Claudia Martinez’ debut novel for young adults is a bittersweet story about death, family and the resilient emotional strength of the human heart. Chela Gonzalez, the book’s narrator, is a nerd and a soccer player who can barely contain her excitement about starting the sixth grade. But nothing is as she imagined—her best friend turns on her to join the popular girls and they all act like Chela doesn’t exist. She buries herself in schoolwork and in the warm comfort of her family. To Chela, her family is like a solar system, with her father the sun and her mother, brothers and sister like planets rotating all around him. It’s the only world she fits in.
But that universe is threatened when her strong father has a stroke. Chela’s grandmother moves in to help the family. The smell of her old lady perfume invades the house. That smell is worse than Sundays. Sundays were sad, but they went just as sure as they came, but death was a whole other thing, and Chela doesn’t understand that’s what everyone is waiting for. In her grief and worry, Chela begins to discover herself and find her own strength.