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The Gallery of Unfinished Girls

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A beautiful and evocative look at identity and creativity, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is a stunning debut in magical realism. Perfect for fans of The Walls Around Us and Bone Gap.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

“A dreamy and subtle work of art, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls explores love, family, and the maddening, magical drive to create art.”—Adi Alsaid, author of Let's Get Lost

352 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 25, 2017

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About the author

Lauren Karcz

1 book74 followers
Lauren Karcz is a fan of books, dogs, long sentences, Broadway shows, adverbs, and wandering art museums. She's a professional language nerd, having worked as an ESL teacher, a language test developer, and now as a writer. Lauren lives with her family in Atlanta.

THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS is Lauren's debut novel. It was a 2017 Junior Library Guild selection and a 2019 ALA Rainbow List honoree.

Visit Lauren online at https://www.laurenkarcz.com. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @laurenkarcz.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 159 reviews
Profile Image for Lauren.
Author 1 book74 followers
September 12, 2017
Do I get to mark my own book as "read" now? I've been reading it on and off since 2013. I think it's done. I think it's yours now, world.

(Psst -- if you've reviewed the book here, I'd love if you copied it over to Amazon or another retail site. Doing so really helps the book find readers. Thanks!)
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
March 18, 2019
on the blog!!

I'm going to be honest and say I picked this up almost exclusively because of the bi main character. And I am so, so glad I did. This book is freaking amazing and REALLY underrated.

Gallery of Unfinished Girls is an intensely beautiful magical realism story: not at all what I expected, but somehow everything I needed. Karcz manages to pull together themes about growing up, moving on, and being an artist into the same book. And it works perfectly. The message of the book develops over time and the writing builds.

Don't expect a romance here; this is more of a coming-of-age story. Honestly, the lack of romance was probably my least favorite part. I know that sounds ridiculous and out-of-character for me, but it's true. I wished for more of a love story to bring the book together. Yes, the lack of actual romance is realistic, given the situation: no, I still don't particularly like it.

But honestly, I have no other complaints. The characters of this beautiful little book are going to stay with me for a long time. Mercedes' arc is subtly built and has a stunning conclusion. Karcz doesn't neglect her side characters, though. Angela, Vic, and Lillia were all layered and multifaceted.

Everything about this book was great, really. There's an emphasis on friendship and family in a very mature sense. There's this emotional quality to the writing that made me feel. I don't know how to quantify emotion or tell you why I felt that way, but I got Mercedes. We're not similar, yet I connected to her in such a real way. She felt like a real person. 
I cannot be stopped in the beginning of everything. I cannot hide forever.

The writing style in general is just gorgeous, especially considering Lauren Karcz is a debut author. I did have one nitpick here; she could have used more contractions, especially when they helped sentences flow better. A few stray sentences came across as fairly abrupt or out of place due to this issue.

VERDICT: All in all, Gallery of Unfinished Girls was a great look at art with magical realism and interesting characters. I can't wait for this to be published and for everyone to love it like I did. Can’t recommend enough!!
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
660 reviews3,882 followers
January 29, 2018
red is the colour of blood, of apples, of the T-shirt I bought on our last, worst all-Moreno family vacation .. red is flame and fury. red is thin and shallow and covers everything. red loves you back

things I have learnt about myself at age 19: I need to read whimsical books via audio instead of physical because this whimsical writing style never sticks with me (in audio form it does?)

Anyway, I guess I wanted to be more engaged with this then I was. I was so excited to read this book, and listen the writing is SO PRETTY, but it doesn't work for me. It kind of reminds me of Laini Taylor and Anna Marie McLemore, and I have trouble with both those authors too. But if you love them, you'd most definitely love this

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls follows Mercedes Moreno - a puerto rican bisexual girl. She's an artist who hasn't been able to paint anything since her award winning piece Food Poisoning #1, she's also in love with her best friend Victoria and her Abuela is in a coma, meaning she's looking after her little sister Angela while her mum is in Puerto Rico.

First of all this is one of those books where I LOVED the concept and the aesthetic. The magical elements woven into the story and the kinda dreamlike way that things happen was so nice, even if I sometimes found myself disconnected from it. But what I did LOVE LOVE LOVE above all else in this book was the exploration of relationships. I love Mercedes and Victoria! And I could totally relate to the "being in love with a friend" thing, rip. Anyway, I think the way that relationship was done was so nice, I loved them and I loved the way their friendship worked. I also think the relationship between Mercedes and her sister and her mum was so interesting. The dynamics between the characters was my favourite part of this book and my heart hurts at that ending.

