For fiteen-year-old Mariana Ruiz, it's not so much an unexpected vacation as a literal "guilt trip" - her father's way of atoning for ignoring his Puerto Rican roots. But freedom from her parents is little compensation for being forced to spend two moths with complete strangers rather than with her best friends in Philadelphia
Once on "vacation," her worst fears come true. The heat is merciless, the food is spicy, and her great aunt and uncle's mountain house teems with relatives, only one of whom - her distant cousin Lilly - speaks English. Bored, and hoping to make up for missing her best friend's star-studded Sweet 16, Mariana offers to help in the planning of Lilly's Quinceanera. Soon, despite herself, Mariana clicks with new friends who open doors to romance and long-hidden secrets. Suddenly the summer she dreaded is ending way too quickly. It might turn out that the last place she ever wanted to go is the one place she truly finds herself.
(summary from back of book)
Well it certainly took me long enough to finish this book didn't it?
There have been a plethora of reviews of this series lately and most of them are glowing and positive. And while the book was a nice and fluffy read, I did have a list of issues with it. For one, the real meat of the plot didn't start until you were about two thirds of the way through it. I was rather bored for the first half because it basically consists of your stereotypical teenage girl complaining and whining about trivial things. The heat, the food, her friends, boredom, you can imagine the rest. Truthfully, Mariana was an annoying character to begin with.
The real action of the story starts with Lilly's Quinceanera when we get introduced to the handsome Alex. It's at this point that Mariana becomes a little easier to deal with since she isn't wailing about how horrible Puerto Rico is anymore. She develops and grows some which makes her a teensy bit easier to read about.
The last section of the book is the best by far. You get to read about the drama with Alex, Lilly's lies, the hidden family secret, and most exciting of all, Mariana getting drunk, which might have been my favorite part of the book as it was the scene that struck me as the most real event in the book.
If I had my way, I would've drawn out the Alex-Lilly-Mariana thing longer and not wrapped it up as cleanly. It seemed like a sort of random subplot which only served to add a little more scandal into the story. I'd have loved for it to be more juicy and naughty.
When the family secret gets revealed towards the end, that's where the book really picks up for me. You get to the whole "summer secret" part of the book which hadn't been addressed since then.
Besides Mariana's hangover, I also enjoyed reading about the Puerto Rican culture. The descriptions are very detailed and precise and it kind of makes me want to go and visit even though I don't know an ounce of Spanish.
Towards the end of the book, you come to love Mariana's family, flaws, drama, and all. I'm looking forward to reading the second book, Amigas and School Scandal as the ending of this first novel perfectly set the reader up for reading the sequel. Mariana is definitely a character I want to visit again because despite the issues I had with Amor and Summer Secrets, it's a rather endearing book and it makes for some nice light fluff on a dreary day.