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The Other Half of Happy

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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  612 ratings  ·  158 reviews
12-year-old Quijana likes to say that she used to be Pangaea. Unsplit. Not half white or half Latina. But that was before her Guatemalan cousins moved to town and before her dad asked her to speak some Spanish. Now her continents are splitting apart. Let’s face it, when you’re named after Spain’s most famous loser, Don Quixote, you might make a secret escape plan. Join Qui ...more
Kindle Edition, 332 pages
Published August 20th 2019 by Chronicle
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Rebecca Balcárcel Hi Christopher! It's MG (middle-grade), which means that the main character, Quijana, is twelve and that she is looking for her place within her world…moreHi Christopher! It's MG (middle-grade), which means that the main character, Quijana, is twelve and that she is looking for her place within her world of family and friends, rather than stepping out into the adult world.(less)

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Average rating 4.21  · 
Rating details
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Hannah Greendale
2019 Best Books of the Year [#07 of 11]

🌟 This book is Newbery Medal material! 🌟

Balcárcel has crafted a fierce and unforgettable Latinx protagonist in Quijana, whose keen observations about life are ornamented with luminous prose. An emotionally resonant tale that unfolds like a kaleidoscope of life’s intricacies, shifting from one colorful snapshot to the next. Balcárcel juggles myriad subplots with the finesse of a seasoned author, and she delivers an earnest first-person narrative with a verit
...more
Lori Stephens
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Other Half of Happy is one of those books that settle into your heart and take you by surprise. Balcárcel’s voice is pure poetry, but also pure 12-year-old angst. In sometimes breathtaking metaphors, Balcárcel captures the hopes and fears of Quijana, a seventh-grader who is experiencing her first real crush and the first real questioning of her identity. Quijana wonders how she’s supposed to navigate her Guatemalan-American identity, which is a simple, yet profound question. We tell young pe ...more
Eileen
Wow, that was really good! A middle school girl who is half Guatemalan and half Caucasian, but doesn't feel like she belongs in either world because she doesn't speak Spanish, but she doesn't look white. This is a story of how she figures out who she is and where she belongs, in the midst of some normal middle school angst, but also some hard life lessons that come her way. The story is told from her point of view so you really get to see her struggle and appreciate her growth. Yes, she makes so ...more
Maryam Rz.
4.25 STARS

I received an ARC through NetGalley for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher, Chronicle Books.

A middle grade novel about a biracial girl who's navigating between the Anglo and Guatemalan sides of her family?? *clutches chest* I feel like my heart my burst out 😭

I loved it, adored it, appreciated it—but there were too many themes being tackled for them each to get the attention they each deserve in 300 pages. Still, strongly recommended.
...more
Lily
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!! You felt so in-tune with
Quijana that you almost felt you were right there with her. Congrats to Rebecca for writing such a enchanting novel. You should TOTALLY buy it!!

- Sincerely, your favorite 10 year old bookworm!!
Tammy
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children, diverse
A character who's mom is from the US and her dad from Guatemala? Sign me up! This was a sweet story with some depth that I wasn't expecting from a children's novel. ...more
Gillian
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids, 2019
Read this book if you want to fall in love with a wonderfully bright, curious kid who’s exploring where she fits in—in the world, in her family, and with her friends. Quijana is a seventh grade girl who is half-Latina and half-Anglo. She is navigating life “in the hyphen.” For Quijana this means feeling stressed about not speaking Spanish (not able to communicate with her Guatemalan grandmother), pressure from her dad who is suddenly trying to help her connect more to his side of the family, and ...more
Mariama J.
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful, nuanced story about a girl trying to figure out who she is. The prose is full of poetry and song, and the characters are compelling and strong. I cheered, cried, stormed, and laughed alongside Quijana as she tried to navigate seventh grade, as well as figure out what it means to be half- American and half-Guatemalan. The relationship between Quijana and her father is particularly moving, as is it expertly woven. This is a story that will stay in my heart for a long time, one ...more
Dani Gz Vega
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Along with My fate according to the butterfly this book made my love for middle grade books return. This is a story about family, identity, finding your voice and a lot more. It's the latinx book I needed without knowing it.
You can read my full review here: https://metamorphoreaderblog.wordpres...
...more
Meghan
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Balcárcel captures middle school life, concerns, and emotions beautifully with Quijana and her family. The writing is beautiful, the story compelling, and the end notes with quotes, Grandma Miller's "Nature Journal," and other bits from the story will delight middle school readers.

I've tried to read more middle grade books in the last year (it's just so easy to find and read YA novels, but middle grade novels get less attention) so I can better match kids to books. I can alrea
...more
Ms. Yingling
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
ARC provided by Follett First Look



Quijana's father is from Guatemala, and he is very proud of his cultural heritage, although he has never spoken Spanish with his daughter. Her mother is not Latinx, and Quijana identifies more as "American", causing some of her Latinx classmates to refer to her as a coconut. She has a hard time starting middle school, but makes fast friends with Jayden (on whom she has a crush) and Zuri, which makes things easier. Some of her relatives relocate to her area in Te
...more
Kristine Hall
HALL WAYS REVIEW: There is so much to love about THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY by the incredibly talented Rebecca Balcárcel. It's lyrical, it's deep, it's highly relevant, and most of all, it's REAL. The characters all pop to life and become part of the readers' extended friend or family group. We feel invested in these people and we FEEL for them.

