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When We Make It

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An unforgettable, torrential, and hopeful debut young adult novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to "make it,” for readers of Nicholasa Mohr and 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 Est An unforgettable, torrential, and hopeful debut young adult novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to "make it,” for readers of Nicholasa Mohr and 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 anyone who was taught to believe that they would not make it. To those who feel their emotions before they can name them. To those who still may not have all the language but they have their story. Velasquez’ debut novel is sure to leave an indelible mark on all who read it.


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An unforgettable, torrential, and hopeful debut young adult novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to "make it,” for readers of Nicholasa Mohr and 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 Est An unforgettable, torrential, and hopeful debut young adult novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to "make it,” for readers of Nicholasa Mohr and 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 anyone who was taught to believe that they would not make it. To those who feel their emotions before they can name them. To those who still may not have all the language but they have their story. Velasquez’ debut novel is sure to leave an indelible mark on all who read it.

30 review for When We Make It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Graciella Delgado

    *Thank you, Penguin Teen, for sending an ARC of this book* "We don't talk about being Puerto Rican. We just live it. You know?" I do. I do know. I've read and re-read this book three times now since receiving it and it's already marked up. And I cried, which I don't feel means much anymore because I cry often for a lot of reasons while reading, but this book means so much to me now. Written in beautiful free-verse, we explore girlhood, identity, colorism, poverty, racism, young feminism, teen pregnan *Thank you, Penguin Teen, for sending an ARC of this book* "We don't talk about being Puerto Rican. We just live it. You know?" I do. I do know. I've read and re-read this book three times now since receiving it and it's already marked up. And I cried, which I don't feel means much anymore because I cry often for a lot of reasons while reading, but this book means so much to me now. Written in beautiful free-verse, we explore girlhood, identity, colorism, poverty, racism, young feminism, teen pregnancy, grief, and the Puerto Rican diaspora. There's pain and hope ingrained in every poem/chapter and certain poems hit close to home as a young Boricua also struggling to feel fully connected to this identity. CW: (on top of topics listed above) references to sexual harassment, spousal abuse, death, substance abuse

  2. 5 out of 5

    CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

    When We Make It packs such an emotional punch and I was not prepared. I bookmarked SO many poems because some of them just left me feeling in awe or utterly heartbroken. This was such a splendid debut and Velasquez is an author to watch out for. - Told in verse, the story follows Sarai, a first-generation Puerto Rican living in poverty in Bushwick. The story follows her on her journey across three years, from 13 to 16 years old, and follows her on pivotal moments of her life. - What struck me the When We Make It packs such an emotional punch and I was not prepared. I bookmarked SO many poems because some of them just left me feeling in awe or utterly heartbroken. This was such a splendid debut and Velasquez is an author to watch out for. - Told in verse, the story follows Sarai, a first-generation Puerto Rican living in poverty in Bushwick. The story follows her on her journey across three years, from 13 to 16 years old, and follows her on pivotal moments of her life. - What struck me the most was this story's unfiltered and candid portrayal and exploration into living in poverty - what it really means to be poor, how it feels to worry about a safe place to stay and have no housing insecurity. - It also explores Serai's fraught family life and her relationships with her mother and sister. More, it delves into her relationship with her Boricua identity and her family's history in Puerto Rico. - The more I think about it, the more this book really explores so much as it illustrates a rich portrait of Sarai's life. The story explores religion and how it tethers people and communities but how there's also hypocrisy and sexism, teen pregnancy, how adults can be 'well-meaning' but are ignorant because of their own privileges. - Above all, this is a story with so much raw emotion; about anger and hunger and hope for a better future, about what it means to 'make it'. Content warning: drug use, domestic abuse, death, anti-fat rhetoric, teen pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum depression, racism, rape, sexual assault

