Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Distiller: Doni Faber
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
by Pablo Cartaya
Penguin Random House
May 16, 2017
(236 pages)

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela's restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute girl who moves into Arturo's apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn't notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.

Arturo Zamara has grown up surrounded by family in their restaurant. At the heart of their community is his Abuela, who not only has fed everyone for 19 years, but also listens and knows their stories.

This is a sweet story against gentrification. The authentic voice reminded me a bit of Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I loved all the bi-lingual dialogue and the descriptions of food they cooked in La Cocina de la Isla sounded amazing.

I think a 12-year-old boy would likely enjoy reading this book. Arturo's exchanges with his best friends, Mop and Bren were full of silly banter that seemed fitting of boys. I would have liked to see his crush on Carmen more developed beyond physical arousal and embarrassing childhood memories. His Abuela, mother, and cousin Vanessa, however, are portrayed as strong, compassionate characters.

If you want a story with a strong sense of community, then this one is for you.

Enter to get a free copy of this book:

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Join the blog tour to read other reader's thoughts on this book:

Week One:
May 15 – Ms. Yingling Reads – Review
May 16 – Here’s to Happy Endings – Guest Post
May 17 – Folded Pages Distillery – Review
May 18 – All Done Monkey – Review
May 19 – Margie’s Must Reads – Guest Post

Week Two:
May 22 – Four Violet – Review
May 23 – YA Book Central – Excerpt
May 24 – Little Earthling Blog – Review
May 25 – The Reading Nook Reviews – Review
May 26 – The Boy Reader

AUTHOR BIO: Pablo Cartaya has always been a hopeless romantic. In middle school he secretly loved reading Shakespeare’s sonnets (don’t tell anyone), and he once spent his allowance on roses for a girl he liked. He also wrote her eight poems. Bad ones. He’s been writing ever since. Pablo has worked in Cuban restaurants and the entertainment industry, and he graduated with an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. All of these experiences have helped him write stories that reflect his family, culture, and love of words. Pablo lives in Miami with his wife and two kids, surrounded by tías, tíos, cousins, and people who he calls cousins (but aren’t really his cousins). Learn more about Pablo at


  1. Excellent review. I'm loving that this character feels authentic along with the dialogue. I do love family and friendship stories and this one is a must read for me. This sounds a bit like Stef Soto, Taco Queen which I read this year and loved.

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