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Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,801 ratings  ·  313 reviews
Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a premature mustache. When you look like this and you're only in the eighth grade, you're both a threat and a target. Marcus knows what classmates and teachers see when they look at him: a monster.

But appearances are deceiving. At home, Marcus is a devoted brother. And he finds ways to earn cash to contribute to hi
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 21st 2018 by Viking Books for Young Readers
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Faranae You will have to check with your local library, or buy a copy. You can't read books on Goodreads, only talk about them. :) …moreYou will have to check with your local library, or buy a copy. You can't read books on Goodreads, only talk about them. :) (less)

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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  1,801 ratings  ·  313 reviews

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Nov 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. Seen through the eyes of middle schooler, Marcus Vega, we see he is struggling trying to make friends (none), struggling with his height (6 ft tall and 180 lbs) and everyone seems scared of him. His life at home is equally stressful trying to be the man of the house and take care of Charlie, his brother with Down Syndrome, and his single mom that works long hours at the airport in Pennsylvania.

Then a bully calls his brother the R word so big bad Marcus punches him and nearly gets expelled.
The other day a woman contacted me and wondered if I could offer any picture book/middle grade/ YA suggestions for a list of various topics. The list consisted of things like “OCD”, “death/grieving”, “trauma”, etc. Some of the subjects were difficult and others too easy (that “death/grieving” category by far had the most titles). And then there were the ones that were almost too broad. “Bullying” fell into that category. I mean, what kind of bullying would be best here? Physical intimidation? Ps ...more
Annie ⚜️
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My son and I enjoyed this very much. Marcus is a serious boy who doesn’t have it easy with a single mom, little brother with Down syndrome, being 6 feet tall at 14, etc. After getting into a bit of trouble, he goes on a little odyssey around Puerto Rico to find his dad and finds so much more along the way.

The audiobook edition was excellent.
Ms. Yingling
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
ARC provided by Follett

Marcus is a big kid, and uses this to his advantage in his suburban Philadelphia neighborhood by earning a little money offering "protection" from kids like Stephen Hobert. He has a group who walk back and forth to school with him for the bargain price of $10 a week. He also provides the service of keeping kids out of lunch detention by picking up trash they leave behind-- of course, this also has a price. His "office" is in the library, which gives him a place to hang out
Flynn S
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
this book is so good.
Amy-Jo Conant
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The audio production of this book is amazing! Truly fantastic! If you have a chance to listen to the audio I highly suggest it.

You WILL fall in love with MARCUS, CHARLIE, and his whole family. This book has great characters, great setting, tons of themes to work through. It's really the total package.

Marcus is a little like Clifford the dog, except no one, thinks he's cute and cuddly. He's big but is he bad? Well, it probably won't take you long to decide. Once you meet his younger brother Cha
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways-won
Very well written - reads somewhat like a love-story to Puerto Rico and rightfully so. The author beautifully captures the things that make La Isla del Encanta so special! I was married to a PR man and have visited the island many times and reading Marcus' story reminded me of being a gringa seeing and experiencing the island for the first time. A great story of family and choosing our family.

I won this book in a giveaway and was given an advanced copy. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I breezed through this book because it flows so seamlessly and the characters are so true to life. Marcus, Charlie, their mom, and everyone they meet jump off of the page and give a true feeling of family. I loved seeing Marcus’s journey, and I feel like this story fits together neatly in all the right ways.
I’m only an hour into this audiobook and gosh it has so much heart.

Edited to add: Loved this somewhat quiet book about Marcus, who is a middle grader and super tall (he gets mistaken for a member of the teaching staff). Marcus is suspended after punching a classmate who uses the 'r-' word in reference to his younger brother with Down Syndrome. Cartaya's depiction of the two brothers' relationship is so tender: Marcus dotes on Charlie and does his best to parent him while his single mom is busy w
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-juvenile
Started out strong but ended up just okay for me. Felt bogged down by too many characters - what was the point of the twins? - and the pacing felt off at times. Very bittersweet to read about Puerto Rico.
Michelle Stimpson
Jan 24, 2020 rated it liked it
The best thing about this book is Charlie, Marcus Vega's little brother who has Down Syndrome. Charlie is obsessed with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He's smart and funny and never helps to clear the dinner table. He's a treasure of a character and one I won't forget. ...more
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book for boys ages 10+. It is set in a middle school. Marcus is trying to find his place in the world. He has a single mother and his brother has Down's syndrome. Marcus is a natural protector. He wants to find his father and learns a valuable life lesson about family and friendship. ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, middlegrade
3.5 stars |
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a cute book! I loved reading about pre-hurricane PR; a place I have visited as well. I also felt that it was realistic that Marcus - while more mature in some ways - still made mistakes or had reactions that kids his age would make. If I were his mom though I'd probably keep letting him make money from those kids! I like his bodyguard idea a lot. And GENIUS keeping that notebook of transactions. I know for sure I wouldn't have thought of that as his age. I don't even think of keeping re ...more
Clare Lund
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another winner from author Pablo Cartaya! After his dad walked out on the family, Marcus has had to grow up faster than his peers; he looks out for his mom and his little brother Charlie, who has Down syndrome, but is also misunderstood at school due to his large size. When the neighborhood bully Stephen insults Charlie, Marcus doesn't think twice before throwing a punch that gets him suspended. Marcus's mom decides to take the boys to visit their family in Puerto Rico over spring break to regro ...more
Cynthia Parkhill
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Engaging story, with a likeable protagonist who provides first-person narrative. I liked the way Marcus used his size to his advantage, offering his walk-home service to kids who were at risk of bullying -- but sympathized because at the root of it all, Marcus was still viewed as a misfit. And it was nice to see the close family relationship between himself, his mother and brother Charlie, along with the many extended family members they discovered in Puerto Rico.
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: realistic, j
The two parts of this book are pretty distinct. I'm surprised, when flipping back through it, that Marcus and his family don't leave PA for Puerto Rico until about a third of the way into the book.

