Brighter Than the Sun

Little, Brown. Mar. 2023. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316704472.
Gr 7 Up–Sixteen-year-old Soledad lives with her family in Tijuana, Mexico. Though she was named for the feast the day she was born, her name literally means solitude, which suits the loneliness she feels since her mother’s passing. The only one in her family born in the United States and therefore a citizen, Sol crosses the border early each Monday to attend high school and works long hours at a department store. Her family needs the money to keep her mother’s restaurant business afloat in her honor as they grieve, and she can earn more in the U.S. Weekday housing, food, and friendship are provided in California courtesy of old friend Ari and her mom. Sol’s determination to fulfill her obligations propels her through long weeks until she comes home on weekends to her family. Things begin changing when she realizes the comforts of Ari’s home; a full belly and a love interest at work are a respite from the constant stressors at home. Sol’s character is complex, as her identity is torn between worlds. Her burdens are extraordinary, and guilt consumes her when she wants some typical teen social time. Her entire family is adrift in their grief, which is an overarching theme as they do what they think is best, but sometimes is the opposite. Sol’s personal, engaging narrative takes readers on this journey with her as she makes discoveries about herself and grows. Racism, immigration, and finding new opportunities are addressed throughout, with imperfect resolutions, just like real life.
VERDICT The stream-of-consciousness narrative grabs the hearts of readers and is perfect for building empathy as a mirror, window, or sliding glass door. A strong purchase for YA collections.

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