Lauren Karcz also managed to bring her themes together so well. This book tackles so many issues, from sexuality to family, to art, to friendships, and to growing into yourself and ties it all together so neatly. The careful and nuanced way in which each of these issues is brought together and linked was really nice, and I loved the use of the Red Mangrove Estate to explore that.

One thing I couldn't engage with as much was the heavy emphasis on art knowledge. I don't know ANYTHING about art and art history so the references to artists and art techniques and things absolutely flew over my head. I felt like I was missing a bit of meaning beside all the things mentioned because I just didn't understand. I also wish the romance had been more heavily focussed on, because it was the bit that most interested me, and also the bit I felt was thrown most on the wayside.

Ultimately I think my issues with this book are more of a "its me, not you" kinda thing, because I think this book is well executed and I love it in theory. But I just couldn't get into it while I was actually READING it. Does that make sense? This book dragged so much for me, but it was just because the writing style wasn't working, not because it was actually boring.

But I ABSOLUTELY THINK YOU COULD LOVE THIS !! Yes, you !! It's got such nice writing and oh my goddd that romance actually makes me wanna cry I LOVE THEM. And it's just such a good book except that it didn't work for me? I don't even know how to explain myself what a mess.

Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews189 followers
May 27, 2019
The Gallery of Unfinished Girls the best YA standalone book I’ve ever read.

It’s a coming-of-age magical realism novel following Mercedes Moreno, a bisexual Puerto Rican painter who finds the Red Mangrove Estate, a magical building in which every artist is the best version of themselves.

It’s also a book I find really hard to describe. It’s sad, but it’s the happiest sad book you’ll ever read. It’s character-driven and has barely any plot, but so much happens. It’s surreal, it has magic in it, and yet it feels more real than real life.
The first time I read The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, I described it as a love letter to in-between moments. And it is – I think the right word to describe it is “liminal”. It’s about how awkward growing up can be, the weight of your dreams and insecurities, and the things you can’t bring yourself to put on paper or say out loud. It’s about the magic of these awkward moments, because the awkwardness is worth it.
I haven’t found another YA book that describes how it’s like to be a teenage girl as well as this one does.

It’s also a love letter to art. I have read many books from the point of view of main characters who are artists, and yet none ever got into what it’s like to not like your art, to feel discouraged by its imperfections, to not be able to create when something in your life is making you feel stuck – stuck because you have a crush on your best friend and you don’t even know if she likes girls the same way you do, stuck because you don’t know what will happen to your very sick grandmother, stuck because you’re afraid to think about your future.
This book is about those feelings. Mercedes gets introduced to a magical palace where everything she’ll create, every moment, will always be the best version of itself, with no flaws. And I loved how this aspect was explored.
The Gallery of Unfinished Girls talks about perfectionism mostly from the point of view of a painter and also talks about the feelings of a musician (Mercedes’ sister, Angela) but I think everyone who has ever been an artist will be able to relate to those feelings on some level – I do, because I felt and sometimes still feel some of these things as a writer. When you’re stuck, beginnings are the hardest part – the flaws glare at you, and you can’t unsee the fact that everything that looked perfect in your head is imperfect, maybe even ugly, once you try to make it real.
And that’s when you’re tempted to lose yourself in dreams and fantasies, and let your art live only in your head – or, in Mercedes’ case, in a building where everything is perfect but doesn’t exist outside.

But this aspect of The Gallery of Unfinished Girls isn’t only about art. It’s about living as well. Life is messy, life is difficult, and life is scary. It’s much easier to live in your dreams when everything around you feels broken, when you feel like there’s no hope for those dreams to ever become real. This is a book that understand this aspect of growing up. It doesn’t judge or tell you that dreaming is “giving up on your life” or “not really living” (I’d love to never see that kind of message again; there are moments in your life that hurt too much, and sometimes you need to take a break. But you need to come back, eventually.)
It just tells you that maybe the outside is worth it, and maybe you can move on.

