Marisa is a Latina teenage girl with a volatile tempter. She goes to a rough school, can’t keep her mouth shut, and usually solves problems with her fists. While visiting her friend, Alicia, in the hospital, Marissa picks a fight with Alicia’s no-good, cheating boyfriend, Roberto and another guy who is with him. Somewhere in the brawl the other guy and Marissa accidentally take home each others cell phones. In order to get her phone back, Marisa has to call the guy who was hanging out with Roberto, only to discover he’s not Roberto’s friend, but is instead his math tutor. Marisa is intrigued by this nerdy guy, Rene, and agrees to meet him to exchange phones.
Once Marisa and Rene meet, however its obvious they’re drawn to each other and they become fast friends. Soon that friendship turns into romance as Marissa and Rene become inseparable. In order to bring up her grades, and improve herself overall (in addition to seeing Rene more), Marisa convinces her parents to let her transfer to Rene’s academically focused school by using her aunt’s address to register. Both Rene and Marisa have big plans to improve themselves culturally, they both try out for the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet; physically, Marisa strives to lose weight and Rene starts strength training; and emotionally, Marisa wants to work on her anger issues while Rene just wants to be cooler.
Although Rene and Marisa seem like such polar opposites they are good for one another and seem to balance each other out. But these differences (in addition to some outside forces) also cause some conflicts and issues in their budding relationship.
All in all this was a cute and meaningful read. Marisa and Rene are pretty realistic teenagers dealing with their own struggles and desires. The story is told through Marisa’s point of view, so you tend to see how multifaceted a character she is; feminine yet tough, vulnerable yet cynical, funny yet serious. Rene is also likeable, but you don’t see as many sides of him as you do with Marisa. The setting in which these two young lovers are placed in is also realistic; the starkness of Marisa’s high school versus the abundance in Rene’s.
I also loved the Spanish terms used throughout the novel. It helps you see how true to form the dialogue is. It’s common to hear Hispanic teens at my school using a mix of English and Spanish terminology, which is why I loved Soto’s use of it in Accidental Love. I haven’t read a lot of teen fiction that focuses on young Hispanic characters, other than books by Gary Soto. I know there are some more out there, I just haven’t encountered them yet. (If you can recommend others let me know please!)
The only thing I thought was slightly unrealistic was how easy it seems to be for these characters to transfer schools. In real life, would these characters get what they wanted most (to be with each other?). I don’t know, but I must sometimes remind myself that realistic fiction is still fiction. And that’s my only complaint!
Recommended for middle school aged readers and up.