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Set in 1996, this verse novel follows 13-to-16-year-old Sarai over these hugely pivotal years coming-of-age in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She's Puerto Rican and wants so badly to know about her heritage, as well as the story of how she, her mother, and her sister are to survive in a community that is among the most dangerous and challenging at the time. There are a LOT of big, meaty topics in here, and it's very clear why Sarai is angry, why it is she doesn't trust adults, and why she makes the choices Set in 1996, this verse novel follows 13-to-16-year-old Sarai over these hugely pivotal years coming-of-age in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She's Puerto Rican and wants so badly to know about her heritage, as well as the story of how she, her mother, and her sister are to survive in a community that is among the most dangerous and challenging at the time. There are a LOT of big, meaty topics in here, and it's very clear why Sarai is angry, why it is she doesn't trust adults, and why she makes the choices she does throughout. She does have a best friend, and despite her older sister's periodic disappearances, Estrella is absolutely there for her, too. There's teen pregnancy in here, housing instability and insecurity, a broken and challenged family, as well as interesting looks at sex work, at education (Sarai will be the only one of her family to ever graduate 8th grade), and about leaning into one's heritage and WHY that matters so much. Colorism certainly plays in here, too, which will resonate with so many readers. Think Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X meets Lilliam Rivera's The Education of Margot Sánchez with a touch of Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. I'm eager to read more from Velasquez!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tomes And Textiles

    EXQUISITE. Full review to come.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Thank you to Penguin Teen & Netgalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. When we Make it is a coming of age novel in verse, about young Sarai as she navigates poverty, family trauma and housing insecurity. Sarai is always told about how when she makes it things will get better, but Sarai is still trying to figure out what "making it" looks like to her. This book was quite heartbreaking. So many sad and traumatic things happen to Sarai and her family. I really Thank you to Penguin Teen & Netgalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. When we Make it is a coming of age novel in verse, about young Sarai as she navigates poverty, family trauma and housing insecurity. Sarai is always told about how when she makes it things will get better, but Sarai is still trying to figure out what "making it" looks like to her. This book was quite heartbreaking. So many sad and traumatic things happen to Sarai and her family. I really loved Sarai's voice: her curiosity was such a driving force. I loved how so much story was told in so few words. The verse was beautiful and tragic. Sarai's story is one that won't leave me for a while. Rep: Boricua mid-size female MC, and mixed Boricua supporting cast. CWs: Addiction (drugs), body shaming, child abuse, death, domestic abuse, drug use/abuse, drug overdose, fatphobia, police brutality, pregnancy, racism, rape, sexism, sexual assault, sexual content.

  6. 4 out of 5

    cossette

    content warnings: addiction (drugs), body shaming, child abuse, death, domestic abuse, drug use/abuse, drug overdose, fatphobia, police brutality, teen pregnancy, miscarriage, pregnancy, racism, rape, sexism, sexual assault, sexual content, mentions of child protective services

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This book is phenomenal! It has a rhythm and movement outside of poetic meter and pacing. It deeply embedded in the words and in lives that influenced this body of work. I know the lives in this story. I grew is a neighborhood just like this one. This story hit home and put me in a nostalgic place. This book is gripping, moving, heartbreaking and beautiful. I love it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Azanta

    Elisabet Velasquez knows how to write and she knows how to write powerfully. this book moves fast but not easy to read at times and i recommend reading the TWs before picking this up. this is a novel in verse about a Puerto Rican born and raised in NY just trying to make it and the struggles of being American when you’re not white, rich, or lucky. the American dream broke a long time ago and yes, though it’s heartbreaking, it’s a fact of life and i think books like these are necessary for us to Elisabet Velasquez knows how to write and she knows how to write powerfully. this book moves fast but not easy to read at times and i recommend reading the TWs before picking this up. this is a novel in verse about a Puerto Rican born and raised in NY just trying to make it and the struggles of being American when you’re not white, rich, or lucky. the American dream broke a long time ago and yes, though it’s heartbreaking, it’s a fact of life and i think books like these are necessary for us to read. i really love the way Elisabet frames her stories and i think y’all will too

