This award-winner was, in my opinion, not bad, but not great. It is a disagreement with SLJ and other sources, which have given the book stars and high recommendations. Personally, I found the writing flat, and the sequencing more like slices of life than a narrative. In a typical novel, events build to a specific conclusion. This book has a disjointed quality, as if you were looking at a photo album and each chapter was a grouping of sequential stories about those pictures. In the first half, Evelyn, nee "Rosa", is working to Americanize herself, choosing to work at a store some distance from her family's Puerto Rican Bodega, during a hot New York summer in 1969. The signs of discontent and change are all around her, but Evelyn's biggest issues are with her mother, who she sees as a doormat. Younger readers will identify with the culture clash, friendship dramas and need to define oneself. In the second half, the "revolution" begins, with Evelyn's church being taken over by a group of activists determined to bring social justice to the barrio. Once she can't ignore what is going on around her, she becomes involved with the efforts, but it is at this point the book becomes even more disconnected, reading like some sort of "If You Were There" history textbook. There are history lessons, speeches, a poet. For me, it came off as didactic and preachy. The timeline gets shot, and it is nearing New Years, then back before Christmas, then back at New Years. Evelyn magically knows that the protest will last 11 days, then she talks about it going for "weeks" then they are on "day four". An event happens to Evelyn near the end which has no context, and no reasoning, as if it is just dropped in. In a similar vein, Ms. Marzano, a well-known Sesame Street actor, makes an unabashed plug for her show in the story, which I found jarring.
As blog readers know, I really dislike books with a "POINT" and this one is about nothing other than "THE POINT." In any case, it's a nice introduction of Puerto Rican culture for those who know nothing more than "West Side Story", but if you want some slightly different takes, I think Meg Medina did it better in "Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass" and Kekla Magoon had more lyricism in "The Rock and the River". They aren't the same, of course. This is about Puerto Ricans, and Ms. Medina's story is about Cubans. Kekla Magoon writes about revolution, but her stories are about blacks, and often focuses on Chicago, not New York. Nonetheless, there are similar themes in the books, and of the three, this wasn't my favorite. Overall, I give it a "meh."
PS -- I am always dissing poor covers, so I should say something about how excellent this cover is. Not only does it capture every aspect of the book, physically and symbolically, but the red highlights in "Revolution" (evolution) perfectly emphasize the overall theme.