Not that the beginning isn't memorable. Honestly, I think the idea of an extra-tall middle schooler who makes money through a side business protecting his classmates is a really great hook. I feel like the whole book could have been about that. His brother is a great character (extra points for Down s
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish Book Review

Even though it was a lower-level book compared to some of my recent reads, this book was very emotional and quite interesting.

Marcus Vega is an 8th grader who weighs 180 pounds and is 6 feet tall. To earn some extra cash for his family, he acts as a bodyguard for younger students who wish to not get targeted by bullies when they walk to school and back home. Marcus has a younger brother who has a mental disorder and a father who left when he was very
Pam Held
Eleven-year-old Marcus Vega lives with his mom and brother Charlie in Springfield, Pennsylvania. His dad lives in Puerto Rico and events in Marcus’ life lead him and his family to visit Puerto Rico for a week.

Tough guy Marcus is on a mission to connect with his dad who has been absent for 10 years, but it is clear that Marcus is out of his comfort zone when he arrives in Puerto Rico for the first time. When he arrives at Uncle Ermenio’s house, Marcus thinks to himself, “If my mom is trying to c
Kevin Zhao
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya was a effortless and quick read. I enjoyed the Spanish spoken throughout the book. This book touches on the culture of Puerto Rico. Some parts could have been improved like Marcus's sudden interest in his dad. I would recommend this to anyone who understands a little Spanish and enjoys learning other cultures. ...more
I loved this book. It was a great story of family, friends, and learning to live with yourself, despite what others might see when they look at you.

Marcus Vega doesn't fit in with the rest of the 8th graders at his middle school. He is bigger, stronger, and more intimidating. He uses this to his advantage and walks kids to and from school, for a profit, enforces a garbage tax, for a profit, and also houses cell phones during the day, for a profit. One of the kids he is trying to keep the others
Raul M
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Something about this novel had me intensely enjoying the opportunity to escape into the tale, even more so compared to the author's prior release. I initially had my doubts, but only because some memories that I'd prefer leaving in the past resurfaced, as I was reading of how 14-year-old Marcus stood up to bullying in school only to end up antagonized as a result. I'll admit, to be reminded that adults can enable middle-school tormentors was no joy.

Yet these circumstances led to a sort of family
Shaye Miller
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marcus Vega is a very large kid. He struggles to fit in with the rest of his same-aged friend, so he takes advantage of his size by charging his classmates for various tasks he can handle better than most. Marcus’s younger brother, Charlie, has down syndrome. One day, another student at school makes a rude comment about Charlie and Marcus loses his temper. Everyone ends up in the school office and when all is said and done, Marcus mother decides the family needs a break from everyday reality. Th ...more
Mariana Calderon
Most people look at Marcus Vega and see a bully - that's what happens when you're six feet and 180 pounds. It doesn't matter that he's just in the 8th grade, takes care of his little brother who has Down Syndrome, and offers to walk younger kids home for some extra cash for his mom's emergency cookie jar.
So when a school fight results in Marcus' mother deciding it's time for a change of pace and taking them to Puerto Rico to stay with relatives, Marcus can't help but think that if he can just f
Thomas Chung
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is about Marcus Vega, a six foot tall middle school student, his brother Charlie who has down syndrome, his father who left when Marcus was little, and his mom who doesn't make a lot of money and has to work a lot of night shifts. When something happens at school, his mom bring her children to Puerto Rico to meet his extended family. When they get there, Marcus can't help but think about how his father is somewhere on that island. However, if Marcus can somehow find his father, will he ...more
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
After reading and loving Epic Fail of Arturo I was excited to see another MG title from this author. I loved Marcus and his relationship with his brother. Marcus' struggle with identity is something many MG students can relate to. The search for Marcus' dad will stir real emotions for readers. The fact that they travel back to PR and the message to always move forward is an important one. Huge opportunities to investigate and get students involved in recovery efforts to help make a difference. ...more
Sara-Zoe Patterson
It's a good story with great characters and Puerto Rico serves as almost another character - but the climactic moment is so unsatisfying - not that things should have gone differently, but the way the main character flips his mind so easily is the unsatisfying piece. ...more
Sarah Donovan
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
bullying, bicultural family, distant father, Philadelphia and Puerto Rico, familia
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great story about the protection and warmth that can come from family but also from being a part of something that is bigger than you.
Kristi Housman Confessions of a YA Reader
4 1/2 stars.

RTC for blog tour.

Thank you to Penguin/Viking for sending me a physical copy for review.
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Pablo Cartaya is a professional code switcher and lover of all things Latinx. He talks a lot and writes a lot which are paradoxical conundrums to overcome on a daily basis. He is the author of the acclaimed middle-grade novel, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora (Viking Children’s Books/Penguin Random House) which earned him a Publisher's Weekly "Flying Start" and starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, ...more

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