This book has a nostalgic feel to it. It’s not happy, but it’s hopeful enough that I can’t describe it as a sad book, either. It’s about moving forward, and if it makes you sad it’s because it makes you feel, and it made me feel a lot of things. It’s the exact opposite of the books I describe as “emotionally flat”, and the perfect example of how to write a book about sad things without exploiting them for shock value.
It made me feel so much because I related to the main character, and she is a very well-written character. Her voice, her thoughts - everything about her narration stood out to me because it felt real, and also because sometimes it was like seeing some of my thoughts on a page.

I don’t think I can do the writing justice. It’s simple and flows and works so well. Everything about this book was so defined and detailed it felt just like real life, even with the magic – maybe even because of the magic: I’ve always thought the magic of everyday life is in the details.
I also thought the atmosphere was perfect: I’ve never been to Florida, but I felt like I was there. To those who say that contemporary books don’t have any worldbuilding, I say that there’s still the difference between those in which the character float in blank space and those in which readers who have never been to the US are able to visualize how things look like.

The side characters are all memorable: Angela was my favorite and I'd read a whole book in her PoV, but I’m also partial to Victoria, the maybe-queer, Italian-American (!!) girl Mercedes has a crush on. Maybe I have low standards, but it’s the first time I've seen an Italian character who is not a stereotype in an American book. She is a dancer, her parents don’t own a restaurant, she has no ties with the mafia (...yes this happened), and she is not homophobic. I love her. I also loved Evie (another queer girl! And she’s not there for relationship drama!) and everything that has to do with Lilia Solis, but I can’t explain why without spoilers.
For a book in which there’s very little plot, so many interesting and unexpected things happen.

I also like that this book isn’t a romance. I know we’re all looking for more f/f books – I am too – but I think there’s value in queer stories that aren’t a romance and aren’t in any way tragic. Since this book is about the fact that most things are worth trying even when they don’t work out, I thought this decision made sense.
Also, the ending is kind of open in this aspect. (Headcanon time: I totally believe that Mercedes and Victoria got together a few years later.)
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,723 reviews1,278 followers
May 12, 2017
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“The estate guides us to fulfil its needs,” Lilia says, “with art and music, structure and form, color and light. But it knows what you need, too.”

This was a YA magical realism story about a girl who was an artist, but had a bit of a creative block.

Mercedes was an okay character although she seemed to lack focus a bit when it came to her art, so it was good for her when Lilia turned up to help her.

The storyline in this was about Mercedes and her sister living alone for a short time while their mother went to look after their Abuela who was in a coma. Mercedes was having a bit of artist’s block, while her sister suddenly took to playing the piano that appeared in their garden one day. Then a new neighbour turned up – Lilia, who took Mercedes to an old building where she was able to paint, although the artwork couldn’t be taken out of the building without it disappearing.
We also got a storyline about Mercedes having romantic feelings toward her best friend Victoria, but the story didn’t really focus on the romance.

The ending to this was okay, but overall I found this to be quite an odd story.

6.25 out of 10
Profile Image for Anna Priemaza.
Author 3 books184 followers
July 27, 2016
I didn't mean to read this book. At least, not yet. But it sucked me in and refused to let go.

When Lauren sent it to me, it was just for the purpose of glancing through it to suggest a new title. I definitely wanted to read it at a future time, but I had a dozen things to do that evening, and really could only spare under an hour to glance through, get a sense of the language, and suggest some titles.

Hours later, the dozens of things I planned to do weren't done, and I was turning the final pages with tears in my eyes.

This book is absolutely lovely. The language and imagery feels like it's being painted on your heart.

But the gorgeous language isn't hollow. It's lays out this riveting story that sucks you in from the first minute, when a piano mysteriously appears on the lawn of Mercedes and Angela, whose mother has gone to look after their Abuela and left them feeling alone. And terribly lost.

And the story doesn't let you go, pulling you into a magical world where art can only be perfect at night, where sisters can only find reach other by losing themselves, and where love is so simple and yet so terribly complex. And it's beautiful.

You should definitely read this book. But be careful, because once you pick it up, you will not be able to put it down. And those twelve things you wanted to do will not get done. And you won't even care.
Profile Image for Kristine.
5 reviews4 followers
April 12, 2016
What a beautiful book.

Mercedes Moreno is having a tough time. Her abuela is in the hospital, she can’t figure out what to paint for the county show, and there’s a piano in her yard. Pile on top of that the college responses she’s waiting for and the fact that her best friend Victoria—the best friend who could possibly, in a perfect world, love her back—is set on leaving Florida for New York, and everything seems like it’s on a downward spiral.

