cover image Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish

Pablo Cartaya. Viking, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-101-99726-0

In Springfield, Pa., Marcus, a six-foot tall, 180-pound, mustache-sporting 14-year-old, exploits his appearance to run a bullying protection business, secretly contributing his earnings to his single mom’s cash jar. When a conniving school bully calls Marcus’s brother, Charlie, who has Down syndrome, the “R” word, Marcus gets suspended for punching him. In an effort to “spend time together as a team,” Marcus’s mother takes the boys to visit their absent father’s relatives in vibrant pre-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. Cartaya (The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora) poignantly sketches Marcus’s desire to meet his father (“How do you start an email to a father you haven’t seen in ten years?”), and clues about his dad’s mercurial, irresponsible character build to a devastating realization. The loneliness of the family’s Pennsylvania life contrasts starkly with the community they find in Puerto Rico; the events spark for Marcus a new understanding of his overworked mother and appreciation for his family and heritage, offering hope for deeper connections going forward. Ages 10–up. [em]Agent: Jess Regel, Foundry Literary + Media. (Aug.) [/em]