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 United States, 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.
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*I won a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Harlequin Teen. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on April 25, 2017.*
Honestly, I’d never read a book by Adi Alsaid before but I love giveaways so I entered without a second thought and was happily surprised when I won. The book then sat on my shelves for a while but after reading two Ellen Hopkins books back to back I wanted to read something happier. Obviously, I forgot what this book was about.
The story follows Carlos, after his older brother Felix was tragically killed. Felix was the “wild child” of the family, meaning instead of going the traditional route and go to college like his parents wanted him to, he decided to travel the world instead. Carlos, did the very opposite, and planned to intern at his father’s company after graduating high school and then go to the University of Chicago, even though he loved to cook. However, after Felix’s death, Carlos, at the advice of Felix, who he keeps seeing everywhere and in everything, decides to head to an island by Seattle instead.
There, he goes to a restaurant his brother wanted to visit and finds himself meeting Emma, a girl who helps him feel less crazy about seeing his dead brother, and he also finds his way into the kitchen at the restaurant. However, Carlos unfortunately can’t have both the girl and the job. At least, he’s not supposed to, but being the new reckless teen that he is, he dates Emma anyway, which I loved. Forbidden romance is my jam.
Of course complications arise, and there’s some drama, both romantic and familial for Carlos, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I really liked that Carlos seeing Felix everywhere isn’t really explained so you can take it as you want to. I personally like to think Felix was indeed a ghost and Carlos wasn’t tripping, but that could just me. Additionally, I really liked Emma and Carlos’ relationship. I thought they were cute and funny but it was also realistic and didn’t feel forced.
Chef, Emma’s mom, annoyed me to no end but by the end of the novel I at least felt like I understood where she was coming from. I still didn’t like her but I respect her. I also really liked the side characters, especially Carlos’ roommates on the island; even Matt, who is kind of a jerk.
Although I was satisfied with the ending, I do think some people won’t be. It’s one of those endings where you can kind of decide for yourself what happens next, which I love but I know some people don’t. Still, I think this is definitely a must read. The way Alsaid handles grief, familial obligations, and just family in general, was great. I also enjoyed that every chapter started with a recipe, which was a constant reminder of Carlos’ love for food (and made me very hungry).
If you’ve never read Alsaid’s books like I hadn’t, I highly recommend this one. It was a quick read and I couldn’t put it down. Now I want to read his other novels. If you’ve read any of his books, which one should I read next? Let me know in the comments below.
2 thoughts on “ARC Book Review: North of Happy”
Great review – I finished it today, and agree with much of what you said. I have read each of Adi’s other books; Let’s Get Lost is one of my favourite YA novels of the last several years. I would definitely recommend that one next!
Thank you! And I’ll add that to my TBR. ☺️