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North of Happy

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,285 ratings  ·  299 reviews
His whole life has been mapped out for him…

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always love
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Harlequin Teen
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Lucie Definetly not 6 th grader, deals with mature themes, frequent swearing, would recommend for 8 to 10 graders.

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  1,285 ratings  ·  299 reviews

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Apr 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3.5 stars

YA novel with potential; a story about family, grief, and first love brought together by one character’s passion for food.

18 year old Carlos has lived a privileged life in Mexico City. He lives in awe of his older brother, Felix, who left home to pursue his dreams. The brothers bond over their mutual love of food. However, life changes dramatically when late one night while wandering around the streets of Mexico City, a tragic accident occurs and Felix is killed. Not knowing how to deal
Aj the Ravenous Reader

Another unexpected lovely read that reminds me very much of a recent book which I also adored (Invisible Ghosts). North of Happy kind of has a similar premise because the main characters in both stories suffer the loss of their older brother and now their ghost is haunting the still living brother although maybe entertaining is the better term. Lol.

Carlos, as part of his giving process, flees his hometown and embarks on a journey all the way from Mexico to an island one ferry away from Seattle
Yusra  ✨
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
this was a really random pick at the library and I was hoping I wasn't going to be disappointed. and you know, surprisingly it was okay!

the romance was kinda shitty. I'm lying. it was really shitty.

basically we have Carlos here, and his parents are throwing him this big party, but he's still suffering the trauma of his brother's death. he keeps seeing a crow (i think? it's been some time since I read this one. it might have been a pigeon) that has the voice of his brother, and keeps telling him
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic - beautifully written. But so original it's hard to describe adequately - best I can come up with is John Green meets Anthony Bourdain with a strong thread of magical realism. Carlos is fleeing his privileged life in Mexico City after the death of his brother - finding work in a restaurant in the U.S. (Washington state). The love story is well done, but what was the standout for me was Carlos's interaction with the "ghost" of his dead brother (which is both poignant and funn ...more
Cori Reed
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
HELLO, unique book.

If you like contemporary stories about travel, first jobs, romance, grief, family, culture, and FOOD, go pick up this book!

I spent many years working in kitchens (and even kitchens in the Pacific Northwest), and all of the kitchen lingo in here kind of felt like coming home. It also made me very, very hungry. Carlos is an interesting and flawed character who made me root for him (and face-palm in exasperation at times).

I have enjoyed Adi Alsaid's books in the past, but I thin
I liked this one a lot, partly because I love all things foodie/restaurant-esque and it was really fun and delightfully sensory in that way, and partly because it was really interesting to me to read a lens of privilege that wasn't that of a white kid from the US. Embarrassingly enough, this was my first Alsaid read, but it made me very glad I own all his other books, too! ...more
Samantha (WLABB)
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked this one. I have been fully embracing these books, where the characters are working through some sort of grief, and this one dug it's claws into my heart early on. I really was rooting for Carlos as he was trying to move on and trying to find his passion.

Although I own three Alsaid books, this is the first I have read, and I know, after reading this, that I will be reading the other two shortly. I really loved his story telling. There were so much fun and beautiful moments, that
Hazel (Stay Bookish)
Actual rating: 3.5

I looooooved the cooking aspect of the story. The romance? Meh. There's a great cast of Mexican characters though. But for all the tragedy and grief in the book, this one didn't evoke much emotions out of me. The only feelings this one gave me was that of HUNGER and INTENSE FOOD CRAVINGS. I'd say it's worth enough a read for all the food descriptions (and recipes!) and the Mexican rep.
Lauren Stoolfire
North of Happy is my second Adi Alsaid book. I'm glad I read it because his writing is pretty fantastic, but I this isn't quite my favorite of the two. Carlos's story just didn't appeal to me as much. I will say though that I don't think I've ever read a novel that so heavily featured food before. My favorite scenes are when Carlos is working in the kitchen, that's for sure. I'm hungry all over again just thinking about this book. ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for approving my request for a free digital copy in exchange for a review.

TW: Suicide mention

When I first started North of Happy my immediate thoughts were "fresh and fun, relaxed, refined and refreshing" I really enjoyed the blend of food and prose. I loved that the author includes recipes at the start of each chapter and that novel approach was definitely the highlight of the book.

As the story progressed I started to find a number of flaws which detract
Maggie Carr
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Books that leave an incomplete conclusion usually bother me but I liked the simplicity of the ending in North of Happy. Carlos had to navigate off course of his father's life plan in order to grieve his brother in his own way, surrounded by food in a few country far from home. This book will leave you salivating with each new chapter as they start with a recipe. Thank you School Library Journal for the ARC, I do believe I'll recommend it to other readers. ...more
Lance Rubin
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book beautifully puts into words so many honest, relatable life moments. The protagonist Carlos has lost his older brother, and his grieving process is handled in a way that is both devastating and funny, and always compassionate. As a former waiter, I also loved how spot-on this was in its portrayal of restaurant life.
Becky R.
May 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Our main character, Carlos, has dual citizenship between the U.S. and Mexico. Having been raised in Mexico by a well off family, he felt he had a path to follow, until his brother Felix was killed. Carlos left for the U.S. to work in restaurant kitchens, hoping to fulfill a deeper desire he has to work with food and to become a chef.

This story is really interesting, and I really learned to like Carlos and his subtle ways. We definitely get a lot more of Carlos's internal struggle with his own f
Apr 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book was painfully boring, frustrating and borderline offensive. I didn't care about Carlos and his trip to figuring out how to not be a self entitled brat, I couldn't stand Emma's angst and I absolutely despised how the brother showed up as non-sensical hallucinations.
I'm SO disappointed in this book - the synopsis showed so much promise and I really loved the authors other books. It's as though he wrote this one while he was asleep.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I really loved this book and I have about a million good things to say about it, and I'm going to get to those, but I'm going to get the bad thing out of the way first.

