The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya
Published: May 16th, 2017
Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction
Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL? For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti.
“A young person has the power to do many things great things. It’s about belief. And most important, it is about love.”
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora was the first book that I have read that felt so close to home. This story follows a young Cuban boy and his family in Miami, Florida named Arturo. You have seen the story of someone coming into another person’s home and trying to gentrify the area to their liking many times. It has happened many times in history and still today. People think they can come onto someone else’s land or home and make it their own and too many times does it actually happen. You have to read this story to find out if it does but this was such a beautifully crafted tale. Pablo pulls out all the stops for his debut novel. The Cuban/Latin/Hispanic culture is out in full force in this story. While it is a funny and adventurous tale it also hits many important topics on family, faith, love, gentrification, and colonialism all through this young thirteen-year-old boy. Even if you’re not Cuban or Hispanic/Latin you can still appreciate this story. Arturo is determined to take the first chance at love, save his family restaurant and town from being taken away, and learn about courage. I love the author’s use of poetry to teach Arturo life lessons and using a courageous poet and historical figure in Cuban culture named José Martí. The writing style matched the distinction and voice of Arturo while also keeping to a great storytelling vibe. I think everyone should read this fantastic debut by Pablo Cartaya and can’t wait to read his other novel Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish.
“They should both flow through this town and out to sea where maybe they’ll make it back to the island of their birth.”
“And remember to be adventurous, my Arturo. Be alive! Be in love. Find your voice. Find your story. And remember: sometimes life’s answers are hidden in poetry.”
Arturo is a sweet and funny Cuban boy. His voice was very comical and true to his age. What I love most about him is that he is just like me the only real difference is that he is Cuban and I am Puerto Rican & Peruvian. I was so happy to feel like a character was just like me and I was reading about him. He was a Latin/Hispanic like me, he was a hopeless romantic like me, and he knows Spanish but struggles with it like me.
“When dinner ended, we cleaned up and prepared the restaurant for the next day. No one complained as Abuela watched. My family argued a lot, but Abuela always found a way to get everybody on the same page.”
I love the use of Spanish language in the book because it feels more authentic. This is my culture so for me everything felt very relatable and real. This was beautiful representation for any young readers out their who want to see themselves in books. This book was just filled with Latin culture the family dinners and food, Tías talking altogether and gossiping, the eating, the grandparents bringing everyone together, etc. It just felt like home to me.
“Everything about La Cocina came back to family. I think that’s why so many customers loved it. When they came here, they felt like family too.”
In my culture family is really important. That’s not to say in others it isn’t but just from my experience for us family means everything. For my family specifically, God is first then family everything else is not as important. I love how Pablo captured that importance of family and togetherness throughout the story. When things got really tough with the Wilfrido Pipo and Pipo’s Place they stuck together and fought together even with an unexpected death. Also in the quote that is another thing about my culture in my family, we are very welcoming with our home and make people feel like family.
“MOP: Every time you say bro, the English language loses its will to live.”
The characters and dialogue in this book were so funny. I related to a lot of the jokes and many stuff they said and did remind me of my own familia loca. I think Pablo Cartaya did a fantastic job of writing and viewing the other characters from Arturo’s POV because it was so funny and authentic.
This book was so cute and a great story for anyone, not just young readers. I think anyone who enjoys stories of a strong family, comedy, and food will love this book. It was an amazing job for a debut and can’t wait to see what else this author cooks up.Well until next time 🙂