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Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (A Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 1)

Review

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (A Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 1)

Magic, science and heartfelt humor combine to form one of the most delightfully fun middle-grade novels of the season! Thirteen-year-old Sal Vidon is new at school, Culeco Academy of the Arts. His father and American stepmother just moved them to Miami, and Sal's liking it, except for the heat. He's surrounded by all kinds of artists, musicians, writers and creative minds --- and given that he's an extraordinarily talented magician, he's planning on fitting in quite well. For the most part, his magic boils down to practiced sleight of hand and manipulating situations. Sal is excellent at reading the room and reading people, which makes him a fiercely fun character to follow. The other element to his skill, though, is a bit more otherworldly.

"These are fresh, fantastic characters, and Carlos Hernandez writes them with utter joy. The dialogue snaps, the science and magic are wonderfully cool and compelling..."

This book takes place in one of many universes in the multiverse. And Sal can poke holes in this universe to reach into another one, and bring back things like a chicken, a scarf, or a version of his mother who didn't die five years ago.

SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE expertly balances fast-paced silliness and otherworldly fun with serious realities that kids (and grown-ups) have to deal with --- all told with lots of love and Cuban food.

When Sal meets Gabi, he doesn't know what to think. She's brilliant, opinionated, always wearing some form of feminist t-shirt and cool barrettes. She reminded me a bit of a modern, young-lawyer-journalist Hermione, except --- and I'm a huge Hermione fan --- I like Gabi even more. Sal and Gabi become fast friends and form the perfect pair of charismatic, precocious 13-year-olds, whether their mission is acing a school project or making Gabi's family feel better when tragedy strikes. They both have great senses of humor, and even though a lot of pranks and teasing take place, both of them are so ultimately good-natured it filled my heart. Throughout the book, the powers of the multiverse take a backseat when it comes to comforting Gabi's mom and dads about her sick baby brother, or when Sal, who has Type 1 diabetes, has to snack to keep his blood sugar regulated.

These are fresh, fantastic characters, and Carlos Hernandez writes them with utter joy. The dialogue snaps, the science and magic are wonderfully cool and compelling, and I adore that both Sal and Gabi have unconventional but fiercely loving Cuban families. You'll meet both Mami Viva and Mami Muerta, and one of Gabi's many dads is a mom --- and a robot. Masks will be worn, magic will be made, bullies will be confronted and whole universes full of possibility open and close. SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE is a marvel and a triumph, and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel!

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on March 20, 2019

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (A Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 1)
by Carlos Hernandez