Until, that is, she finds that perfect world in a mysterious studio.

The storytelling in NO MORE BLUES THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS (new title yay!) is like if you filled a bucket with magic, dipped in a brush, and painted every single page. It’s a story about love and empathy, of friendship and family, fine art and music and dance, of finding yourself in the spaces in between. It made my heart squeeze, it made me smile, it made me tear up, and it made me feel all the feelings. Lauren Karcz brings not only her characters but also their art to life with her lovely, lyrical, utterly evocative style.

Definitely read this if you like Jandy Nelson. Read this book if you like books. Read it if you don’t.

It’s awesome.
Profile Image for ellie.
544 reviews165 followers
October 15, 2017
DNF @ Page 84. I don’t know. I’m not an artist, so pretty much all of the eighty four pages I read went over my head? She would describe brush strokes and I’m like “Okay, sure...umm, okay.” I don’t know. I don’t think I’m in the right mood for this. I don’t know if I ever will be in the right set of mood for this. The thing that made me want to pick this up was the gay girl rep, but then I found out that it never ends up going anywhere.

So like, if I’m not going to get girls in love, then what am I going to keep reading for? Artistic metaphors that I, clearly a peasant human, don’t understand? I mean, I read 84 pages of this book and it made me feel so meh. And the side characters and the story felt so choppy. There were little tidbits of memories and then we’d be abruptly pulled into the present, where Mercedes is sad again. God. I don’t know.

This wasn’t for me. I’m sad to admit it, though.
Profile Image for Chiara.
870 reviews220 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
August 14, 2017
DNF at 41%.

A copy of this novel was provided by HarperCollins for review via Edelweiss.

Why I did not finish The Gallery of Unfinished Girls:

I wanted to like The Gallery of Unfinished Girls. The premise sounded good, the cover is gorgeous, and it’s about a bisexual Puerto Rican girl. However, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls was just not for me, and here’s why:

1) The writing style in this book was at times incredibly simple, and at others it was filled with so many metaphors it was difficult to decipher what was trying to be said through them. I feel like this was really jarring because one minute it would be general descriptions and the next it would be descriptions that had my scratching my head in confusion.

2) There was nothing to the main character, Mercedes. I mean, sure, there were parts of her that were fleshed out, but I didn’t know what was driving her in this book. I didn’t know what was supposed to be pulling me in, because at 41% nothing was really happening at all. I just wanted to engage with her, and her wants and needs, and this didn’t happen at all.

3) The artistic pretentiousness was next level in The Gallery of Unfinished Girls. There was just so much angst and artist drama that it was kind of painful to get through. Mercedes tore up her award winning piece, and was painting walls red, and I just couldn’t read any more about the pain of being an artist and not being inspired enough.

4) Despite the blurb saying that Mercedes is “madly in love” with her best friend, Victoria, I wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t even really get a feel for the fact that they were best friends. This relationship was more told than shown, with only about three scenes with Victoria occurring in the 41% of the book that I read.

5) The side characters weren’t fleshed out at all. Even Mercedes’ sister. Her friend Tall Jon. Lilia. They all felt kind of cardboard cut-out-y to me. Mercedes’ sister was only there to lie to Mercedes’ mother when she called, and to suddenly be a prodigy pianist player. Tall Jon was only there to give Mercedes cigarettes and new music. I don’t even know what Lilia was there for – I guess to be a Mysterious Artist. None of these side characters felt like they played any integral role in what was happening, or had lives outside the scenes where they were with Mercedes.

6) I just didn’t care what was supposed to happen next, which I guess is because all of the above. Nothing was pulling me to keep reading, and so I didn’t.

© 2017, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity . All rights reserved.

trigger warning: absent parents, grandparent in coma (after two strokes), use of ableist language, and shaking building (like in an earthquake) in this novel. please note that this is not a full list of trigger warnings as i did not finish this novel
Profile Image for Roberta R. (Offbeat YA).
371 reviews35 followers
November 9, 2020
Rated 4.5 really.

Excerpt from my review - originally published at Offbeat YA.

Pros: Atmospheric, surprising, with a strong art commentary and a poignant coming-of-age message.
Cons: The side characters might use more depth. If you like spelled-out endings, you won't find one here.
Will appeal to: People who make art. People who don't, but want to peek into an artist's mind. People who like to read about a teen's family dynamics and personal growth. Most of all, people who crave for spellbinding books with a huge twist.

