In this novel by Lilliam Rivera, Margot Sanchez, age 15, wants more than anything in the world to fit in at her posh prep school in New York. When she arrived there last year, her style was all wrong and she was miserable without any friends. She had to do something. So what if she racked up $600 of clothes on her father’s credit card, while the coolest girls in school were styling her? She can’t understand why her parents are forcing her to work at their grocery store in the Bronx to pay the money back. Surely there is a way she could learn her lesson and still spend her summer with Serena and Camille (and especially Nick) in the Hamptons. Right?… Right???
Apparently not. So Margot (aka Princesa) starts as a stock girl (ewww!) and slowly works her way up to the deli counter (ewwww!) and mopping the juice spill on aisle nine (ewwww!) all the while desperately trying to maintain her reputation with her school friends (I’m the social media manager for my dad’s chain of supermarkets!)
But things rapidly get more complicated than this frankly Disney Channel setup. Spending time with her family instead of her friends forces her to notice that her parents don’t get along very well and that her older brother is acting weird about money and women. She meets Moises, a young community activist whose troubled past doesn’t stop him from wanting to transform his neighborhood, and whose ideas about race and class and gentrification are directly opposed to what her parents have told her all her life. She begins to feel uneasy about Elizabeth, her best friend from elementary and middle school, whom she ditched for her new cool prep school friends. And she begins to wonder about where she gets her own values, and whether she can decide them for herself, and maybe make a world where honesty is more important than marketing.
At first, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy this book. It seemed simplified and a little flat. But the longer I read, the more Rivera let her characters wind around where they wanted to go, making mistakes, trying to find their way through what are honestly very complex problems. I wound up thoroughly enjoying the novel as well as its setting in the Bronx, and I’d recommend it to you, too.