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How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe


About The Book

“Breathlessly atmospheric…A gorgeous, hopeful book.” —Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of Today Tonight Tomorrow

The Hating Game meets I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter in this Pura Belpré Award–winning novel thats an irresistible romance starring a Mexican American teen who discovers love and profound truths about the universe when she spends her summer on a road trip across the country.

When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.

Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.

Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.

Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?


Chapter 1: The Wild, Cosmic Beginning of All Beginnings 1. The Wild, Cosmic Beginning of All Beginnings
EVERYTHING HAS A beginning. And I’m not just talking about things like the shop I ordered my moonstone necklace from, or where it was made, or where the stone itself was quarried. Though that is lovely to think about, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s from some deep, wild cave pebbled with lakelike stones of moons.… But no, that’s not what I mean.

I’m not even talking about me, or my twin sister, or yuck, the birds and the bees. What I am talking about is everything. I mean, everything in this whole wide, wild universe has one beginning. One place where everything, all of matter, converged into a speck one trillionth the size of a period. Let me repeat that, because I can scarcely fathom it myself.

Everything that exists in all the billions of galaxies, including Earth, with our salty, whale-skimmed seas and herds of elephants strewn on the horizon like gray beads and piles of electronic junk gathering here and there since, what, the eighties? And blue-trimmed plates of arroz con pollo and the nearly fuchsia slices of smoked salmon over a bagel and all the smooth and metallic skyscrapers and the billions of microscopic organisms in a teaspoon of dirt, everything—every last atom and electron and scoop of strawberry cheesecake ice cream—was once a fraction of a fraction of a period. I don’t know how scientists have figured something like that out with any certainty, but they have. I mean, if I’d kept reading Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I might know, but I couldn’t, not after that sentence. I had to put the book away, and then next thing you know, my library loan was up, and I can’t bring myself to touch it again. It’s so overwhelming.

I mean, a period! A period! Probably font size ten, too, or something. Can you imagine how heavy that thing was? How, if you’d picked it up, it would’ve cut a hole right through you? Your mom might have been like, “Oh, Moon, what have you done now?” You know, if she’d cared. And you’d say, “Oh, yeah, just tried to see if I could lift this speck of All-That-Is. I’ll be okay.” You know, as if she’d care.

Sometimes I think, what if I could go back to the beginning? What would I do? I could try to touch it, that molten-hot little speck, just to say I’d tried. Or maybe I’d look at it, at this beginning of all beginnings, and ask it, Why the heck do the women in our family still have La Raíz? You know, the whole reason why I’m the unwanted, ugly sister. I may allow myself another related question: Why, why, why didn’t I leave La Raíz in the carved milk jar, right where Mom banished it, on the windowsill in her bathroom?

I can still picture the moment. Despite Mom warning us, with one hand on her Bible and the other basically on the graves of all our ancestors, to never, ever, ever touch the milk jar, I got on my tiptoes, grabbed the white bottle, and pulled the top off. And released all the yuck back into our bloodline, apparently. Like a little Pandora-in-training. Of course, nothing happened at first. I spent years thinking Mom outright lied to us.

And then I had sex for the first time.

But that’s another beginning for another time.

You know what, though? This whole beginning is super important in the context of, like, my whole freaking life. So…

About The Author

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is a Mexican American poet, novelist, and painter. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of Alaska, Anchorage in 2017. She’s most inspired by fog and seeds and the lineages of all things. When not writing, Raquel tells stories to her plants and they tell her stories back. She lives in Tennessee with her beloved family and mountains. Raquel has published two books of poetry. She’s the author of Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything and How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 10, 2021)
  • Length: 432 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534448667
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99
  • Lexile ® HL660L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

"Breathlessly atmospheric, with a voice that grabs you on page one and doesn’t let go. A gorgeous, hopeful book about spirituality, sexuality, and self-acceptance. I fell in love with Moon falling in love."

–Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of Today Tonight Tomorrow

* “Amazingly realistic, this book is the coming-of-age story that teens need, wrapped in a gorgeously poetic package” — Booklist starred review

* “Readers will fall in love with this poignant, powerful, and poetic coming-of-age tale.” — Kirkus starred review

* “[This] will please those who…love honest, romantic stories about young women surviving and thriving.” — BCCB starred review

* "Moon’s strong voice shines amid magic and indigenous knowledge, even as she struggles with her mother, colorism, and fatphobia. Readers will cheer for Moon as she learns to embrace her own beauty and power." — Publishers Weekly starred review

* "Gilliland's prose is a soft, dreamy wonderland, wrapping scenes in 'warm sheets of sunset light,' offset by Moon's gleefully snarky narrative voice." — Shelf Awareness for Readers starred review

"Written with hilarious relatability and palpable humanity, this is a charming novel that will leave you thinking." — Shondaland

Moon accompanies her twin sister, Star, a wealthy influencer, on a life-changing cross-country tour.

