by Janet Nichols Lynch follows the short-lived but intense relationship between Rafa and the girl he has long fantasized about, Monique. Wrestling and helping his family were his passions before his brief hook-up with Monique, but all those other things fall by the wayside as he pursues her. She's totally hot, but usually goes out with guys who, well, have better cars. And she lets Rafa know that, while he lets her know that she has his heart. It doesn't take a very astute reader to see that Rafa is projecting a whole lotta good things onto Monique's hot body while disregarding her strikingly selfish side. When Rafa's stepdad is deported back to El Salvador, he is pulled back into the reality of his mom's struggle to provide for him and two other kids. As he steps up to be "el hombre de la casa," Rafa is finally struck by how manipulative and shallow Monique really is: "I take one last look at Monique. Creamy brown thighs. Beautiful breasts riding high in the blazing yellow halter dress. Full pillow-soft red lips. I avoid her eyes. Inside those eyes lives a horrible person."
This is solidly in line with the heritage of the YA problem novel, but more honest about sex and sexual attraction. A few posts back I was being cranky that no books ever did, well, this, showing that sexual attraction can be just that, sexual attraction, without any deeper substance. This probably won't sell paperbacks, probably will remain a hit among Mexican-American teens and librarians, but it's an excellent book for showing Rafa's love-blinded perspective in a sympathetic light.