I love Carlos Hernandez’s Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (2019). It is a roller-coaster ride of a sci-fi adventure featuring amazing characters who are all exceptionally kind and utterly quirky. Sal, a young magician, has just moved to Miami with his dad and stepmom. He’s enrolled in a school for talented youth where he ends up spending more time in the principal’s office than the classroom. Readers learn pretty early that Sal is able to transport objects, including iterations of his deceased mother, from one dimension to another. His father is a scientist trying to figure the whole thing out. Although the science is never detailed it’s present throughout.
Sal meets his soon to be friend Gabi, a fierce student advocate, while in the principal’s office following a run in with the school bully, who also happens to be a brilliant dancer. Gabi advocates on behalf of the bully who is in danger of being expelled. No one, including Sal, wants that outcome.
Sal and Gabi’s lives become entangled in and out of school. Sal has diabetes and ends up in the hospital whenever he doesn’t watch his diet. Gabi’s young sibling is very ill and in the NICU. The two support each other through the plentiful joys and traumas life throws their way. Sal and Gabi’s friendship really is a wonderful thing to watch develop! They are both also supported by wonderful families. Sal’s stepmom and dad love him too much to punish him, even when his behavior turns their world upside down and runs the risk of breaking the universe! Gabi, on the other hand, has a loving mom who adores feeding people Cuban food as well as a dozen or so dads who slip a queer glimmer of polyamory into a text full of so much delightful strangeness its likely not to get noticed.
There are more questions than answers in this book, which will make its readers wonder what’s next?? The answer – a follow up book coming out Spring 2020! I know I’ll be reading it.
* I read this one for the Cybils Awards Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction section. I am a round one panelist.