Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Audiobook review: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Book Summary
How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany's locker? When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn't under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal's office for the third time in three days, and it's still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany's locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared. Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he's capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken--including his dead mother--and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There's only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.

Flo's Review
I picked up a copy of this book during the Barnes and Noble #bookhaul sale a few weeks ago. Then, about a week ago, I was going through a sort of audiobook slump and decided to give this one a listen. I'm so glad I did! It got me out of my slump fast!

There's so much that I love about this book! I jotted down notes as I read, so this review might be out of order and a little random, but here we go--

Sal: Sal is one of the best protagonists I've read in a long time. He's just a genuinely good kid and an amazing role model for kids who will read this book. Sal is down-to-earth -- he's honest and direct about how devastated he is about the death of his mother and about his time in therapy afterward. I love that he casually talks about how he uses techniques he learned in therapy. To him, there's not stigma or awkwardness about it, and that's so great for kids -- and adults! -- to read. Sal is described in this book as a decent person, as smart, and he's both of those and more. To him, it's like, "Yeah, of course you've got to be a good human being." His reflex reaction is to "be decent," as Yasmany points out. That's fantastic! He is smart, like his parents say. I also love how down-to-earth, honest, and open he is about his diabetes. He never complains about it. He talks about it, as it's a big part of his life. We see what happens if he doesn't stay on top of it. But he doesn't whine about it or pity himself. You guys, I truly love Sal. Can't you tell?! 

Parents: All the parents in general. What I love about the parents in this book is that they are involved. It's so refreshing, especially when I'm so used to reading all these MG and YA novels where the kids are going on all these adventures and their parents have no idea. Yes, Sal and Gabi do get into some stuff that their parents don't know about, but more often than not they are involved and supportive. One of my favorite scenes was the one where Sal's parents and all Gabi's parents are helping them with their play. I also love how the parents talk to the kids in this book like they're on their level -- they don't talk down to them at all. In this book, parents and kids are equal players and that's really, really cool. Also, Sal recognizes that his parents are cool and appreciates them. But don't worry, I'm not about to revert back to talking about my love for Sal! Lol

Gabi: Who runs the world? Girls. Or, I mean, Gabi Real. Gabi is the girl I would love to raise. She is smart, she knows her own worth, she is also compassionate. The first time we see her, it's because she is helping her friend Yasmany. She is quick to accept apologies, as Sal notes. And of course her t-shirts are on point! She is the perfect partner in crime for Sal as he tries to figure out what he's doing to the multiverse and what everything means.

Gabi's dads: I also loved her dads. We are never told what happened to Gabi's biological father, or who he is, and that's completely okay. I didn't even miss it. It was like a warm hug every time we got to hang out with Gabi's dads in the novel. Hernandez does a great job describing them all and giving them all unique and interesting personalities. And names.

Serious subjects: This book was a lot of fun, and it's about moving things between different parallel universes, so it's a little crazy, too. But it also handles some serious topics. Grief, and how Sal deals with it, with his mom. I'm so proud of him for a thought he has at the end of the book! There's Iggy, Gabi's little brother, and the gravity of his situation. Gabi's mom brings in matters of faith. The whole plot with Yasmany made my heart hurt a little. I think one of the beauties of this book was the reality of it -- one minute the characters are dealing with Yasmany's horrible home life, and then next they are laughing over a fart joke.

Culeco: I love Sal and Gabi's school! How fun does it sound?! I would have freakin' loved to go to a school like that! I love how the teachers encourage creativity in their students. I love how the students all enjoy school -- they get there early and stay late because they want to. Detention is fun! Also, Principal Torres for the win. Sal even recognizes that she's boss, as in she's awesome.

Overall: I had a big, fat smile on my face the entire time I was listening to this book. The audiobook narrator was incredible as well -- he did a great job with all the voices, and there were many he had to portray. I would love Sal and/or Gabi to be my children. I cannot wait to see how they plan to "fix" the universe in book 2!

Oh, and a bonus promo: I picked this book up sooner than later because the author is going to be at this year's Miami Book Fair in November. Here are some of the details about this upcoming event:

36th Miami Book Fair
Nov. 22-24, 9am-dusk
Downtown Miami MDC Wolfson Campus, 300 NE 4th Street, Miami
FREE for children 12 & under; Teens 13-18 & Seniors: $5 and adults: $10
Parking: FREE, Building 7, block sized garage between NE 1  & 2nd Avenues & between 5 & 6th Streets (6th one way going West, and 5th Street is one way going East)
For more information, visit

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