"I've been on this island for less than a month, I'm falling in love with a girl who's on her way out the door and I'm apprenticed to the Soup Nazi of onion cutting." (178)

Stop calling people "[insert thing here] Nazis" just because they're strict about something. It trivializes the very real issue of actual Nazis, because
Caitlin Christensen
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

1 cup likeable protagonist
2 ½ cups grief-induced hallucinations
3 cups food porn
½ cup diversity
6 TB forbidden romance
2 TB running away from problems
1 tsp gorgeous Seattle scenery
½ tsp restaurant setting

I cannot resist a novel that is stuffed full of food as this one is. I loved how every chapter heading started off with a recipe that fit into the plot perfectly. Carlos expresses himself through food and cooking, and the descriptions of food are exquisite. I was
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
(3.5 stars) This book will be released on April 24th, 2017.

So, I sort of have an equal amount of things that I like and dislike about this book.
First off, what I did not like: I don't really know why but for some reason I could never get behind the romance. It didn't make all that much sense to me, and I thought he had a girlfriend in Mexico but I guess they weren't all that serious. The main character Carlos and his love interest Emma weren't really insta-love, but for some reason it just didn
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: washington, mexico
I really liked this book. I like books that deal with families and siblings. I love the idea of a tragedy happening and how Carlos left to find himself. This book had a touch of surrealism which Carlos deals with seeing and hearing his dead brother everywhere he goes. I did not like Emma as a character. She really got under my skin. I wish the author would have made her more like able. Can’t wait to read the other books from this author.
Cristina (Girl in the Pages)
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

As a reader, I'd been curious about North of Happy for quite a while. I hadn't read any of Alsaid's previous work, but I had heard a lot of buzz surrounding both Let's Get Lost and Never Always Sometimes, so I was surprised that this one had seemed to fly under my ra
Fiona R
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Mostly what kept me turning pages was the way the kitchen scenes came alive in this story about HS grad, Carlos, who questions the life his father has mapped out for him, especially in the wake of his brother's tragic death and leaves Mexico City to try and discover his own path.
This adventure to the US begins with a meal at a celebrated restaurant and leads to a job and a burgeoning relationship with the Chef's daughter. So far so good, but my problem with this book was that I found many of the
Literacy Alliance
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 sma ...more
3.5 stars.

This book was a ride. I didn't realize how much I cared about the characters until the last 100 pages which is really a shame. This book messed with my emotions more than I thought it would.
I didn't cry that much.

Anyway, i still defiantly recommend this book. It starts off slow, but it's worth it to continue to read on.
The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori)
Review to come!
Ms. Warchol
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
ARC from NetGalley

I was eager to read this book because I loved Adi Alsaid's witty banter in Never Always Sometimes. His new book North of Happy didn't charm me as much.

The main character is a boy named Carlos from Mexico City who is about to graduate high school and embark on the future his parents have laid out for him. Everything sounds great (on paper), except Carlos is still devastated by the tragic death of his older, nomadic brother, Felix, six months earlier. Suddenly, the path to his f
Laura Howard
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved how Like a Water for Chocolate began each chapter with a recipe that fed into the story. So when I opened North of Happy and saw Adi Alsaid also employed this technique (inspired by Like Water for Chocolate), I automatically fell for this book. The main characters love of food and his work in a restaurant brought back so many memories of my time in both culinary school and working in the service industry.
Are you a foodie? Is Food Network your go-to TV station? Have you seen every episode of Chopped? If you answered yes to these questions, this book is a MUST READ. If your answer is no, do you like to eat food? Do you have an appreciation for teenage boys who lost their older brothers to drive-by shootings while in search of the perfect taco? Can you empathize with a boy who just graduated from HS but doesn't feel like going away to college is the right path for him? If your answer to those last ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Give me anything by Adi Alsaid...ANYTHING!! His books are the real deal! I LOVE HIM!!! A strong, genuine voice in YA and in the Mexican Community. North of Happy made sad, mad and HAPPY!!
Nina O'Daniels
Ever had a perfect taco or go in search of one? I’m not talking a few restaurants here and there, but taqueria after taqueria in the same night, only eating one taco at each until you’ve reached taco nirvana? That takes some dedication and someone who knows how to enjoy the small things in life. Carlos’s older brother, Felix is just that person. Felix is the ultimate older brother, doling out amazing advice and bringing out the adventurer in Carlos until their adventure comes to an abrupt halt w ...more
Feb 25, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, ya-book-club
North of Happy is a Culinary Delight!

When his older brother, Felix--who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel--is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother's voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father's plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the US and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he be
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Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City, where he now lives, writes, and spills hot sauce on things. He's the author of several YA novels including LET'S GET LOST, NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES, and NORTH OF HAPPY. ...more

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“What makes a taco perfect?"
"Beautiful question," Felix said. "It's a taco that tastes as good as the idea of a taco itself. A taco that'll hold steadfast through memory's attempt to erase it, a taco that'll be worthy of the nostalgia that it will cause. A taco that won't satisfy or fill but will satiate your hunger. Not just for tonight but for tacos in general, for food, for life-it-fucking-self, brother. You will feel full to your soul
"But!" he added, a callused index finger pointed straight up at the sky. "It's also a taco that will make you hunger for more tacos like it, for more tacos at all, for food, the joy of it, the beauty of it. A taco that makes you hungry for life and that makes you feel like you have never been more alive. Nothing short of that will do.”
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