Velez, Angela. Lulu and Milagro’s Search for Clarity. Balzer + Bray, 2022. 400p. ISBN: 978-0063071780 $18.99 HS, OT ****
Sisters Lulu and Milagro couldn’t be more different. Milagro’s favorite things include glitter, makeup, and miniskirts, while her younger sister Lulu is a science nerd and overachiever like their older sister, Clara. Clara recently left for college, causing a big rift in their family and making their mother even more overprotective. On a school road trip to visit college campuses, Lulu and Milagro begin to find common ground. Meanwhile, Lulu is terrified that her mom won’t let her pursue her big collegiate dreams, and becomes determined to fix what went wrong with Clara.
This YA contemporary thoughtfully explores themes of sisterhood and family over the course of a life-changing school trip, while alternating between Lulu and Milagro’s perspectives. They each had incredibly distinct voices and felt like real, fleshed out characters. Even their older sister, Clara, who had very little on-page time, felt like a real, authentic character. Both Lulu and Milagro are struggling with feeling boxed in and are afraid to push back against who they think they’re supposed to be. At the beginning of the book, both sisters have trouble relating to one another, but along the course of their trip they find that their desires, dreams, and experiences aren’t as different as they thought.
Lulu and Milagro are Peruvian-American, and it was delightful to see this representation; there were supporting characters who were BIPOC and/or queer. The book has a hint of romance, but above all else, it’s a coming of age story about two sisters finding themselves and each other. The road trip structure gave the book a fast pace, and it was full of hijinks that had me laughing throughout the whole book.
Lulu and Milagro’s Search for Clarity is a fun YA contemporary that also deals with heavier themes of family and identity, making it perfect for fans of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, Don’t Date Rosa Santos, or I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. It does contain mentions of sex and a few steamy make-out scenes, so some younger teen or pre-teen readers may not be ready for this one. Overall, a hilarious yet moving account of sisterhood, finding oneself, and stepping outside the boxes we are put in (by others & ourselves).
–Ari Nussbaum, Hayward Public Library
Tags: coming of age, diverse, people of color, realistic