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Velez Diodonet

    "What if making happens every day. To each of us. Differently." Thank you so much to @elisabetvelasquezpoetry for this #ownvoices gem. I finished this one last night and my heart just swells with Bushwick pride. Elisabet Velasquez put Bushwick on her back and showed the world who we are, what we've survived and how we continue to make it. As I was reading I had to keep pausing and sharing bits and pieces with friends and family. I couldn't help but savor every word, every poem, every thought and e "What if making happens every day. To each of us. Differently." Thank you so much to @elisabetvelasquezpoetry for this #ownvoices gem. I finished this one last night and my heart just swells with Bushwick pride. Elisabet Velasquez put Bushwick on her back and showed the world who we are, what we've survived and how we continue to make it. As I was reading I had to keep pausing and sharing bits and pieces with friends and family. I couldn't help but savor every word, every poem, every thought and every reference. I have waited my whole life for a book to capture exactly what it means to come from Bushwick, to die in Bushwick and to survive Bushwick. What really struck me were how vivid the memories and references were. As I was reading, I could hear Elisabet's voice and it felt like she has been writing this book her entire life. I still live in Bushwick and every mention of certain places that still exist and are still holding the neighborhood down, took me back to childhood. It made me feel pride in my people who are still here pushing back against the gentrification that wants eliminate and erase us. Sarai's experiences were so similar to my own, at times I felt like her story was my own. Sarai's story is also the embodiment of the struggle of my people to simply just be seen and live to see another day so they can "make it." Although it's a book in verse, the themes explored are so deep: poverty, violence, mental illness and addiction, misogyny, cultural identity, religious hypocrisy, gentrification, "crimes" of survival, & sexualization of girls. When We Make It is the hug I didn't know I needed. It's the affirmation that the lives of Puerto Ricans matter and that survival is who we are. By the ending I was sobbing but out of pure release. When We Make It helped me release the breath I didn't realize I had been holding all these years. I was left with the feeling that finally someone sees us and knows what we are still doing to try to "make it" and simply exist. If you're from Bushwick, it mandatory that you GET THIS BOOK AND BUY A COPY FOR A FRIEND. It will change your life. There's nothing left to say but PRE-ORDER ASAP!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Martina

    Thank you penguin teen for the gifted book. All thoughts are my own. This book. It was just beautiful. I wasn’t sure what to expect, it’s the first book in verse I’ve read. Elisabet had such a beautiful way with words. I couldn’t get enough.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michelle (bookishinthebay)

    I cannot even begin to describe the perfection of this book. Being a Nuyorican - who’s family is from Brooklyn - this was so goddamn special to read. A million thank you’s to Elisabet Velasquez for writing this love letter to us Nuyorican’s/Puerto Rican’s/Diasporican’s, and to Bushwick. ♥️ Thank you Penguin Teen for my copy!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elisabet Velasquez

    So much gratitude to everyone who took the time to read and review this book! Mad love. Elisabet

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Teen for an arc of this book. Content Warnings at end of review. When We Make It is a book written in verse about the teenage years of Sarai as she struggles to find herself as well as hold hope for the future in the midst of a difficult present Sarai is a wonderful character. I really enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes and seeing how she felt throughout the poetry. The verse in this book is so beautiful! If you are a fan of Elizabeth Acevedo, you should de Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Teen for an arc of this book. Content Warnings at end of review. When We Make It is a book written in verse about the teenage years of Sarai as she struggles to find herself as well as hold hope for the future in the midst of a difficult present Sarai is a wonderful character. I really enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes and seeing how she felt throughout the poetry. The verse in this book is so beautiful! If you are a fan of Elizabeth Acevedo, you should definitely pick this up. It reminded me a lot of The Poet X and I really enjoyed reading it. This is definitely not a happy book and a lot of bad things happen, but I do think that it is hopeful for the future and could definitely be considered inspiring. Great read! Pub date: September 21, 2021 Content Warnings Graphic: Pregnancy, Drug abuse, Drug use, Death, Grief, and Child abuse Moderate: Rape, Sexual assault, and Police brutality

  14. 4 out of 5

    the.argumentative.bong

    What a poignantly beautiful story about heartbreak and joy, despair and hope...made my heart full.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gina Malanga