Reading THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY took me through all the feels from flashing back to my own middle school days, to teaching and parenting kids that age, to
...more
Anna Schubert
Oh my goodness. The first chapter enchanted me, and the rest of the book held up to its beginning. The prose is lyrical and inviting, and the characters are vivid people you would not be surprised to meet. This book is just pitch perfect as it engages with questions of cultural heritage and coming of age for its seventh-grade protagonist, Quijana. As Quijana navigates her parents' expectations and hopes, new friendships, and her own sense of self, the story resonates the truth of the world, in w ...more
Faith Rice-Mills
I loved this book! It was beautifully written, but not in such a way that the story is lost on the middle graders it was meant for.
Queen Cronut
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderfully written middle-grade novel that explores cultural identity and self-belonging.

Twelve-year-old, Quijana Carillo, struggles to find a balance between her Guatemalan and American identity while navigating through middle school, boys, and family issues. Although her father is from Guatemala and is proud of his cultural heritage, Quijana identifies more as American and thus often alienates herself from the Guatemalan side of the family due to her limited Spanish vocabulary and disintere
...more
Rajiv
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A big thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for sending me an advanced e-copy of “The Other Half of Happy” in exchange for my review. There are many things I really liked about this book, and a few things that I did not.

To begin with, I loved almost all the characters in this story. I especially loved the father and how optimistic he is and tries to keep his family on track and bonds with is children. I also loved the mother’s character for being the more grounded one and looking for soluti
...more
Kelly Hager
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
According to the synopsis, Rebecca Balcarcel is a poet. I didn't know that before (my knowledge of poetry is really lacking) but it makes sense. She has a real command of language and every word is deliberate and perfect.

I absolutely loved this book. Quijana's life is separated into two parts, and she's definitely closer to her Anglo side than her Guatemalan one (she barely speaks any Spanish---we have basically the same grasp, which is only a handful of words---and she's almost embarrassed by h
...more
Polly Holyoke
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this charming middle grade tale about a twelve-year-old, bi-cultural girl. Quijana is caught between her Anglo life and her Latino relatives. Knowing little Spanish, she dreads her family’s upcoming trip to Guatemala and plans to run away to see her sick Anglo grandmother instead.

Balcárcel handles with a deft touch Quijana’s middle grade issues such as her first crush and building friendships with new friends at school. Quijana struggles to define herself even as she has to cope with her
...more
Lisa Zinkie
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was kind of surprised at how much I liked this book. Love the shout out to Fort Worth (wat wat!!!). The writing style sucked me in immediately. It was refreshing after the last book or two that I read.

I did get frustrated with the family dynamics- which is not a bad thing. I want them to be able to learn how to communicate clearly and that just doesn’t happen in all families. The “diagnosis” seemed obvious to me, but I’ve been in education too long probably.

My favorite part was the friendshi
...more
Lucy Campos-Wood
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Growing up is not easy, and Quijana’s story takes readers along as she figures out that, no matter how much we plan, some things in the universe are out of our control. I enjoyed getting to know Quijana and, coming from a bicultural background myself, was able to identify with her frustrations. I even shed a tear as I saw her come to terms with her identity. This book is definitely going on my list of books to recommend and to re-read.
Flesha
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This middle school boom was a happy surprise. Quijana has a father from Guatemala and a mother from the USA. She is going to a new school void of her previous friends. Of course she is nervous about the transition, but she quickly finds a couple of really great friends. This story deals with living as a second generation American, an ill grandmother, and first love. The best part it that is is written in such a respectful manner honoring the thought processes of an almost teen.
ABC
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kind of a bittersweet story. Qui has a crush on a boy, a grandma who has cancer, parents who don't understand her.... It all works out in the end. A great book that is the story of a girl figuring out how to navigate being a Guatemalan-American in the United States. ...more
Laura Gardner
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Audiobook was very well done. Book examines identity and diversity. Protagonist doesn’t feel like a teenager, but she’s supposed to be. Not a first purchase, but good.
Natalie Park
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Giving it four stars at it covers many important topics especially as an entry point for the younger reader. Yet, I’d probably give it three stars for the writing style and storytelling.
Rachel Yoder
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ms-books
Lots of moving parts in the beginning that came together seamlessly at the end.
Lisa Finke
Apr 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful! I loved this character!
Kathy Iwanicki
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the past several years, I am always surprised by the topics that middle grade writers bravely discuss. This book is no exception. At the heart of this book, the main character Quijana is struggling with her Spanish identity. However, the author brilliantly weaves in several other problems that would make for excellent discussion in a book club or classroom. I would recommend this book for students fifth grade and above.
Kathy Iwanicki
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For the past several years, I am always surprised by the topics that middle grade writers bravely discuss. This book is no exception. At the heart of this book, the main character Quijana is struggling with her Spanish identity. However, the author brilliantly weaves in several other problems that would make for excellent discussion in a book club or classroom. I would recommend this book for students fifth grade and above.
Christa Jimenez
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Súper important read for bicultural kids of Latin descent. YA for 6th grade and up. Highly recommend!
Faye
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children, fiction
Quijana is a 12-year-old girl growing up in Texas with her family, a Guatemalan father and American mother. Coincidentally, I also grew up with a Guatemalan father and American mother, and therefore felt instantly compelled to read this story. The novel takes us inside Quijana's world, where she walks a careful balance between her two cultures while navigating school, family and friends. She is devoted to her family, especially to her little brother Memito, yet is starting to assert her independ ...more
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