This is a debut book, but you would never be able to tell. Also, this is a book with less than a thousand ratings on Goodreads, and that, my friends, is a crime. I hope that some of you will get inspired to pick it up and right a wrong after reading my review 😉.


Back when I started blogging, I didn't even know "what" magical realism was (which explains my "contemporary with a twist" label for certain books). Fast forward eight years, and it's become one of my favourite genres, second only to afterlife. What I'm trying to say is, though I wouldn't call myself a MR expert (whereas I claim the title for afterlife 😊), I've read a decent number of books in the category, and TGOUG is one of the most lyrical and exquisite I've ever encountered - plus one that pulled a huge twist on me (yep, this is a "contemporary with a twist" book after all, for more than one reason). I came for the magical mystery (which didn't disappoint - on the contrary, it was more exciting than I expected) and stayed for the art commentary and the teen experience with regard to family, love and life in general. [...]

Whole review here.
Profile Image for Allison.
489 reviews186 followers
July 17, 2017
4.5 stars! *-*

Longer RTC after business trip.
Profile Image for Aleksandra.
1,409 reviews
December 7, 2017
This was okay.

The story did pick up by the last quarter of the book, but the middle managed to bore me, so overall 3 stars seems fair.

I liked many elements of the novel, but for some reason they did not make a strong impression. I wanted more, more depth, more color...

The protagonist of The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is Mercedes. She's 17 Latinx girl, she's graduating high school, she's an artist, her best friend is dancer Victoria and Mercedes has feelings for her.
I enjoyed reading dynamics Mercedes and her younger sister Angela. They have complex relationships, there's envy, hurt and love and more. Mercedes and Angela are left alone at home when their grandmother had a stroke and their mother flew to Puerto Rico to be with her.

Relationships between Victoria and Mercedes are realistic. They are best friends, they care about each other, but they do have their separate lifes and goals and aspirations. I feel like in a lot of YA novels best friends are attached to the hip and it's rather annoying. Personally, I liked Mercedes crushing on her friend and the sapphic rep was good, I saw myself and my doubts, fears in Mercedes'. Although, fun fact that I wish Victoria had her own pov. It wouldn't fit the general atmospheric plotless mood of the book, but I just liked her a lot.

Art is the key element of the novel. Good discussions happened during the course of the book about artist & art, art & audience, artist & audience dilemmas, also time and change and perfection. My favorite part is the conclusion that art shared with the loved ones and with the world becomes something different from the art seeing only by its creator. I love discussions and themes like that.

I appreciate that the story is revolving around women. All the major characters are women and they have complex and fascinating relationships with each other.

I believe it's just as good time as ever to say that The Gallery of Unfinished Girls has magical elements, but it is not magical realism. Magical realism was created by Latinx authors as a result of postcolonialism. The deeply rooted flawed societal economic situations, tragedy of generations, the events so awful they seemed fantastical (based on Justabookeater_ from Twitter). The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is about art and family. The magical house where one can create their perfect piece of art is magical addition to the story that gives an interesting vibes to the whole story. Also the building has creeped me out the whole time, it has this aura from the beginning, I didn't trust it.

I struggled reading the book because I found myself bored after about 25% into the story. There were occasional interesting scenes or topics and by the end, as I said, it did pick up, but overall I pushed myself into finishing the book.

Perhaps I'm just in a weird mood.
If sapphic artists (several!), familial relationships, discussions about art and coming of age story sound like something you would enjoy, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls might be a book for you.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,392 followers
June 26, 2017
This book was so freaking beautiful, I found myself anxiously awaiting what deceptively simple but impactful phrasing would be used next. I loved its meditations on creativity and the ways it can both intertwine with and inhibit personal growth, and the sister relationship was so sweet. (And yay for A+ bi rep!) Very excited to see what this author does next.
Profile Image for Stormy.
464 reviews123 followers
February 7, 2017
4.5 but rounding up because I have been waiting for a book like this for SO LONG and it was just as wonderful as I had hoped.
Profile Image for La La.
993 reviews126 followers
August 8, 2017
Another story that uses Magical Realism as an excuse for a series of coincedences and strange disconnected events that are just bad writing cover ups. The climax to this book was absurd. Even Magical Realism needs some sort of method to its maddness, if you know what I mean. You can't just say all of this weirdness is connected to this specific person without giving one molecule of how or why. The story was also crammed too full of forced symbolisms; many of which were cliche, or verging on cliche.