Seventeen-year-old Moon Fuentez is used to being her stunning twin’s designated photographer and size-16 shadow as well as their cruel momager’s less-loved daughter. Two weeks after their high school graduation, Star, a religious model whose brand is purity, lands a lucrative gig for a summer charity tour arranged by Andro Philips, sexy, young social media app founder. Moon is coerced into working the tour, earning money to help fulfill her dream of attending Tulane’s art program. Her partner at the merchandise table is enigmatic, gorgeous Santiago, Andro’s younger brother. After a disastrous first meeting, Moon and Santiago slowly get to know each other through bickering and banter. She’s a flower lover who’s designing a deck of tarot cards; he’s an incredible gourmet cook. Their initial animosity turns to attraction and affection in a simmering but steamy slow burn. As in her debut, the author’s prose is lush and lyrical, emphasizing the natural world and ancient spirituality. The story’s magical elements are integrated beautifully, as is the main characters’ Latinx heritage: the Fuentez sisters are Mexican American, and the Philips brothers have a Colombian mother and presumed White father. In addition to important sex-positive messages, the book sensitively explores grief, trauma, abuse, disability, and sisterhood as well as the negative impacts of homophobia and purity culture.

Readers will fall in love with this poignant, powerful, and poetic coming-of-age tale. (Magical realism. 14-adult)

– Kirkus Reviews, STARRED, June 15, 2021

Moon Fuentez has always lived in the shadow of her twin sister, Star. Moon’s the curvy, brown-skinned, sexually active, seemingly invisible inverse of Star’s on-brand, social media–approved, willowy virginity. Still, when she’s invited to join Star on a summer tour for rising young influencers, she decides it’s better than staying home with their violent, abusive mother and her threats of their family’s postlapsarian curse that turns miracles to misfortune. Tour-bus life, though, puts Moon at unexpectedly close quarters with gorgeous, inexplicably hostile Santiago Phillips, whose tech-magnate brother casts his own inescapable shade. As the two begin to share their passions—his for cooking, hers for flowers and photography—their caustic, witty verbal battles turn to supportive camaraderie with lusty undertones of potential romance. More than just a romantic drama of enemies turned lovers, this passionate novel is a sex-positive, body-positive celebration of self-love and self-confidence. With lyrical prose, the narrative flows between past and present, revealing pain, hope, and a mixed-up sense of self. Moon is a model of resilience, determined to thrive with her own gifts; Santiago is hot, dark, and brooding, with his own emotional damage, and their love offers a romance less about saving the damsel, more about supporting her. In addition to fans of Gilliland’s Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything (BCCB 9/20), this will please those who loved Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (BCCB 1/15) or who love honest, romantic stories about young women surviving and thriving. AM

– BCCB *STARRED REVIEW*, July 1, 2021

Moon Fuentez lives in the shadow of her popular, social-media influencer twin sister, Star. At a size 16, Moon is constantly comparing herself to model-thin Star, longing for a day when she, too, can be in her own kind of spotlight. Two weeks after high school graduation, Star lands an opportunity to go on a life-changing, cross-country trip led by Andro Phillips, a good-looking, social-media app founder, and Moon is roped into going with her to work the merch table, taking comfort in the knowledge that she’ll earn enough money to attend Tulane’s art program. Behind the merch table, she meets Santiago, the snarky (and attractive) younger brother to Andro, who seems to have taken an interest in tormenting Moon. Little does she expect that he will change her universe, helping her to finally realize her own worth. Filled with lyrical prose, Gilliland’s take on the road-trip novel offers a fabulous journey of self-discovery that also celebrates its characters’ Latinx heritage (Moon and Star are Mexican American and the Phillips brothers are Colombian and white). Themes of sexuality, grief, trauma, abuse, and disability are sensitively incorporated into the story, which remains entertaining and will impart beautiful, lingering lessons to its readers. Amazingly realistic, this book is the coming-of-age story that teens need, wrapped in a gorgeously poetic package.

– Booklist STARRED Review, August 1, 2021

Awards and Honors

  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers Nominee
  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List High School Title
  • Nutmeg Book Award Nominee (CT)
  • Amelia Elizabeth Walden Finalist (NCTE/ALAN)
  • ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults - Top Ten
  • TAYSHAS Reading List Top Ten Title (TX)
  • NYPL Best Books for Kids (Top Ten)
  • ALA Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award
  • Massachusetts Teen Choice Book Award Nominee

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More books from this author: Raquel Vasquez Gilliland