Xolo Score 4.75/5
The Fall of Whit Rivera by Crystal Maldonado invites readers into the intricate tapestry of teenagehood, where the threads of friendship, romance, and societal expectations intertwine. Whitney Rivera – a type-A, passionate perfectionist and a certified Fall fanatic - busts her butt planning the best Fall Festival, her school, and probably the world, has ever seen. However, her color-coded and carefully curated plans are thrown off when her teacher assigns Isiah, her chill, relaxed skater ex-boyfriend, as Whit's second in command. But Whit's passion for PSLs, pumpkin patches, and apple picking keeps her from dwelling on the past.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
Maldonado's nuance characterization of Whit as caring, witty, and unapologetically meticulous immediately captures the reader's attention. She is also very proud of her Puerto Rican family and the complexities of her heritage. And although Whit is a teenager, she perseveres against rampant fatphobia as she seeks treatment for her polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Fortunately, Whit has an abuela, younger sibling, and gaggle of tias that love her fiercely and are always there to help Whit in a " non-toxic" way.
Additionally, the supporting cast of female characters adds depth to the narrative, each contributing to the rich tapestry of Whit's world. Whit's friendship with her best friends Marisol and Sophie is emotionally supportive and resoundingly tender. Each has a minor character arc along with Whit, and they find a slice of the romance pumpkin pie.
Maldonado's storytelling strength is her ability to seamlessly blend fun with moments of profound introspection. In addition to being a feel-good love story, the novel tackles themes of cultural identity and societal expectations, offering a nuanced perspective on the intersectionality of adolescence. The chemistry between Whit and Isaiah is swoon-worthy with the way they kindly tease each other but have a deep appreciation for each other and their quirks. They both have the heavy weight of societal pressures and expectations as teenagers. But Whit and Isaiah slowly create a level of trust in each other, making it easier to be their authentic self and fall head first in love. Crystal Maldonado has crafted a story transcending its genre, leaving readers with a tapestry of emotions that linger long after the final page.
Honest, humorous, insightful, and swoon-worthy, The Fall of Whit Rivera is a YA Romance novel for the ages.
To what extent are there BIPOC leading characters or perspectives?
How well does the author avoid writing BIPOC experiences through the white gaze?
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How well does the book explore nuances between intersectional identities?