    I feel privileged to say I actually know the author of this book, she was an integral part of our school community as a Dream Director. In that capacity she helped students realize their goals, short term and long term, so it is so amazing to see her realize her goal, AN AWESOME BOOK! I loved everything about this book so I compiled a list of the top five! 1. The Bushwick depicted here- it is depressing and beautiful all at once and the author’s love of where she is from and the people who live th I feel privileged to say I actually know the author of this book, she was an integral part of our school community as a Dream Director. In that capacity she helped students realize their goals, short term and long term, so it is so amazing to see her realize her goal, AN AWESOME BOOK! I loved everything about this book so I compiled a list of the top five! 1. The Bushwick depicted here- it is depressing and beautiful all at once and the author’s love of where she is from and the people who live there shines through. 2. The language- I loved her depiction of learning new words and learning how to integrate them with the language of being a Boriqua in Bushwick without the language to show her emotions. 3. The story- Obviously, Sarai is growing up and trying to find her way, in a world that doesn’t seem to want to make space for her or have a place for her. She is a fighter and a dreamer and she is learning, however she can, about how to be different and how to live differently. 4. Sarai’s Family- Her mom, so tough and hard, she was made that way by the world she was and the way she had to fight everyday for herself and her daughters and her son who is disabled. Her sister Estrella, a star in her own story and a light in Sarai’s life as they share laughter even in the dark moments. 5. Poems- Not only are the poems beautiful and thought provoking and full of fear, anger, hate and love but they are full of hope and dreams and the fight for a space in the world. The author even provides the reader with a list at the end of the poems she is in conversation with, providing more reading material for her readers. As an educator I loved this because it will help my students to find other poems that speak to them and their experiences. I can not wait to use this book in my classroom. I hope this year it can be the linchpin in my poetry unit. READ THIS BOOK!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ester N.

    This masterful work from Elisabet Velasquez is written in verse and takes us through the challenges of poverty, housing insecurity, and food insecurity with vibrancy and creativity. Sarai (our 8th grade protagonist) is courageous and funny even as she tells us about her rumbling stomach, her experiences in the Pentecostal church, and the treatment men gave her developing body. There is some sexual assault content in this book and while it is not graphic, it is important that these themes come ac This masterful work from Elisabet Velasquez is written in verse and takes us through the challenges of poverty, housing insecurity, and food insecurity with vibrancy and creativity. Sarai (our 8th grade protagonist) is courageous and funny even as she tells us about her rumbling stomach, her experiences in the Pentecostal church, and the treatment men gave her developing body. There is some sexual assault content in this book and while it is not graphic, it is important that these themes come across in YA books because texts like these help youth understand that their assault is not their fault and they are not alone. Velasquez's fresh prose reads like poetry - it is lyrical. Yet, the verses connect into a larger story emphasizing growth and learning. For anyone thinking of assigning this text for a course: Do it! The book lends itself to analysis of many themes regarding youth, diaspora, and religion. Here are some ways you can teach this text: Neighborhood change and gentrification, girlhood and coming of Age, Youth and urban experiences, community cultural wealth, Puerto Rican diasporas, Latina/o colorism and racial variance, Evangelical Christianity among Latina/o populations, etc. Something I appreciate about this book is that it is written in everyday vernacular - written exactly as the language is spoken; the way spoken language sounds. Sarai and company's Nuyorican vernacular is the standard here. We rarely see this in English-anchored Latinx fiction, and when we see it, it's often italicized or footnoted. Velasquez unapologetically centers Nuyorican vernacular, indexing this linguistic practice. For those of us who grew up speaking "improper" English and were told we had to correct our "accents" or our Spanglish, this book is like exhaling in relief. Another personal note is that as someone who grew up in a Pentecostal church, Velasquez's descriptions of how Sarai felt while navigating her role in the church is SPOT ON and made me laugh out loud! Highly recommend this book!

