What Can(t) Wait

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Product Details

Carolrhoda Lab (R)
Publish Date
5.3 X 7.4 X 0.7 inches | 0.55 pounds

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About the Author

Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of award-winning books for young adults, including What Can't Wait, The Knife and the Butterfly, and Out of Darkness. Out of Darkness was described by The New York Times as a "layered tale of color lines, love and struggle" and was named one of Booklist's "50 Best YA Books of All Time." It also won the 2016 Tomás Rivera Book Award, the 2016 Américas Award, and a 2016 Printz honor for excellence in young adult literature from the American Library Association. When she's not writing or hanging out with her two beautiful sons, Liam Miguel and Ethan Andrés, Ashley teaches world literature at The Ohio State University. Visit her online at www.ashleyperez.com or find her on Twitter and Instagram: @ashleyhopeperez.


By day, Dr. Sarah Derry manages the SC STEM Hub and a busy family life. Still, she makes time to read each night, and her choices often involve books with a STEM element.
Today, she's sharing one of her favorites: What Can't Wait, by award-winning author Ashley Hope Pérez. The book is a fictional narrative that explores some of the real-world challenges faced by youth under-represented in STEM.
One of the things Derry likes about the book is that contains an important example that girls like math and are good at it! ''This book helps illustrate social factors that can complicate a student's academic success, '' she said. ''I wish I had read it before my first year as a high school teacher.''
Derry on a quest for the book.
Through a program called Teach for America, Derry found her calling in STEM education. As a high school teacher in the Houston schools, Derry realized first-hand some of the struggles urban students face in their journey toward academic success. This book parallels those real-life stories.
The main character, Marisa, has an affinity for calculus. She is the 17-year-old daughter of immigrant parents and, potentially, the first in her family to attend college. Throughout the narrative, the reader witnesses Marisa's struggle to define her expectations for herself among the conflicting expectations of her teachers, friends, y familia.
Derry recommends What Can't Wait for a wide audience, which follows the growing trend of YA books moving into adult fiction. ''This is the perfect book for middle/high school students and educators, '' said Derry. ''Whether they come from a background that is under-represented in STEM or not, the theme of defining oneself among the expectations of others (real or perceived) is universal.''
This is just one of Pérez's three critically-acclaimed books. In addition to What Can't Wait, check out The Knife and the Butterfly and her most recent, Out of Darkness. She currently teaches world literature at Ohio State University and conducts research in the areas of Latin American literature, Latina/o literature, and narrative ethics.
Here's what Kirkus Reviews thought about Pérez's book:
''Pérez fills a hole in YA lit by giving Marisa an authentic voice that smoothly blends Spanish phrases into dialogue and captures the pressures of both Latina life and being caught between two cultures.... Un magnífico debut.''

-- (2/1/2018 12:00:00 AM)

"Marisa Moreno has been told her whole life what she's expected to accomplish in this world--help her family with her time and money and above all, eventually marry a nice Mexican boy, and settle down with children. Internal conflict erupts, however, when she realizes her life goals of acing her AP Calculus exam, attending the University of Texas, and leaving her family far behind are growing increasingly at odds with the ideals of traditional Hispanic culture. In a heart-wrenching struggle of friendship, family allegiance, and finding love, Marisa discovers what it truly means to leave the expectations of everyone else behind and become an individual who follows after her hopes and dreams. Her genuinely relatable voice and passion allow readers to grasp for themselves how freeing oneself from the burdens of the world leads to the discovery that 'there's no magic here. Just my own life.' " --The ALAN Review

-- (11/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)

"Seventeen-year-old Marisa puts her dysfunctional, nearly poverty-ridden family above everything, including her passion for AP calculus. Struggling to help support her family, have a social life, and pursue her dream of studying engineering in college, she nearly loses herself--until the too-tidy ending. Pérez's perspective on Mexican American culture in Texas is authentic; the gritty setting and hard-knocks characters carry the story." --The Horn Book Guide

-- (11/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)

"The youngest child in a very traditional Hispanic household in Texas, Marisa is expected to work to help support her family, graduate high school, marry, and have babies. But given her talent for math, her teachers have higher expectations; her AP calculus teacher guides her toward an engineering program at a top university, hours from home. As senior year progresses, Marisa finds herself compelled to care for her sadly neglected young niece, a tender romance blossoms with an understanding boy, and the local 'stud' pursues Marisa's best friend, all threatening her dreams. A near-rape and some rough language make this book more appropriate for more mature high school readers. Marisa's gritty, compassionately related story will resonate with teens in immigrant communities. Recommended." --Library Media Connection

-- (8/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)

"Marisa Moreno, a Houston high school senior, is the goody-goody younger sister of Cecelia, who had a child at 17, and macho brother Gustavo, who calls her nerda. Although Marisa earns A's, her acceptance letter to an Austin university sits hidden away in a kitchen drawer stuffed with her mother's prayer cards, an example of the narrative's rich and carefully observed detail. Afraid to let go of her younger daughter, Ma equates the distance to not-so-far-away Austin with Germany because the only other young woman who left their neighborhood is stationed there with the army. Ma's geography may be weak, but her logistical argument is solid. Marisa babysits her niece, Anita; works at a supermarket; and cooks for the family: Who will replace her? With little spare time, the teen's attempts at having a social life are flimsy; her best friend, Brenda, and boyfriend Alan provide comic relief and support. A short scene about an attempted sexual assault is too quickly drawn to be convincing. The real dynamic is among the members of this nuclear family, particularly involving its five-year-old scene stealer, Anita. The love of Marisa's life, she's someone for whom one would gladly struggle to build a future, even if it means learning to put your own needs before those of the family. This strong first novel makes an excellent choice for populations with large numbers of immigrant students." --School Library Journal

