Title: When We Make It
Author: Elisabet Velasquez
Genre: Young Adult, Poetry
Publisher: Dial Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: September 21, 2021
An unforgettable young adult debut novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to make it, touching on themes of mental illness, sexual assault, food insecurity and gentrification, in the Nuyorican literary tradition of Nicholasa Mohr and the work of contemporary writer Elizabeth Acevedo.
Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied.
When We Make It is a love letter to girls who were taught to believe they would not make it at all. The verse is evocative and insightful, and readers are sure to be swept into Sarai’s world and rooting for her long after they close the book.
Sarai is a Puerto Rican eighth grader living in Bushwick with her mom and sister, Estrella, in 1996. She struggles with her family, while her mom just tries to keep them alive, moving from apartment to apartment. Sarai struggles to find her place in the community, knowing that her family doesn’t have the same lifestyle as her friends. There are pressures to follow a certain system, yet Sarai knows there’s the possibility of a different, and better, life that she could reach one day.
This novel was written in verse. This was the perfect format for this emotional story. Sarai and her family had a lot of struggles, though they didn’t always realize that things could be different. The rhythmic writing, and the inclusion of Spanish words mixed in with the English, made me feel like I was right there with Sarai.
There were some tough subjects in this story. These include addiction, mental health, postpartum depression, gun violence, and racism. These subjects were handled delicately, but are definitely important to telling this story.
When We Make It is a beautiful story about girls who can defy the odds.
Thank you Dial Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Have you read When We Make It? What did you think of it?