  17. 5 out of 5

    TheNextGenLibrarian

    “We don’t talk about being Puerto Rican. We just live it. You know?” 🗽 Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican 8th grader living in Bushwick NYC in 1996. Her first person POV shows what it’s like growing up with family trauma, toxic masculinity, gentrification, her identity in regards to her nationality and an uncertain future. Sarai believes she won’t make it, but also really hopes she will. It’s the juxtaposition between these two that keeps the reader engaged and hanging on every word on every “We don’t talk about being Puerto Rican. We just live it. You know?” 🗽 Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican 8th grader living in Bushwick NYC in 1996. Her first person POV shows what it’s like growing up with family trauma, toxic masculinity, gentrification, her identity in regards to her nationality and an uncertain future. Sarai believes she won’t make it, but also really hopes she will. It’s the juxtaposition between these two that keeps the reader engaged and hanging on every word on every page. 🗽 Oh my goodness. What a book! Fans of The Poet X will find this one as hard to put down as that masterpiece was. Sarai’s story is heartbreaking, but so beautiful and real. This novel in verse came across my Goodreads randomly as a suggestion then I saw @elaeveryday was reading it also so I picked it up for #hispanicheritagemonth #latinxheritagemonth and can’t believe more people aren’t talking about this! Debut author and poet @elisabetvelasquezpoetry has created something unique, special and important with this novel I plan on purchasing it immediately! You need a copy of this YA brilliance too. CW: poverty, colorism, racism, grief, teen pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual assault, spousal abuse, death, substance abuse, police brutality, body shaming

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diany in Bookland

    Thank you so much Penguin for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review I'm not going to lie, poetry and literature written in verse aren't really my favorite things because I usually find them confusing but When We Make It definitely caught me by surprise. It was beautifully written and as a first generation American citizen whose family immigrated from a Spanish speaking country myself, this book really captured what it feels like seeing the world through our eyes. I really Thank you so much Penguin for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review I'm not going to lie, poetry and literature written in verse aren't really my favorite things because I usually find them confusing but When We Make It definitely caught me by surprise. It was beautifully written and as a first generation American citizen whose family immigrated from a Spanish speaking country myself, this book really captured what it feels like seeing the world through our eyes. I really wish I had something like this growing up because it would've helped me see and understand that it doesn't matter how "they" see you or what "they" say you can and cannot be. All that matters is how comfortable you are in your identity and being able to celebrate who you are unapologetically. This story and the characters really hit close to home for me because though I am not Puerto Rican, our cultures really do overlap and we experience a lot of the same pressures both from the outside and within our own homes. When We Make It is really going to help a lot of young Latinas in the future, I just know it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin Reagan

    A quick summary: Sarai, our main character, is a young, first-generation Puerto Rican teenager living in Bushwick, Brooklyn in the 90’s. This novel-in-verse is based on Elisabet Velasquez’s own life growing up in Bushwick, and she navigates many traumas in this book, such as mental illness, sexual abuse, food insecurity, and houselessness. Despite these heavy topics, I couldn’t help but read this book in a few days. I was quickly drawn in by the way Sarai looks at the world around her and the wa A quick summary: Sarai, our main character, is a young, first-generation Puerto Rican teenager living in Bushwick, Brooklyn in the 90’s. This novel-in-verse is based on Elisabet Velasquez’s own life growing up in Bushwick, and she navigates many traumas in this book, such as mental illness, sexual abuse, food insecurity, and houselessness. Despite these heavy topics, I couldn’t help but read this book in a few days. I was quickly drawn in by the way Sarai looks at the world around her and the way she finds hope in questions she asks about her life. When We Make It paints a fully saturated landscape of what it means to be born into a life that tries to erase you with each breath you take. It’s a story of survival, of learning your people’s history, of observing your own life and deciding one day you will be the history that people seek, of honoring your joy, of protecting yourself even at home, of reckoning with the cold love you are given when the root of your problems started in a different country and in a different generation. At the heart of all of this is the practice of a love that refuses to listen to the voices that say this life is not worthy, a love that demands celebration at every stage. Each poem offers a witnessing to these lives, and Elisabet Velasquez’s debut gives us the opportunity to sit, read, and listen.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Kristens.reading.nook

    For fans of Elizabeth Acevedo. When We Make It is a novel in verse about Sarai, a Puerto Rican growing up in NYC in the 90’s. It deals with race, poverty, homelessness, and mental illness. Elisabet Velasquez does an excellent job of making you feel you are walking alongside Sarai as she walks the streets of her neighborhood, goes to school, and goes through various circumstances that require her to grow up quickly. My favorite quote from the book is this: “Some people say we are saying it wrong For fans of Elizabeth Acevedo. When We Make It is a novel in verse about Sarai, a Puerto Rican growing up in NYC in the 90’s. It deals with race, poverty, homelessness, and mental illness. Elisabet Velasquez does an excellent job of making you feel you are walking alongside Sarai as she walks the streets of her neighborhood, goes to school, and goes through various circumstances that require her to grow up quickly. My favorite quote from the book is this: “Some people say we are saying it wrong but they are just jealous our accents want every letter to be heard because isn’t that the worst thing? To exist so plainly in sight and still be ignored.” Thank you to Penguin Young Readers and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Binxie

