I wrote this review for Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez for Library Media Connection this summer.
The cover and title of this book suggest a lighthearted preteen read. However, there is much substance and a powerful story here. Soon-to-be-eighth-grader Erica “Chia” Montenegro and her family are shocked by her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. Before medical treatment begins, they visit a shrine. While praying, Erica makes a promesa to participate in a 5K for cancer awareness in “exchange” for her mother’s health. When school starts, she finds herself falling behind as she has been taking on many additional responsibilities–caring for her two-year-old brother, sharing cooking duties, helping her younger sister, Carmen, adjust to middle school, and following her father’s “quiet rules.” Her friends’ reactions are very true—sometimes they are caring and concerned and other times they find it hard to understand why Erica seems depressed and distracted. The most patient one is long-time friend “GumWad” Roberto, who readers realize has a crush on Erica even though she doesn’t see it herself. Although Erica sometimes thinks her pledge to get 500 sponsors for the race is an impossible task, friends and neighbors come through in the end. Lopez’ characters display a wide variety of coping mechanisms and up-and-down interactions, showing the toll a cancer battle can take on even the strongest families. A school counseling session allows for much needed communication and focuses on more than just Erica’s grades. At the story’s end, readers know that when Erica reaches her goal and finishes the 5K, she has accomplished even more on the inside.