Don't Date Rosa Santos

The women in Rosa Santos's family are cursed: while escaping Cuba, Rosa's grandmother lost her husband at sea; Rosa's father also died at sea, leaving her pregnant mother to raise Rosa alone. The irony of living in a harbor town is not lost on Rosa, who has never set foot on a boat nor dipped a toe in the ocean: "The lullaby of my life is that to know the sea is to know love, but to love us is to lose everything."

The 18-year-old has a lot on her mind: college is on the horizon, the future of her hometown of Port Coral, Fla., is in jeopardy, and she is determined to explore her Cuban roots. "I was a collection of hyphens and bilingual words," Rosa thinks, "Always caught in between. Two schools, two languages, two countries. Never quite right or enough for either." But her abuela is unwilling to talk about her painful past, and her mother is always on the road. Then, Rosa meets Alex, "a boy with a man beard who baked the most dreamy desserts." Alex, though, is a sailor "bound for the sea" and Santos women don't get involved with seafarers. Rosa delves into her family history and diligently works to preserve the future of Port Coral, yet it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore her feelings for Alex and her desire for what she assumes would be an ill-fated relationship.

In her debut novel, Nina Moreno flawlessly melds spiritual belief, economic hardship and an exploration of personal identity with a swoon-worthy romance set in a richly painted community populated with colorful characters. Don't Date Rosa Santos is likely to delight readers of contemporary YA. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

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