There’s something about Mariana Zapata books that always, always hooks me in. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels as if a huge chunk of their lives has been sucked in by her books after finishing them. Sometimes, it even feels like I’ve lived through her characters’ lives like I was her characters’ friend or family.
Wait for It was a book that caught me off-guard, quite literally. One morning (just this Thursday) while I was preparing for work, I checked into Goodreads and stumbled upon a review of Wait for It. And as a huge fan of Mariana Zapata, I screamed and screamed about wtf why didn’t I know she has a new book??? It always feels like I exist in two modes: reading a Zapata book and eagerly awaiting for the next one. So this un-information felt like a betrayal—if not from me, then the world. (Hate you, world. Still.)
I should probably subscribe authors’ newsletters.
If anyone ever said being an adult was easy, they hadn’t been one long enough.
Diana Casillas can admit it: she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing half the time. How she’s made it through the last two years of her life without killing anyone is nothing short of a miracle. Being a grown-up wasn’t supposed to be so hard.
With a new house, two little boys she inherited the most painful possible way, a giant dog, a job she usually loves, more than enough family, and friends, she has almost everything she could ever ask for.
Except for a boyfriend.
Or a husband.
But who needs either one of those?
Surprisingly, Zapata’s new book veers away from the sports romance and rockstar romance genres. (Rockstar romance is, obviously, what I call romance books that feature singers, bands, and musicians. I’m sure you’ve encountered on or five of them and guiltily one-clicked new ones that keep on popping up all over the publishing world.)
I enjoyed Rhythm, Chord, and Malykin, but I’m trying to find in my brain what that book left in me and I can’t quite recall anything. I strongly feel that Zapata’s strengths lay in sports romances, like crowd favorites Kulti and The Wall of Winnipeg. There’s something in the way Zapata writes sports that translates a world of balls I am not entirely familiar with into palatable and actually delicious bite-sized morsels you just can’t help but gobble it up. How she writes her stories is just really enchanting and magnetic that the readers quite easily lose themselves into the beat of the story. That’s why I love and enjoy reading her books.
“We already had two soccer players in our extended family; we didn’t need another one.”
There’s a cute little quirk in each of Zapata’s books that, ugh, I just love so much, and that is how the characters of her previous books always get cameo roles in her new ones. On this book, Van and Aiden from The Wall of Winnipeg was featured a lot. The main character of Wait for It was actually Van’s best friend Diana. Sal from Kulti also made an appearance with her husband, as Sal was Diana’s cousin. (See quote. Yup, that was Sal.)
“You didn’t know what love was until someone was willing to give up what they loved the most for you.
But it was also never letting them make that choice, either.”
Diana Casillas is a twenty-six year old single guardian of her two little nephews, trying to make adulthood work. She knows she has a lot on her plate but it doesn’t mean she’s going to give up anytime soon. Her character is really feisty and strong, but she knows when to back down from a fight. In fact, a huge part of the book revolves around the tension between wanting to stand up for herself and wanting to show her little nephews how to be good human beings. Adulthood in essence, as the book kept on going, means finding the right balance between maturity and strength.
A lot of times Diana was pushed back by the judgement and general meanness of people around her for being Mexican and seemingly a single parent. But she always finds a single second to think about the implication of her reaction and action to her nephews. She’s no longer living for her own self anymore; she has Josh and Louie to think about. Being answerable to the welfare of two impressionable children when they are not even your own is a huge responsibility and this aspect of the real world is seldom portrayed in literature. This slice of life hits a little closer to reality and the high possibility of this story occurring in real life adds an extra layer of gravity that mixes really well with the fantasy that every romance novel brings.
“All I could think about as I stood there was that sometimes life gave you a tragedy that burned everything you knew to the ground and changed you completely. But somehow, if you really wanted to, you could learn how to hold your breath as you made your way through the smoke left in its wake, and you could keep going. And sometimes, sometimes, you could grow something beautiful from the ashes that were left behind. If you were lucky.”
I was a little miffed after finishing the book because it felt like the romance between Diana and her love interest, Dallas, fell a little short. There is this thing in romance novels where the main character and the love interest fails to get together due to circumstances and we call this “the point of ritual death.” Usually, this point is where our hearts are shredded by how mean the world could be and why can’t my OTP just get together! gets screamed at. This point is usually after the main character and the love interest first get together romantically. Maybe after kissing for the first time, but definitely after acknowledging the blossoming love between them.
Interestingly, the book doesn’t have this little dip in the story. A good amount of the book covers how Diana and Dallas trying not to be together. Once they did, the story also began to wrap up the story. As I was starting this review, ideas kept churning in my brain, and I realized, their love story is not the main point of the book. This, ultimately, like any good romance novel, is about Diana, the female character, and her journey to finding herself and overcoming her conflicts. The book spends a lot of time with Diana trying to deal with her raising her nephews, their move, and trying to get a good balance between living her life and her responsibilities.
A lot of issues were touched upon by this book and some were really explored and exposed some ugly truths to the world. Alongside the female character’s development was the love story. It wasn’t incidental, but again, the triumph of Diana was not in winning Dallas, but in accepting the lot she was given by the world. Her triumph was succeeding in her role as a guardian to her two little nephews and realizing that it’s fine to accept help from others, and healing takes different paths and forms.
This long journey of the female character to acceptance and triumph, really, is what makes Zapata’s book stand out and mark in her reader’s heart. There was never a Zapata book that seemingly took a short path. They are always long and this length allows the readers to fully immerse themselves into the story. The journey does not also take a familiar path; it always blazes a trail that was altogether new and different but still manage to present a familiar beat that the readers can easily recognize and identify with. Wait for It may not have been as sensational as Kulti and Winnipeg but it made its own place in the shelves, and this may have been one of my Zapata favorites.