The author took too long to describe things that weren't important to the story and not enough time with things that would have made the story stronger. There were vocabulary words used incorrectly, and some of the descriptions were so wordy that they ended up making no sense. Another review book that was a waste of my time. If this had been a personal read I would have ditched it. I also realized after reading the last page that I was not invested in any of the characters. I was going to give this a LGBTQ nod, but it was actually inconsequential to the story.

The only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is because the author had a good handle on an artist's mindset and psyche. I especially loved the thought that real artists with a true passion don't constantly moan and sob over the negative consequences of pursuing their passion (sore bodies, no money, sadness, creativity lapses, etc), they use it to fuel their passion and craft. *A note to the authors on Twitter who constantly complain how miserable writing makes them.

I was approved for an eARC, via Edelweiss, in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lauren  (TheBookishTwins) .
455 reviews204 followers
July 24, 2017
Disclaimer: I received a free copy via Edelweiss for review purposes.

I absolutely adored The Gallery of Unfinished Girls. It follows Mercedes Moreno, an artist lacking inspiration and struggling to follow up her award winning Food Poisoning #1. Her lack of inspiration could be because her Abuela is lying in a coma in Puerto Rico after suffering from a stroke, or because she's hopelessly in love with her best friend Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her feelings. But then art begins to appear in mysterious ways, from an abandoned piano on their front lawn, to a new neighbour who unexpectedly invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate. There, Mercedes creates things she could never have dreamed of. She is brimming with creativity and inspiration. But the paintings she creates there, cannot leave there, including her new found creativity and clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, Mercedes finds comfort in the Red Mangrove Estate, but she must, sooner or later, decide between the perfect world in the Red Mangrove Estate, or a much chaotic reality.

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is such an exquisite, beautiful debut. I absolutely adored it. Karcz has a lovely, magical prose and that makes this novel so lovely to read. Mercedes, our M/C, is a Puerto Rican bisexual girl and she is such a complex and well-developed character. I absolutely adored her passion, artistic expression and her strength, and she develops so much as the story concludes. The Gallery of Unfinished Girls also features a strong sense of family and friendship, and Mercedes has some very touching moments with her family and her friends. I loved Angela, Mercedes sister, so much. And they had such a great, strong relationship. As a twin I'm always looking for books about sisters, so, kudos to delightful and caring sister stories!

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is mainly a story about art, creativity, expression, family, and figuring yourself out. It has just a little dash of magic among fully fleshed out characters and family dynamics, and a unique setting in the Red Mangrove Estate. And last but not least, the romance! Not only does The Gallery of Unfinished Girls feature fantastic bisexual rep, it also has a sweet romance between Mercedes and her best friend Vic (though it is not central to the novel, it is definitely a lovely addition).

I would, without a doubt, recommend this book to contemporary fans who also like a bit of magic.
910 reviews256 followers
February 21, 2018
It's always so bizarre to read books set around art/the art world/artists. I always expect some degree of familiarity, and end up utterly bewildered - I'm yet to find one that actually speaks to the actual experiences of being an artist or working in the arts.

Anyway, tiny rant over - this is a very odd book. There are lovely moments, but most of the time things just... happen, without making any sense and for no apparent reason. As much as I love the weird and surreal, it has to be done right - Vassa in the Night is a good example. This... was not simply not coherent.
Profile Image for Alison.
935 reviews63 followers
November 15, 2017
Quiet in some ways, but beautiful characters and some of the best magical realism in YA that I've read.
Profile Image for Selene.
595 reviews134 followers
October 25, 2017
Lauren Karcz created a beautifully crafted novel. It doesn't have a lot of plot and is character based. For those of you that know my reading preferences you would know that I tend to prefer books that have plot over being character driven. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the writing is this just wasn’t for me. I would still highly recommend you try it for yourself. If you are the kind of reader who gets attached to characters and doesn’t need plot to drive you forward in a story this is the book for you!
Profile Image for Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd).
1,171 reviews251 followers
July 27, 2017
“Maybe potential is all I have: energy, all held-up and trembling, waiting to be set free.”

