save his restaurant.

Because Arturo is the narrator, the story is from his point of view. There were some things I wish could have been fleshed out more, but that is a minimal criticism. Overall, I would say the book is well-written. I would call this book a hidden gem. It is a wonderful novel with a loving tale perfect for ages 10 and older.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

There is a lot to love about this slice-of-life story narrated by 13-year-old Arturo. He brings humor, cultural awareness, and a plenty of preteen realism to the story. If you love happy endings and uplifting stories, this one's for you!

Content Awareness Factors:

None. This is a wholesome read.

Type of Book:
This is a realistic coming of age story that celebrates family and community.
Educational Themes:

The story is character driven, and Arturo provides plenty of details that allow you to talk about how he changed and his motivations to make those changes. Ask your reader how realistic they think the story is - could a community push back a wealthy businessman? Would they have been influenced by Wilfrido's overtures?

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
10 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
10 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 14

Title The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
Author Pablo Cartaya
Publisher Puffin Books, a Penguin Random House Company © 2018 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9781101997253
Material Hard Cover
Cost $8.99
Genres Family, Poetry, Friendship, Humor, Coming of Age, Growing Up
be the star you are Cybils
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