-- (5/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)

"Marisa's parents, immigrants from Mexico, don't understand her commitment to academic success, instead seeing only the ways she is letting down the family by not working tirelessly at her job or helping care for her five-year-old niece. But this is Marisa's senior year, and she is determined to excel so that she can apply to colleges and explore becoming an engineer, something her parents would vehemently oppose. Supporting her academic aspirations are her calculus teacher, her new boyfriend, Alan, and her best friend, Brenda, but Marisa is torn between her family's expectations and the life she hopes to lead. Peréz's debut is a realistic portrayal of challenges faced by immigrant families and conflicting cultural norms, as well as a sensitive exploration of teen pregnancy (Marisa's older sister and Alan's younger sister become pregnant in high school). Strong-willed but emotionally vulnerable, Marisa is aware that pursuing a life that's fulfilling on her own terms comes with a price, and her bittersweet decision leads to an honest and satisfying ending." --Publishers Weekly

-- (4/18/2011 12:00:00 AM)

"Marisa is a gifted student, but her father, an immigrant from Mexico, doesn't value the academic work that Marisa hopes will allow her to pursue an engineering degree. Instead, he insists that she help her family by taking on more hours at the grocery store where she works and babysitting for her sister's child. Marisa's new boyfriend and her teacher both try to persuade her that she needs to look to her own future and not settle for her father's limited and sexist ideas of what her possibilities are; his will exerts a strong hold on her, though, as does her niece's clear and present need for attentive care that no one else will give her. Exhausted and discouraged, Marisa makes some bad decisions along the way that threaten to undermine her greatest supports, but in the end she manages to escape to a promising future with her most important relationships intact. This is a timely, realistic and unflinching portrayal of an unfortunately pressing problem for many immigrant teens, whose families come to this country seeking a better life but sometimes end up resisting their children's Americanized attitudes toward gender, work, and education. Marisa's mother becomes a quiet hero; she is unwilling to stand up to her husband, but she nonetheless encourages Marisa to run away if that's what it takes to pursue a degree, acknowledging that it will ultimately help Marisa's family and inspire her niece much more. Readers in similar situations will be encouraged to do what it takes to build their own version of a better life, even when their families don't understand or believe in them." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

-- (4/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)

"Marisa's last semester of high school is fraught with her older sister's chronic marriage problems that require Marisa to babysit her five-year-old niece; her Mexican parents' refusal to accept the value she places on her school work and academic aspirations; a new boyfriend; and a near-rape by another student. Perez breathes credible and engaging life into her calculus-loving protagonist and the assorted adults and youth with whom she copes, on whom she relies, and against whom she battles. As a former teacher, Perez brings authenticity to the Houston high school Marisa attends, and as a product of a similar neighborhood to Marisa's, she paints a complex portrait of the various struggles between generations, languages, and genders that is cogent and natural. Her narrative style is fluid and literary and, as have other authors increasingly over the past decade, she folds in Spanish without awkwardly translating each instance. This is an excellent story for Marisa's peers, yes, but also for other teens anywhere in the US. Marisa's triumphs go beyond doing well in calculus to the more essential victories of loving her niece, learning to trust her boyfriend, and choosing when to ignore her parents' wishes." --VOYA

-- (4/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)

"Marisa loves AP calculus, and she is good at it. But her overbearing father, a Mexican immigrant, always reminds her that familia comes first. That means picking up extra shifts at the grocery store, where she works to help pay bills, and babysitting her adorable niece, who distracts from schoolwork. This is Marisa's senior year, and she has a shot at a great engineering school, but her supportive teacher doesn't seem to comprehend the cultural conflict she is creating by pushing Marisa's college dreams. Even Marisa's new boyfriend doesn't understand her struggle to aim for a better life. Although it has the potential to become a book version of Stand and Deliver, by focusing on Marisa's determination in the face of quiet disapproval from her mother and outright opposition from her father, Pérez removes the cliché and creates a relatable character who is unraveling under the pressure to support her family at the expense of her dreams. This solid debut deftly explores the daily struggle of some students to persevere in the face of long odds." --Booklist

-- (3/15/2011 12:00:00 AM)

"If only 17-year-old Marisa Morena could figure out her future in her Houston barrio as well as she solves calculus problems. How can she even think of entering the engineering program at UT-Austin with so much going on? She's needed to watch her young niece so her sister (with no insurance) can work a double shift to pay off her husband's hospital bills, she has plenty of shifts of her own every weekend at the grocery store and her illiterate, immigrant father constantly reminds her that 'Girls and numbers don't mix.' And as if she doesn't have enough 'fucking problemas, ' what with tiptoeing around her stubborn father and trying to please her needy mother while squeezing in secret AP Calculus practice sessions, the teen watches her peers get pregnant and married (in that order) and wonders if staying in Houston can be 'good enough.' First-time author Pérez fills a hole in YA lit by giving Marisa an authentic voice that smoothly blends Spanish phrases into dialogue and captures the pressures of both Latina life and being caught between two cultures. With help from a boyfriend with similar desires, a supportive teacher and an unexpected hand from her family, Marisa learns to put her own goals first in a hopeful but never too-tidy ending. Un magnífico debut." --Kirkus Reviews

-- (2/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)