Late one night, Carlos and his older brother, Felix, decide to taste test their way through the food stands of Mexico City in search of the perfect taco. In a tragic accident, stray bullets kill the free-spirited, nomadic Felix, leaving Carlos with his brother’s ghost and the desire to recover his own happiness. During Carlos’ high school graduation party—faced with a well intentioned but uninspiring predetermined future with the family business—Carlos runs away from his privileged life to a small island off of Washington state. With no plans except to visit Provecho, a bucket list restaurant in his brother’s diary, Carlos must find a place to sleep and a way to earn a living. In a matter of luck or fate, Carlos begins working as a dishwasher at Provecho and is taken under the wing of the master chef with the threatening promise of termination if he does not stop dating her daughter, Emma. Carlos must learn to fit in and earn his keep while navigating mental exhaustion and new love.
A story about romance, trust, maturity, and ambition, North of Happy makes readers feel like they are experiencing life for the first time. As stars and lakes ignite in the moonlight, Alsaid envelops readers in his enchanting backdrops and heartfelt, raw emotions. A beautifully written title for young adults looking ahead to the future, North of Happy inspires and awakens questions about the meaning of our existence. Although a somewhat clichéd plot, Alsaid adds poignant commentaries on grief and love that add an entirely fiery yet visceral quality to the story. Recipes introduce chapters to exemplify the all-pervasive passion for food and need for a fulfilling career. Days later, I find myself wondering about a conclusion and writing my own ending for Carlos, Emma, and the entire restaurant family as they touched my heart and stayed in my mind.
North of Happy is set to publish on April 25th, 2017. I would like to thank NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
North of Happy by Adi Alsaid (Harlequin Teen, 2017)