Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

400p. (A Sal and Gabi Novel: Bk. 1). Disney-Hyperion. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781368022828.
RedReviewStarGr 4–8—Sal Vidón is attending a new school, with new bullies and new teachers who don't understand the needs of a student with Type 1 diabetes. He also causes rips in time and space by transporting objects from other universes. Sometimes he transports harmless prank items, but sometimes he goes home to find his long-dead mother cooking yucca in the kitchen. When Sal meets Gabi Reál, student body president and all-around firebrand, they begin a friendship that may break the universe—or save it. Delightfully weird, this is unlike any other book in the middle grade canon. Hernandez has managed to include conflict and excitement into his first novel for young people, without falling into the trap of unrealistic villainy. Every character is doing their best, even when that best doesn't turn out well. Readers need to be comfortable with a suspension of disbelief and accept unexplained backstories. Many elements of the story, like Sal's superpowers and Gabi's family dynamics (including a robot parent,) are left mostly unexplained. Fans who enjoyed Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Rick Riordan's works will love Sal and Gabi, as will readers looking for upbeat fiction with Spanish-speaking characters.
VERDICT Hernandez offers a rip-roaring and emotionally resonant sci-fi adventure. A must-have for middle school or upper elementary libraries, especially where there are science fiction and fantasy fans.

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