Hey, everyone! Today I’m here to review a pair of books that I really should have reviewed sooner, given that I read them nearly a month ago at this point. I wasn’t originally going to review these, but I realized how fun and exciting they really are and how much I wanted to share them with my followers! Let’s get to it!
The Sal and Gabi Series | Carlos Hernandez
Published March 5, 2019 (book one)
382 pages | Hardcover
Trigger Warnings: Mentions of death of loved one (off page), references to child abuse, hospitalized baby.
Sal Vidón has not started at his new school under the best of circumstances. It’s the third time that he’s ended up in the Principal’s office in his first three days (though, the first two days were hardly his fault), but this time he’s facing Gabi Reál, who is determined to convince their Principal that Sal did put the dead chicken in Yasmany’s locker–even if no one saw him do it. Even if the chicken was gone when the janitor came to clean it up, and the blood that got on Yasmany’s shoe? Gone.
Not long after, Gabi stumbles on Sal’s most protected secret: Sal can conjure things much bigger than a dead chicken in someone’s locker. Things like his dead mother from an alternate universe. But as the pair gets to know each other better, their universe is being ripped apart by their manipulation of time and space.
All summaries are my own unless otherwise stated. Parts of the summary may be borrowed from goodreads.
I cannot tell you how enjoyable this series is. You would have to read it to understand the joy that this book is made of, all the jokes and friendship and adventure.
But this post is a review, so I’m going to at least give you a preview of everything this book offers. Keep in mind that the actual book? So much more.
One of the best things about these books is the friendship and the sense of community. While Sal and Gabi don’t start off on the best note, they quickly become amazing friends. The best part about it is that they are only friends, the author never tries to turn them into romantic partners, and it’s extremely clear that they are not going to, throughout the books. The adults in the books, especially Sal’s parents, suggest several times that Sal might have feelings for Gabi, but Sal quickly shoots them down. They’re friends. And, as Sal says, he is ‘not a sexual beast yet’. I was especially glad that it was acknowledged, even if it was quite quick, that Sal might be aromantic, because yes he is only twelve and this is a middle grade book, but despite what some people believe, alloromantic twelve year olds do, in fact, experience romantic attraction at that age. There are so many books in which a character hasn’t experienced romantic feelings until xxx comes along (mostly YA), or something like that, but it’s never mentioned that they might be somewhere on the aromantic spectrum and it was super refreshing to see it mentioned here. It wasn’t analyzed or discussed by anything, it was just a suggestion, a quick statement. It was also said very casually and no big deal was made about it, Gabi just said one sentence and that was it. I believe it was something like ‘if you were any more aro, I could shoot you from a bow’ and then they just moved on to the next topic.
I also mentioned the community in this book, and it really was AMAZING. Sal is surrounded by a lot of different communities and just the sense of belonging in these places, the familiarity among the people and how well most everyone got along, was so beautiful. I thought that his school was the best example of this. He attends a school focused on the arts, so there are a lot of times when very creative things are happening. The teachers are also very fun and get along well with the students which was cool! I think my favorite part centering around the school was in book two, when they are all putting on a performance. I won’t give you the specifics, but they end up doing it in an extremely unique way that first of all, sounds absolutely amazing, and second of all, required a lot of people to work together and it just felt like the whole school came together to help out and create something beautiful.
Sal was an extremely enjoyable character. At first, I was wondering if we’d get Gabi’s point of view as well, and I was a little sad when I realized that we wouldn’t, but it ended up being amazing anyways! The narration was really funny and I’m actually glad now that it was only from Sal’s POV because I feel like it would have been less entertaining if the voice switched every chapter or so. I also loved the author’s ability to describe characters, and give each one a very distinct personality. While Sal and Gabi were the only two main characters, there were many many side characters, some mentioned only once or twice, whereas some appeared continuously. A few were even our main characters but from another universe! And each one was very different and all amazing and entertaining in their own way.
The HUMOR. Once you read this book, you will not be able to get enough of the humor. Sal himself, as a magician, lives to make people laugh and this often gets the reader to laugh as well, but you will also find yourself laughing at his mishaps and the multiple amusing characters! I mean, his school’s logo is a rotten egg and there’s a giant statue of it on top of the school, complete with spewing smoke from a crack. There’s a talking toilet that can offer you life advice AND bleeps out any swear you come close to telling. The entire book is just extremely entertaining!
But the last thing that I wanted to hit on, is that despite the fact that the book is almost always very light and hilarious, it also touches real issues. Sal has diabetes and the books describe a lot about what that is like. There is also child abuse mentioned in the book, and It’s great how the author absolutely does not shy away from these things. There are a lot of middle grade books that are all light and fluffy, the only issues mentioned being those which assist the main plot of the book, and I think a lot of people are afraid that things like child abuse are ‘too heavy’ for people in the middle grade audience. Hernandez does none of this but also presents it in a more gentle manner than might be discussed in a YA book.
I would highly recommend the Sal and Gabi series to anyone looking for a fun book. Full of humor and brimming with creativity, this book is exactly what all middle grade books should be, and it’s fun for any age! My review absolutely does not do justice to this wonderful book and I encourage you to pick these books up to experience the full magic.
Have you read Sal and Gabi Break the Universe and its sequel? What did you think of it? If not, does this review make you want to pick it up? Let me know in the comments below!
As always, thank you so much for stopping by! Stay safe and keep on reading!