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls has an ephemeral magic that surrounds you as you’re reading the story. It wraps you in comfort and possibility and creativity. We follow Mercedes Moreno, struggling art student, as she tries to find her clarity after being unable to finish a piece over the past year. New neighbor, Lilia Solis, brings possibility with the mysterious Red Mangrove Estate, where Mercedes finds herself,and her art, flourishing. Now, Mercedes must make a choice between a perfect world of art and a much more complicated reality.

Things I Liked
The writing is so clear and descriptive. It breathes, and creates a beautiful imagery that matched the artistry of the story. It’s purposeful and intentional, but poetic and bright.

I loved the references to different artists, of all kinds - painters, musicians. I love how they discuss the importance of art and it’s value. Art is connecting to others, to yourself, and it means something.

I really loved basically everything about Mercedes and her journey. She’s frustrated and unsure in herself and her work, but she wants to move forward and progress. She longs for a future she’s unsure of, but fears the change at the same time. As the story progresses, we see Mercedes really start to accept her history and what that means for her growth.

The magic in the story was so natural and effortless. It was so organically integrated with Mercede’s life and the world around her. It was mysterious and mischievous and a character on it’s own.

Things I Didn’t Like
Personal issue, but I couldn’t stand how Victoria called Mercedes “dearie”, it just felt so out of place and it pulled me out of the story.

I also found some transitions within chapters to be fairly abrupt. But there were a few abrupt scene changes that made for some clunky reading, where I had to reorient myself in the story.

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is a beautiful story of embracing your future and personal growth. Mercedes is a great character who is easy to relate to and embrace on her journey. The writing is beautiful, the characters are lively, and the setting is literally magical. The Gallery of Unfinished Girls highlights the magic that exists in our daily lives and the beauty that we find in ourselves and our potential.

I received a copy of the book from HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sarah.
3,318 reviews41 followers
July 18, 2017
This feels like a book I should have liked, but I just didn't. In fact, I'm not sure I could tell you why I bothered to finish this. I didn't feel connected to the characters and the magic realism of this story just did not work for me (and in other books, it definitely has). I found the ending a bit of a let-down. Just not the book for me.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,020 reviews102 followers
December 28, 2017
I'll admit it: I added this book to my TBR simply because of the flamingos (Note to publishers: if you put a flamingo on a book, there's a 99.99% I will buy/read it because my love for flamingos is just that strong).

Thankfully, Lauren Karcz's The Gallery of the Unfinished Girls contains so much more than just a pretty cover! Lush, introspective, and a tad bit eccentric, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls chronicles the eventful, life changing year of the Moreno sisters.

The Gallery of the Unfinished Girls begins just as the Moreno family is falling apart. Mercedes’s abuela has sunken into a coma she may never come out of, and because of that, Mercedes's mom has left the country to go take care of her. Alas, Mercedes and her younger sister Angela find themselves left alone to fend for themselves. Some teenagers would go wild from the sudden burst of freedom; however, Mercedes and Angela go about their lives as normal. Wake up, school, home, sleep, repeat. But everything changes the moment a piano and a new secretive neighbor named Lillia suddenly (and maybe even a bit magically) appear. Suddenly, Angela looses herself in the music, Lillia becomes a mentor to Angela as well as Mercedes, and Mercedes has the sudden urge to paint something worthwhile, something that will make herself (and maybe even Lillia) proud. But Lillia is hiding secrets, and Mercedes thinks most of them revolve around the mystical Red Mangrove Estate, the place for artists to loose themselves in their work....

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is incredibly character driven. Sometimes that works for me and sometimes it doesn't, but thankfully in this case it worked quite well.

The characters in The Gallery of Unfinished Girls felt so real, so life like.

Mercedes, the main character, became the one closet to my heart. I've never been an artist (Fun fact: I was actually told in high school to never take another art class besides the required because my work was just that terrible) ; however, I've always been interested in what drives an artist to create their work...what makes them tick, what makes them passionate, driven....and within Mercedes this was displayed front and center. As the book begins, Mercedes is in a rut: she hasn't created a worthwhile piece, something to be proud of, since her award-winning food poisoning inspired painting the previous year. She's lost. Her art has always been her "thing," the one thing that always has made sense, the thing by which she defines herself as. Who is Mercedes without the art? Throughout the novel, Mercedes slowly gets her grove back thanks to Lillia and learns a lot about herself in the process. This transformation was incredibly worthwhile to see, and I especially appreciated the growth she obtained.

