Lolcats. Salsa dancing. Unrequited love. Tom Crosshill's smart and witty debut teen novel treads a colorful coming-of-age journey from New York City to Havana that will appeal to fans of books by Matthew Quick and Junot Díaz.
When Rick Gutiérrez—known as "That Cat Guy" at school—gets dumped on his sixteenth birthday for uploading cat videos from his bedroom instead of experiencing the real world, he realizes it's time for a change. So Rick joins a salsa class . . . because of a girl, of course. Ana Cabrera is smart, friendly, and smooth on the dance floor. He might be half Cuban, but Rick dances like a drunk hippo. Desperate to impress Ana, he invites her to spend the summer in Havana. The official reason: learning to dance. The hidden agenda: romance under the palm trees.
Except Cuba isn't all sun, salsa, and music. As Rick and Ana meet his family and investigate the reason why his mother left Cuba decades ago, they learn that politics isn't just something that happens to other people. And when they find romance, it's got sharp edges.
Cat video entrepreneur Rick Guti rrez seeks change after his girlfriend dumps him on his 16th birthday. Rick joins a salsa band and meets dancer and filmmaker Ana, who is dealing with complicated family problems. Eager to spend more time with Ana and to explore his deceased mother's Cuban heritage, Rick invites Ana for a summer of salsa lessons in Havana. Living with his aunt and two cousins, Rick and Ana learn that communism is not as equitable as Aunt Juanita believes. When cousin Yolanda asks the two to help a kidnapped blogger, they are threatened, endangering themselves and Rick's family, even as Rick attempts to search for his mother's first love and uncover the truth behind her defection during the 1980 Mariel boatlift. Breaking the fourth wall, Rick speaks directly and engagingly to readers, infusing Crosshill's first YA novel with wry, self-effacing humor. The breezy pace and descriptions of Cuban culture soften the serious issues at hand supply shortages, imprisonment, and secret police. Despite an improbable ending worthy of a viral video itself, Crosshill's big-hearted novel shines. Ages 13 up.