    Sarai's world comes to life in the poems of this debut novel. One poem "The Daily News Says" encapsulates the essence of the book, especially these lines. " The people at The Daily News have a story to print. The people in the streets have their own story to tell. & I'm writing my own story so that I can remember it accurately in case someone else tries to tell it for me." Sarai's world comes to life in the poems of this debut novel. One poem "The Daily News Says" encapsulates the essence of the book, especially these lines. " The people at The Daily News have a story to print. The people in the streets have their own story to tell. & I'm writing my own story so that I can remember it accurately in case someone else tries to tell it for me."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shyanne

    Whew. This book is everything. What a beautiful ode to boricua girls from the hood. This book was healing, a prayer, a validation. "Who taught us to be so afraid of ourselves That the dream is to find new places And new people to be afraid of us too?" The way it is written, novel in verse, reminded me a lot of The Poet X. Elisabet Velasquez has a way of writing that makes you stop and think after every poem. The language is so simple and yet so full of complexity. Whew. This book is everything. What a beautiful ode to boricua girls from the hood. This book was healing, a prayer, a validation. "Who taught us to be so afraid of ourselves That the dream is to find new places And new people to be afraid of us too?" The way it is written, novel in verse, reminded me a lot of The Poet X. Elisabet Velasquez has a way of writing that makes you stop and think after every poem. The language is so simple and yet so full of complexity.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathreadya

    Fell in love with this incredible YA novel in verse! When We Make It, by Elisabet Velasquez, is a soul stirring ode to growing up and coming into your voice. Sarai is a strong heroine who deals with such hard issues as sexual assault, poverty, and mental illness. Inspiring and enlightening, When We Make It is a voice we desperately need to hear.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wanda Rivas

    Where do I start? How do I explain the rawness, the vulnerability? It felt as though the author was speaking directly to my younger self. This book is so needed in the world. Every immigrant teenager should read the excavation that is this gem. Educators this is a must have for your classrooms. Additionally, Elisabet is a wordsmith. So many lines and verses that are just genius. Go get yourself this masterpiece.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ari (Books. Libraries. Also, cats.)

    SO GOOD. The audiobook is absolutely fantastic & I highly recommend reading in that format if you're able to. A must-read for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo!! SO GOOD. The audiobook is absolutely fantastic & I highly recommend reading in that format if you're able to. A must-read for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo!!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarita

    My favorite book this year. Shout out to Elisabet for writing the language and experiences where I feel most seen. Highly recommend it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Josianne