In addition to art problem, Mercedes has also found herself in another situation: an unrequited love situation. Mercedes is bisexual and head-over-heels in love with her best friend Victoria. The only problem? She doesn't know if Victoria would ever return her feelings. I'll be honest here: I never could see the appeal in Victoria. I didn't think she was that great of a friend, and honestly, she was selfish at times, especially towards the end. So at times it was hard to root for a Victoria-Mercedes pairing, but it was never hard to root for Mercedes falling in love, because I wanted Mercedes to be happy, and I was so incredibly proud of her for being true to herself.

I also appreciated the family dynamic that The Gallery of Unfinished Girls offered. The bond between Mercedes and Angela was at times messy and fragile, but in the long run, those two girls would go to the end of the Earth for each other. It was especially interesting to see them bond and root each other on regarding their own form of art - Mercedes with her paintings and Angela with her music. It was also worthwhile to see Mercedes deal with the risk of loosing someone who close to her. Throughout the novel, she questions those kind of questions that everyone wonders - could she have done more for her abuela? did she say everything she needed to say? It broke my heart, but I thought Lauren did such an amazing job of giving Mercedes's grief a voice.

Last but not least I want to hit upon Red Mangrove Estate. It gave the book a fantasy approach in some ways. I don't want to say too much about it, because it's one of those things you need to experience for yourself. However, I will say it was an interesting plot device. At first, it caused a lot of confusion for me and I didn't always like it. I wondered what the point really was of it, but as the novel progressed, it became clear. I have to say, Lauren did such a smart, innovative thing here - I loved the overall message it was able to convoy.

In all, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is a beautiful, introspective novel about life, loss, love, and moving on. I'll be in upfront in saying this book won't be for everyone, especially those who prefer action packed books over character driven ones, but for those of you who like a unique novel, I highly suggest it. I look forward to Lauren's future novels.
Profile Image for Dakota★Magic in Every Book.
700 reviews114 followers
February 12, 2018
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I was really drawn into it and enjoyed many aspects of it, but it was also confusing and vague and I'm not entirely sure what the author meant for me to take away from this story. My rating is probably closer to 3.5 stars but I rounded down since eveything about the Estate baffled me. Maybe I'm too literal-minded for magical realism (thats how the book is described but I couldn't say one way or the other if it does fit the category of magical realism). Or maybe I'm not smart enough for understanding what the magical realism really represents, seeing past the fluid and surreal metaphor.

Either way I did enjoy the book and it did a lot of things well, but it left me feeling sort of suspended in space, with lots of ideas and emotions floating around instead of delivering a tight and impactful resolution (but maybe thats just the point?)
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
November 29, 2017
This was clever and enjoyable magical realism, but it suffered from a lack of character development. I found Victoria to be a really uninteresting love interest, though I appreciated how Mercedes learned to accept her bisexual identity through her feelings for Vic. I just wish I knew why Vic was so worthy of those feelings.

Profile Image for Fizza.
217 reviews24 followers
February 17, 2020
It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful. There’s no one around to see it, but maybe that’s okay.

Ahhh what a book! Art truly brings out the best in us as well as the worst even.

It was freeing—a mess of guilt and creativity and dirty water.

Mercedes and her sister, Angela, were the stars of this story but special call out for Lillia. The latter had the perfect air of enigma and That climax was brilliant I mught add. Also the mentions and reference of my favourite artists was a delight!

I wanted the world to spin tightly around us, holding us close, keeping us together.

The romance wasn't that prominent as much as the "could-we-even" drama that kept playing out throughout the book. Like guys...we get it girl, get a grip! Personally that was fine now and then but still frustrating.
Rating: 4.6☆s

Profile Image for Becky.
1,273 reviews51 followers
September 9, 2017
I won a raffle at DragonCon and picked this book out of a stack and got it signed by the author and started reading it shortly thereafter and I'm so glad I did. This book is a beautiful, bizarre work of art and I have all the feelings about it and I'm so inspired and my heart is full.
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,216 reviews391 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
October 2, 2017
DNFed after about 30% of the book, sadly. The characters and story weren't holding my attention one little bit.

Regardless, hooray for Mercedes and her sister Angela being Puerto Rican! Also, Mercedes is bisexual. Can't forget that important detail!
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