His whole life has been mapped out for him…
Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.
When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.
Amendment: I just noticed from the blurb that the MC is a duel citizen. I probably skimmed over this when I read the 88 pages or it’s addressed later on. That at least gives the book more factual credence than I previously thought it had-re the employment situation. That’s what you get for not reading the entire thing I guess (shrugs).
Another day, another DNF. I have to tell you guys I really do hate DNF’ing books. The thing is after reviewing books for seven years and reading bull shitty books even longer, I just don’t have the tolerance like I used to to stomach through.
And even though I know it’s better for me to stop, I keep hearing the whole quitters never win lecture my mom always spewed when I throw a book against the wall.
However, one thing I don’t think my mom ever really conceptualized is that it sometimes its better to cut your loses than to continue with something you’re going to hate and that’s sort of the situation I was in with North of Happy.
I made it through about 88 pages of this one before I threw it into the giveaway pile-and yes, I have a huge box of books in my garage that I need to get rid of. Usually that means, giving it away to a library or maybe to a needy family or two at the holidays. Note, I’d probably do a giveaway at some point on this blog too-only thing is I’d have to go to the post office and pay probably a ridiculous amount in shipping and I’m not that fond of doing that (sorry, not sorry).
Anyway, digression about the give away box aside, North of Happy was a book I knew I was not going to like. The set up itself seemed interesting- it involves cooking and fish out of water tale. BUT add seemingly pointless delusions that seem to indicate the MC has mental illness but is never addressed as such, a MPDG of a love interest,
AND a suspension of lack of reality when it comes to immigrants getting a job in the US (it’s not that easy) I got annoyed fast.
I ended up giving it more of a it’s me not you DNF score.
Let’s start with what bothered me the most. The delusions the MC has. I think they’re meant to sort of have a magical realism quality about it, but God knows they came more or less as delusions as someone who is mentally ill and I wished that would’ve been addressed. Maybe it was as the book progressed, but I didn’t see it happening anytime soon. Also, I got to say the delusion of his brother annoyed me. He was one of those characters I wanted to smack and shake. Just so sanctimonious with his follow your dreams, screw stability in life, and I manifest myself as a random pigeon shit.
Yeah, that probably doesn’t make sense unless you read the book. Though, it’s probably the only time I’ll be able to use a gift of that weird Bird Lady from Home Alone 2: Trump Makes a Prequel Pee Pee Tape at the Plaza!
But hey, my review my thoughts, and that was what I was thinking when I read this book.
Here’s the thing what really annoyed me about the Felix delusions. If the book was going to have delusions in it, I wanted them addressed for what they are-mental illness. Having them as a plot point or being used in this weirdo quasi magical realism thing just didn’t work. It honestly cheapened the story more than anything else. And honestly is kind of insulting.
The other big issue that annoyed me was Emma. She’s your stereotypical MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) I just rolled my eyes at her entrance and could really care less about her. Also, I really can’t see some girl suggesting some random dude to be hired for her mother’s five star restaurant. It just seemed out of the blue, and again characterization wise it seemed just out there. Especially since when What’s His Face-I don’t even remember his name and it’s been a little less than a day since I quit this book-shows up at Emma’s mom’s restaurant he’s acting a little less than sane. I mean, unless Emma wants to sabotage her mom, I really don’t think asking to hire the random weirdo was a good idea.
Which brings me to concern three. Even if I didn’t take immigration law, I have I still would’ve rolled my eyes with What’s His Face getting a job because of filling out various employment verification forms your have to fill out when you’re hired by a job. Add the fact I did take immigration law, and know (unlike the current ignoramus who is sadly president) that low wage jobs are usually not in abundance for immigrants. Let alone tourists like What’s His Face. And yes, I know people could technically be paying him under the table…but Emma’s mom is a celebrity chef and I doubt she was going to be hit with a scandalous expose on Eater.com but hey what do I know…Mario Batali liked to flaunt labor laws in the past so…
Even the recipes that were introduced at the beginning of each chapter were lackluster to me. It was more or less a list of ingredients. Which is more less like my grocery list. Yes tomatoes, flank steak, onion, garlic, cilantro, and corn tortillas can be appetizing but just listing the ingredients isn’t going to make me salivate. There is an art to food writing.
Which reminds me, at some point I really do need to start reviewing my stash cookbooks. Especially my mom’s. She has some cookbooks published in the 80’s and 90’s that would be fun to review-though probably not very gluten free friendly.
I am doing that a lot in this review. Which does not bode well for the book. At the end of the day, ask me two or three weeks about North of Happy and I probably won’t be able to tell you much just that it had a lot of potential and just didn’t deliver.
Overall Rating: DNF