    So different and beautifully written in verse. A coming of age story that describes complex family relationships, poverty, sexual assault, etc. Loved this book!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    See my starred review of this novel in verse in School LIbrary Journal: https://www.slj.com/?reviewDetail=whe... See my starred review of this novel in verse in School LIbrary Journal: https://www.slj.com/?reviewDetail=whe...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Set in the Bushwick portion of Brooklyn in the fall of 1996 and beyond, this memorable novel in verse will reach many middle grade and high school readers with its honesty and questioning of the way things work. As others have noted, this book will make many of them feel seen, heard, and even valued. All too often, girls like Sarai, the eighth-grade narrator who tells this story, are encouraged by well-intentioned adults to behave in certain ways or make certain choices in order to make it. What Set in the Bushwick portion of Brooklyn in the fall of 1996 and beyond, this memorable novel in verse will reach many middle grade and high school readers with its honesty and questioning of the way things work. As others have noted, this book will make many of them feel seen, heard, and even valued. All too often, girls like Sarai, the eighth-grade narrator who tells this story, are encouraged by well-intentioned adults to behave in certain ways or make certain choices in order to make it. What they mean by making it entails nailing down a good job or going to college. The author turns that idea on its head, pointing out that for many girls like her and many families like hers, making it means simply surviving to live another day or even "trying to find good news on a bad news day" (p. 373). As the author draws from her own life experiences as a first-generation Puerto Rican living in this country with little knowledge of the history of her ancestors or her homeland, she follows Sarai as she begins questioning the "truths" told to her by her church, her mother, and her teachers. The author's decision to set the story during this particular time period and begin it when Sarai is 13, going on 14, allows readers to be plunged right inside her fight for survival as once again the family pulls up roots and moves from one place to another, dealing with uncaring landlords or individuals trying to take advantage of their neediness. The idea of living in one room of someone's apartment might sound frugal, but it has its own challenges. Readers can feel Sarai's hunger as there is often not enough food or security, but love and playfulness with her older sister Estrella make up for some of those lacks. Estrella uses the resources she has in her attempts to leave the neighborhood and find a better life, but those are stymied when violence takes her ticket to freedom. Both girls deal with often-unwanted attention from males and are surrounded by a culture of drugs and violence. There are passages that address how her neighborhood is perceived by outsiders and the cluelessness of politicians and social service agencies. Several of the poems have been written in response to other poems so they seem to be ongoing conversations that could be added to later on. Several of the poem titles are quite clever, sometimes referring to songs and music or new vocabulary, and there are even two blackout poems included, based on a New York Times article. I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel and look forward to Elisabet Velasquez's next offerings. Readers surely won't forget her journey, and perhaps they will revise their own notion of what it means to make it in such a tough world.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Richetta

    First, thank you to @PenguinTeen for a gifted copy of the physical arc and to NetGalley for a digital arc! Second, let me just say that I finished this book in two days and that was only the first of several re-reads that I plan for it. When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez is a phenomenal novel-in-verse that is both heart touching and heart wrenching. This novel-in-verse is based on Elisabet Velasquez’s life growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She is a first generation U.S. born Puerto Rican. The First, thank you to @PenguinTeen for a gifted copy of the physical arc and to NetGalley for a digital arc! Second, let me just say that I finished this book in two days and that was only the first of several re-reads that I plan for it. When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez is a phenomenal novel-in-verse that is both heart touching and heart wrenching. This novel-in-verse is based on Elisabet Velasquez’s life growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She is a first generation U.S. born Puerto Rican. The issues in the novel are the same issues that Velasquez’s family dealt with when she was growing up. This includes mental illness, houselessness, food insecurity and poverty.  I read the physical book and listened to the audiobook at the same time. I’m not a native Spanish speaker, so it helped me learn the pronunciation of some of the Spanish words I was unfamiliar with. I highly recommend the audiobook. It is narrated by the author and listening to her read her poetry is captivating. It helped add context and emotion to parts that had scenes I was unfamiliar with, which led to a better understanding of the narrative for myself. The poems about going missing in Bushwick resonated with me. I began thinking about visibility. Which is something I have thought about a lot lately, but especially when I am reading #ownvoices stories. It’s the beauty of being seen even though you were there the whole time. It’s the sadness of being erased even though you are still there. There is a series of poems that talk about going missing and describe it as almost a guarantee in the Bushwick neighborhood. The first one is “Tone Goes Missing” on page 271. There is just so much that you have to pause and sit with on that. There is so much to unpack. The inevitability of disappearing. The desire to disappear. The need to know that you are being searched for. Whew! I had to pause for a little bit after that. But this is just one of many examples of the many layers Velasquez has woven into her poetry. The conversations I could have on that poem alone in a high school English class should be enough to make you pick up this book and teach it. Reading this book is like viewing a beautiful, complicated tapestry of life. It includes elements that make up life, as complicated as it is, which for main character Sarai, include heritage, religion, family, poverty, mother-daughter relationship, assault and just being a teenager. I also love the pride in this book! Bushwick pride! Nuyorican and Puerto Rican pride! I’m looking forward to more books from Ms. Velasquez! I can’t wait to get this one into the hands of students! Check out my blog, Cocoa With Books, www.cocoawithbooks.com, for the full review.

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